Entry into politics depends upon causes that are radically different from one person to another. In countries ruled by aliens, patriotism motivated even commoners into politics. If ruled by monarchs, hierarchy play the role to make the successors into polity.
Also in democratic set – up as seen in India where after Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira and then her son Rajiv and now Mr. Rahul. But Arjun Singh’s entry into politics is by sheer initiative and a desire to serve the poor, and the tribals in the forest ridden Madhya Pradesh.
Though born in a wealthy family of a Rajagula Kshatriya, he had the humbleness to move with the rural populace for helping them to the core. Even in the preface of his autobiography itself, unassumingly he says with all humbleness that he is ‘not aware of any major achievements that I can boast of but I have no regrets either’.
As a young man of about twenty, he was attracted by the simplicity of Mahatma Gandhi and the majestic demeanour of Jawaharlal Nehru. Decided to choose politics as a career. But as a student in Allahabad University, he was shocked at a news item that his father, a minister in the princely state of Rewa was involved in a bribe, arrested and imprisoned. He felt ashamed at the stigma in his family.
His decision to join politics was shattered. But his meeting with Nehru revived his desire and he entered as a young man into the Madhya Pradesh Assembly. His sincerity and closeness to the powers that are, enabled Arjun Singh to develop his State and to attain sufficiency in power and irrigation.
He was able to establish a number of thermal power stations. One of the biggest plants in the country at Singrauli generates 4000MW electric power.
In Madya Pradesh nearly 85 per cent of the population consists of Tribals, Scheduled and Backward classes. The state politics was in the hands of the upper caste Brahmin – Thakur group.
Arjun Singh, the then Chief Minister formed the Backward classes commission for Madya Pradesh under the Chairmanship of Ramji Mahajan. No wonder therefore that B.P. Mandal met Arjun Singh in June 1980 and elicited his opinion before submitting his famous Mandal Commission Report.
Bhopal gas Tragedy is still remembered as the world’s worst industrial disaster in which about 4000 people and hundred thousand cattle heads have died. More than five lakhs of people have been injured. Arjun Singh, as Chief Minister of the Madhyapradesh Government. got the M.D Mr. Warren Anderson of Union Carbide company arrested, immediately on his landing at Bhopal from the USA.
But the Central Government, weak – kneed as it was, arranged for his bail and let him out to escape and till date he never returned to India to face any judicial enquiry. Arjun Singh was blamed for the escape of Anderson from India. But in a statement in Rajya Sabha, he made it plain that neither he nor Rajiv Gandhi was responsible for the exit of Anderson.
Though for about eight months, as Governor of Punjab, Arjun Singh was instrumental in achieving Punjab Accord in the after math of Indiraji’s assassination.
It has cost Longowal, his life and vested interests stood in the way of the implementation of the accord. But the part played by the Governor was bold and daring in mitigating the violence and terror.
If only the PM Narasimha Rao had been genuine and really interested in the light of what has been requested by Arjun singh in a number of letters, the Babri Masjid incident would not have taken place.
It appears that Mr. Rao must have had some tacit collusion with Kalyan singh, the Chief Minister of Utttar Pradesh. Though this is not the statement of Arjun Singh, what is implied by him in the narration is this. The candid statement of Arjun Singh about his house is appreciable.
But he built a palatial mansion at a cost of six crores in 1988. Such detail of cost he did not say but it is widely known in those days. A case was filed. The High Court at Bhopal neither indicted nor exonerated the Chief Minister but left the problem to a Commission of Enquiry, which took nine long years only to exonerate him.
Statutorily a survivial for the accused but the constitution of a commission itself is customarily a devious method of rescuing the offenders. Can this be considered a vindication of his innocence?
Arjun singh’s unflinching attachment and loyalty to the family of Rajiv and to Sonia that withstood him in all his ups and downs of his political life. Hence his quotation of Sonia Gandhi’s assertiveness in calling herself an Indian in the full sense of term, is understandable, if not acceptable to many even now.
His discord with a grim and never – smiling Narasimha Rao, the Prime Minister is not surprising. After a gap of NDA regime at Delhi, when Congress Party assumed powers, Arjun Singh’s entry into Human Resources Ministry has given birth to a number of Management Institutes and a large number of Deemed to be Universities including the one meant exclusively for Tribal Welfare and development. Despite heavy odds, what reservation he had set apart for OBC will go into history. An achievement remarkable.
If this biography is deemed to be a narrative, the author has kept a suspense of deliberately not revealing the names of three persons whom he had secretly conversed with, on three different occasions.
The reviewer is at a loss to reveal anything about those persons when the author himself is no more with us. But his biography is bound to perpetuate his name, fame and memory.
Review of the book, " AGrain of Sand in the HOUR GLASS : An Autobiogrphy “
- ARJUN SIGH with Ashok Chopra
Publishers : Hay House Publishers, India