Bahai News -- The Indian Express - When Vajpayee lost his cool

When Vajpayee lost his cool

Arati R. Jerath

It's not often that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee loses his temper. However, at the last all party meeting on the Iraq War, senior Congress leader Natwar Singh’s sanctimonious lecturing got Vajpayee’s goat and provoked him into an unusual display of rage.

Singh spoke twice to heap scorn, in his inimitable style, on the Government’s Iraq policy. It was more than the PM, who fancies himself as a foreign affairs expert, could bear.

‘‘Maaf kijiye, Natwar Singhji. Yeh aap ki purani aadat hai. Aap mujh pe kataaksh kar rahe hein (Forgive me. This is an old habit of yours, to be sarcastic about me),’’ Vajpayee rebuked.

He went on to chide Singh for his superior tone. You are not the only experts on diplomacy, we also know a thing or two, he is reported to have said and he delved into history to recount foreign policy gaffes of previous Congress governments.

Vajpayee was in such a lather that the meeting threatened to shift focus from Iraq to a BJP-Congress spat. He calmed down only after Finance Minister Jaswant Singh squeezed his arm as if to remind him of the occasion.

Even the usually belligerent Samajwadi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, was constrained to say, ‘‘Bas kariye (enough).’’

Walking the middle path on Iraq

Political circles are not surprised by Vajpayee’s outburst at the all party meeting. There is a curious convergence of stated positions on Iraq by the ruling party and the main Opposition, although the Congress has gone out of its way to mock the Government’s policy.

The resolution passed by the Congress Working Committee, soon after the spat between Vajpayee and Natwar Singh, takes a leaf out of the Government’s notebook by not mentioning the United States by name while criticising its unilateral action against Iraq.

In fact, even the statement read out by Congress leader Manmohan Singh at the first all party meeting sounded like a handout from the Ministry of External Affairs. Not surprising since Congress sources confessed that it was drafted after consulting MEA officials! Then, there is Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s curious silence on the issue.

She did not open her mouth at either of the all party meetings, not even to read out a prepared statement. And in Parliament, she chose to field a host of leaders including Arjun Singh, Kapil Sibal and Shivraj Patil instead of speaking herself as she has been doing on major issues. Congress circles feel she is reserving her options and doesn’t want to commit herself at this point.

Clearly, the party is walking the same tightrope as the Government. Both are hesitant to come out openly against the US but in the face of the growing international anti-war mood, neither want to be seen flowing against the tide of public opinion.

George puts on his dancing shoes

Defence Minister George Fernandes is in a rollicking mood these days. He entertained sailors on INS Virat recently with songs including Doris Day’s famous Que sera sera. Then, a few nights later, he sang hymns at the Bahai temple in the Capital.

And on Holi, he burst into dance, striking a Krishna pose as Jaya Jaitly, Sonal Mansingh and Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s daughter, Pratibha, surrounded him and threw colour. Apparently, George was a choir boy in his youth and an ardent fan of dance. But the person who seems to be inspiring George’s song and dance routine these days is Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. It’s not mere coincidence that Advani was present on all three occasions when George was siezed by high spirits.

The Cup that cheers our politicians

Theist of spectators who flew to Johannesburg for the World Cup finals read like a political Who’s Who. Apart from the party boys of the Rajya Sabha — Vijay Mallya, Rajiv Shukla, Lalit Suri, Praful Patel and Farooq Abdullah — there were unexpected viewers in Uddhav Thackeray, Arun Jaitley, Sahib Singh Verma and N.K.P. Salve. Minister of State for Sports Vikram Verma went bearing a personal message of good wishes from Vajpayee. Sonia Gandhi too sent a goodluck fax to the Indian captain. The despondency of the VIP party almost matched the downcast mood of the team at the end of the day.

©Copyright 2003, The Indian Express (India)

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