March 4th, 2011
History is full of ironies. Veteran Congress politician Arjun Singh, the quintessential loyalist, died a few hours after he was dropped from the Congress working committee. The scion of Churhat, a small feudal estate in MP, had joined the Congress party in 1960 after a brief tryst with socialist politics. Since then he was considered a staunch loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Even when he left the party to join the breakaway Tiwari Congress, he had kept his links with the Gandhi family alive.
“Consistency may be the virtue of a donkey,” he once said, “but no one can accuse that I have ever been inconsistence.” His faith in old-fashioned socialist politics and secular value was unwavering. As the chief minister of MP he changed the fate of lakhs of slum dwellers in mid-80s by giving them ownership rights of the land they had encroached upon. He was a champion of the cause of the minorities and backward castes (no coincidence that these groups also became his vote banks) his upper caste, feudal background notwithstanding. He kept proclaiming his loyalty towards the Nehru-Gandhi family, despite his bitterness at being ignored during the last few years.
Arjun Singh became the chief minister of MP for the first time in 1980, despite being in a minority in the legislature party, due to his proximity to Sanjay Gandhi. At that time he was considered a second-rank leader in the State politics that was dominated by the Shukla brothers (Shyama Charan and Vidya Charan) and P.C.Sethi. But very soon he consolidated his position by what came to be known as his politics of “culture, courtesy and conspiracy”. He was an astute practitioner of how to win friends and influence people. That was the period when he could not say ‘No’. It was once written about him that had he been a girl he would have been getting in family way every now and then. (He rang up the writer at midnight to thank him for the “left handed compliment”.)
All that changed subsequently and gradually, once he became politically comfortable. Singh had three innings as Chief Minister of MP. He was the Governor of Punjab at the height of Sikh insurgency and the architect of Rajiv-Longowal accord. He handled several portfolios in the union cabinet spread over two decades. The bureaucrats who worked with him remember him as an able administrator. He ruled with an iron hand. Even senior officers would go pale in face, start shaking and perspire if Singh would simply take off his glasses and simply stare at them. As an admirer said, “His orders would be implemented even if he would issue it on the back of a cigarette packet.” His detractors say that he decisions were always political, leading to weakening of institutions.
The tragedy of Arjun Singh, the ambitious politician, was that he always remained No. two. It is no secret that while working with both P.V.Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, the Thakur from Churhat felt that his rightful place had been usurped by lesser mortals. His finest hour was as Congress Working President in Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure. He was the most powerful man in Congress after Rajiv. But it was also a phase when he rubbed too many other powerful men and women on the wrong side and made them his lifelong enemies.
The politician in Singh used to ravel in palace intrigues and controversies. His last brush with controversy was his dark hint that his planned biography will “reveal all” about UCC chief Warren Anderson’s mysterious arrest and equally mysterious release after the Bhopal gas leak —- a biography that apparently he has been unable to finish.
Arjun Singh was born on November 5th, 1930 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arjun_Singh
November 5th, 1930
11 + 5 +2+0+1+0 = 19 = his personal year (from November 5th, 2010 to November 4th, 2011) = Proud of his hard earned success. Lifetime achievements.
19 year + 2 (February) = 21 = his personal year (from February 5th, 2011 to March 4th, 2011) = On the world stage. For all the world to see.