Imaginary postcards from New Delhi
9 April 2001
Roosevelt House, New Delhi
My dear Baby H,
Twice this week I tried to call you, but the New York end kept getting disconnected. I hope you are not mad at me. I know you will be out of town when I get back, that is why I thought of writing this quick note to you.
Coming back to India has been wonderful. Just so relaxing, so refreshing, almost rejuvenating. I have never felt so good, so myself, since January 21 when that dumb-dumb cowboy took over. And, then, all that scrap about pardons. That awful Maureen Dodd going on and on, week after week. Even The Times turned its back on me.
But these Indians are so wonderful. No morality hang-ups. No ethics and grand-standing. Though all of them make soooo much noise – I mean, baby, real high decibel noise – about corruption. But take it from me, baby, these Indians are at karmic peace with themselves and the crooks. In Mumbai, this goddamn rich family, the Ambanis, played host to me. Half the city’s social crowd was out there, as if you and I were still renting out bedrooms in the White House. I wish you were here, baby. They will fall in love with you. Licking white man or white woman’s boots comes naturally to these Indians.
Of course, there were no motorcades this time. I missed that part of the ceremony. But still the Indians were very hospitable. That old man, prime minister, called me to his residence; this presumably nationalist establishment is virtually ready to make India the 51st state of the American union. That remarkable lick-spittle, Jaswant Singh, will be only too happy to be the first senator from India. But who wants these half-hungry billions? Let them first eat Kellogs.
Take care of yourself, and watch against those bad boys in DC.
Remember the good days. Love.
Mrs. Hillary Clinton,
* * *
11 April 2001
Pandara Park, New Delhi
Please forgive me for sounding a bit like Jawaharlal in those letters he wrote to his wife and daughter. I have, as you know, no desire to be compared to Nehru. That I leave to Atalji.
I wish you were by my side these last two days, as you have been on most of the difficult times in my political career. Finally I had to keep my date with the Liberhan Commission. For two full days I had my say. And I must confess to a sense of satisfaction.
Our secular friends must be wondering how deftly I managed to deflect any suggestion of blame for the 6 December 1992 business.
Actually it did not require any great cleverness on my part. But since I happen to be the home minister, I had to be rather subtle in making my point. The Congress has all these years been pursuing our agenda of a Hindu reassertion, though the party never had the guts to swear by Hindutava.
Before Justice Liberhan I just had to catalogue all the occasions when the Indian state displayed its natural bias in favour of the Hindu majority. Rajiv Gandhi could not ignore the sentiment. But he could never be honest to that sentiment. That was their tragedy, and our opportunity. Even this Catholic woman Sonia thinks she can play the Hindu card, going to the Kumbh and all that drama.
I also had to pretend to be respectful to the judiciary, and to say that the verdict of the court would be acceptable. But I know no judge would ever have the courage to rule otherwise. I am amused that the newspapers think I was saying something profound when I used terms like de jure and de facto. On television these expressions sounded so learned.
Kamlajee, I must say, that the journey we began from Somnath finally ended before the Liberhan Commission. The country has willy-nilly accepted our point of view. Atalji may keep writing those funny musings. What is more, as you have often remarked, the power brokers and influence peddlers in this town would be happy to break bread with a so-called ‘communal’ leader like me or Atalji as long as we let them carry on their little pilfering.
I am both satisfied and sad. Satisfaction over a job well done before the Commission. Sad because it was easy for me to have my say and my way; the liberals have no guts, no stomach for a fight. Even more depressing is the evidence that our own parivar is not beyond temptation. This Bangaru business is just the tip of the iceberg. I feel so depressed, when in fact I should feel happy and elated.
Mrs. Kamla Advani,
* * *
14 April 2001
10, Janpath, New Delhi
My dear mama,
Thank you so much for the packet of goat cheese and olives. Absolutely delicious. Smashing. Just what I have been itching to have for some time now. Just imagine, after all these years in this country, I still fall in love with the taste of an olive. Thanks, mama. Thanks, for coming to the help of your little girl.
This has been a difficult time. Very difficult, in fact. There is that wretched man, Subramanian Swamy. He often came to meet Rajiv, pretended to be his friend. Now this man is after my life. Mama, you won’t believe the kind of nasty things this man Swamy is saying about you and my sister. And about me. Must he rake up the past? Not fair, mama, not fair.
And the government wants to hand over Swamy’s charges to the investigators. What an ungrateful country. This man, Vajpayee, goes on living in our house as if it belongs to him. If I do nothing else, the least I will see to it is that he leaves that nice house on Race Course Road.
But my party has been very supportive. These Congressmen will in fact do anything for me. Do you think they love me? They think I can still get them votes and win elections for them so that they can go on with their corrupt little ways.
Of course, there are some who think they will make me fall flat on my face and then take over the party. Fools. Fools. There is no telling these former princes’ capacity for self-delusion. This party is mine, mama, and that is the way it will remain.
I am hoping that this summer we will all be able to get together. Rehan is growing into a lovely child, just like Rahul was at that age. Priyanka is being a wonderful mother. In another few years she should be ready to become a queen in her own right. Have you heard anything from OQ? I feel so, so sorry for him, stranded there in that god forsaken country.
Mrs Paola Maino,
* * *
15 April 2001
Krishna Menon Marg, New Delhi
My dear Sahib,
Why am I writing to you, when I know you will be back in the evening? I know the Lucknow rally is unlikely to go on forever, and you will return with the Prime Minister. The old man has no choice but to take you around the country, and to keep proclaiming that you will be back in the cabinet.
So, why do I feel like writing to you, my only Sahib. This is almost an irrational urge to put down my thoughts on paper. Please do not berate me for one more indiscretion. Promise me, you won’t be angry. We have not had a really frank chat since this stupid Tehelka business erupted. The cheek of these people, they think they can accuse me of corruption. Even if I had accepted all that money, there would have been nothing wrong. I know what I am, and I am not going to let anyone else judge me by their standards of morality. After all these years of hard work we have put in together, I am not going to let them drive us out of power.
What makes me mad is not the elegant yapping of these glossy magazines and television nuts, it is the outbreak of indignation in our own Samata crowd. I am most hurt by Nitish. Why did he have to insist that I must resign as party president? He had not made me president, you had; he had no right, whatsoever, to ask for my resignation. Sometime these Biharis can be totally intractable. Does he still think he is part of the JP movement? Does he think he can survive in Bihar without George Fernandes and Jaya Jaitley?
And, my dear Sahib, I must warn you to be careful of the BJP crowd. I have never fully trusted them. And, we do not want to be seen as part of the Advani camp or of the Atal group. We must preserve our capacity to wreck the show from within. More than the votes Samata Party polls in Bihar, it is your reputation as the ‘great wrecker’ that is our most secret weapon. Be it Advani or Atal, they must know that you have to be back in the cabinet. It is your destiny. That pretentious man, Jaswant Singh, with that phony accent, and his sidekick Arun Singh, are pretending as if they have finally seen the back of George Fernandes. They have not reckoned with Jaya Jaitley.
Please forgive these emotions and words, but that is me. I can’t help being myself. I kept quiet when they went after Ajay Jadeja, as if he was the only one fixing matches. I will not let them hound you out of the reckoning.
I salute you, my sahib, my leader, my guru.
Mr. George Fernandes,
Prime Minister’s Entourage,
* * *
17 April 2001
Bihar Bhavan, New Delhi
Dear Misa kee ma,
This is first time ever I am writing to you. I feel awkward. I do not even know how to address you.
But I am tickled to death, today. I came here after quite a gap, and it is so amusing how I could just take over the rhetoric in this capital city of the country in this matter of the tehelka stalemate.
Went to Parliament House in the morning. Met Sonia jee. She was very shaken up about the charges by Swamy. I told her, ‘Sonia jee, look at me; I have even been to jail, so do not worry about these charges and allegations. Just ignore. If you want to be accepted as Indian, go to jail for a few days. Go on the offensive. Do not let Parliament function. My MPs will do the shouting for you.’
Sonia felt reassured. When I was coming out of her room, I ran into Madhavrao Scindia. I complemented him on his new hairstyle. He looks very much like your brother, Sadhu.
In the evening went to all the three television stations, this Aaj Tak, Zee and Star. You should have watched me perform. These idiot anchormen, who look like langoors wearing those ties and suits, just did not know what to ask. Just could not shut me up. I kept on saying what I had to say, and these very smart looking boys even tried to speak in Hindi. These sophisticated people in Delhi think they are cleverer than everyone else. I tell you, any of our Patna journalists is a lot smarter than these elite boys and girls. No wonder these BJP-wallahs are able to take them for a ride.
I will see you in a few days time. Keep a watch over Bihar. Do not forget you are the chief minister, I am just the party president.
Mrs. Rabri Devi,
* * *
18 April 2001
Prime Minister’s House,
Race Course Road, New Delhi
I am enclosing the transcript of a speech made by Dattopantjee at the BMS rally two days ago. Have we all worked for this day so that a parivar brother can revile another swayamsevak?
From 1997 onward, Advaniji and I have kept everybody in the Sangh informed of what was expected from us by our business friends in Bombay if we were to have their support. Nothing comes for free. At no stage did anyone from the Sangh tell us that the business friends and their demands were wrong or unacceptable.
Why this sudden belated attack from Dattopantjee? Even you have been reported to have made critical comments about Brijesh Mishrajee and N.K. Singh in my office. They are just civil servants. They are simply implementing ideas and policies you and everybody else in the Sangh parivar encouraged us to adopt. Does it matter to our friends in Jhandewalan if this business tycoon gets his way in the telecom deal or that foreign investor’s task is made easy? Is it not enough that we have a government that is committed to Bharat Mata and her glory? Is it not enough that this government has fulfilled the Sangh’s agenda within months of taking office? You had no idea of how much trouble we had after Pokharan.
Now, I am not sure that the Sangh really has any basic disagreement with the government’s policies. My own suspicion is that there are some people in the Sangh who feel that the government is not letting the Hindus enjoy their rightful place in this country. Some are even angry that we also carry on with the secular rituals. I must confess that there are areas where we should have moved a little more aggressively, but we have to bide our time. Patience has to be our policy, our tactic and strategy.
The parivar must be supportive of my line of Hindu moderation. If anyone in Nagpur thinks that Advanijee would be able to do things better or differently, he lives in a make-believe world. Advanijee has been such a disappointment at the Home Ministry.
It seems to me the parivar has to make up its mind. Am I wanted or not? I am not going to oblige anyone. Unless the Sangh has made up its mind to repeat the 1984 experiment and to take risk with the young Priyanka, it is time for everyone to practice a bit of maunvrat. Always good for the soul of a swayamsevak.
With respectful regards,
Atal Behari Vajpayee
Shri K.S. Sudershan,
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,