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PM must explain silence on 2G

For the first time in seven years the UPA government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gone down in the estimation of the aam admi. Khushwant Singh writes.

columns Updated: May 24, 2011 10:38 IST

For the first time in seven years the UPA government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gone down in the estimation of the aam admi. If a public opinion poll were held today, the verdict may well go against it. The decline of its popularity began with the reckless waste of money in the Commonwealth Games.

It was followed by the sale of telecommunication licences for a fraction of their market price. It is estimated that the loss incurred is upwards of 39 billion US dollars. Convert that into rupees and you will get a nasty shock. The Supreme Court asked the Prime Minister to explain the reasons for his doing nothing to stop minister A. Raja for causing heavy losses to the exchequer.

The Opposition parties joined hands with the BJP to demand a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the matter. It spurned other alternatives suggested by the government and stalled Parliament functioning for three weeks. The chief target of this demand is to question the integrity of the Prime Minister, bring him down in public esteem, have mid-term elections in the hope of reducing the number of Congress Party members in the Lok Sabha.

I watched the proceedings of the Congress Party meeting held in a village on the periphery of Delhi on TV to find out what its leaders had to say in defence of the Prime Minister. They paid handsome tributes. I go along with them. They also criticised the BJP and the Communists by taking them head on. I also share their opinion on the negative role they have been playing all along. I agree with Digvijay Singh describing the RSS as fascist-oriented. Ever since its inception it has been exploiting the latent Islamophobia of the Hindu masses. Uma Bharati celebrated the destruction of the Babri Masjid by embracing Murli Manohar Joshi. Hindutva, its principal spokesman L.K. Advani says is “a noble concept”. It is for the aam Hindu to decide whether he wants India to be Hindu Rashtra or a Secular state, as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad. However, what still needs to be explained is why the Prime Minister did not intervene in time to stop those scamsters from getting away with their nefarious designs?

Long Live Urdu

Till the partition of the country in August 1947, the language of northern India was Hindustani. It was written in three different alphabets: in Arabic letters and called Urdu, in Devnagri and in Gurmukhi. After partition, two falsehoods were spread by linguistic bigots: one that Urdu was the language of Muslims and the other, that Urdu could only be written in Arabic alphabet. It was hard to persuade these mis-informed fundoos that every language can be written in any script. Urdu continues to flourish in northern India but in Devnagri script. The leading light in driving this message home is Kamna Prasad, now Her Excellency Mrs Kamna Prasad Sood, wife of our Ambassador in Kathmandu. She has adopted two daughters Jiya and Bahar.

I've known Kamna for over 31 years. She is a couple of inches taller than me and beautifully proportioned. Amongst her numerous admirers was M.F. Husain who made many portraits of her. She is a very private person and never revealed her family background. I found out that her mother was a very good-looking woman and a minister in the Bihar government. Her son (Kamna's elder brother) married Babu Jagjivan Ram's daughter Meira Kumar who is Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Kamna is not a name-dropper: I have never heard her talk about her relations.

She has made it on her own. She helped promote Bindeshwar Pathak's Sulabh International. She set up the Jashn-e-Bahar Trust which has been organising annual mushairas for the last 10 years where Urdu poets from different parts of world come to recite their compositions. For her endeavours to promote Urdu she was awarded the Bi Amma Award earlier this year. Her publishing house, Jiya Prakashan, has published several collections of Urdu poetry in Devnagri. She has made films and appeared on TV channels explaining modern trends in Urdu poetry. She also co-authored Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry (Penguin) with me. What more could anyone have done to keep Urdu alive in India? Urdu is the chief passion of her life. She continues to promote it in the only way it can retain its status as the principal language of northern India.

No room for Bapu

A managing director of a company was distressed to find that many men working under him had been found guilty of corruption. In order to teach others a lesson, he put it to the Board of Directors that they put pictures of those men on the walls of the main reception room just as police stations display photographs of criminals in the main office. The youngest member of the board remarked: “If we do so, there will be no room left for photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

(Contributed by Ramesh Kotian Udupi, S. Kanara)