However hard one tries to cover up truth and disseminate falsehood, the efforts will come a cropper in the end. Truth alone triumphs, says the country’s motto. The mantra from the Mundaka Upanishad, chosen by the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution as the newly independent India’s national motto, has proved to be right once again by a sworn critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Ramnath Goenka asked Iyengar to convey two requests on his behalf to Mrs Gandhi. The first was that she could do what she wanted to him but that she should please not let any harm come to Bhagwan Das Goenka or Saroj in any way. If Government does harm them, ‘I’ll be helpless”. Iyengar was to tell Mrs. Gandhi that he – RNG — had in possession letters her mother (Kamala Nehru) had written to Prabhavati (wife of Jayaprakash Narayan) with a London solicitor. They described her agony at the indifference of Panditji (Jawaharlal Nehru) towards her and all the ill-treatment she had received from his sisters. ‘I had given instructions that if something is done to BD and Saroj,’ Ramnathji said he told Iyengar to tell Mrs Gandhi, ‘these should be released; that if there is a direction from me to the contrary then the solicitor must know that it has been obtained under duress, and release the letters immediately’.
When Arun Shourie, scholar, author, economist, journalist, and former union minister approached the Supreme Court charging the Narendra Modi Government of irregularities in the Rafale aircraft deal, readers familiar with Shourie were shocked. “Something is rotten in the contract between India and France for the purchase of 35 high-tech fighter aircraft for Indian Air Force. Otherwise, a person like Shourie himself would not have gone to the apex court,” opined many people. Such was the trust and belief they had in Arun Shourie, the journalist, who rocked Indian journalism in his role as editor of the Indian Express. Since Shourie’s entry into journalism as editor of the Indian Express, investigative reporting took a new look. Ministers, bureaucrats, and politicians felt the heat and became more secretive in their dealings. Many a politician fell by the roadside as Arun Shourie’s pen/typewriter came out with their “horoscope” (incorporating the past, present, and future) and antecedents.
A R Antulay, the then Maharashtra Chief Minister, was the first banyan tree to fall as Shourie disclosed his modus operandi or style of corruption. Since then, there was no looking back. V P Singh, who became Prime Minister promising the Hindus the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya (I am sure people remember the startling disclosure by Shourie.. “Are Bhai, udhar Masjid hein kidhar..?) had to succumb to his doublespeak and had to quit the chair in ignominy.
Over the years, Shourie, who was a vocal supporter of Narendra Modi turned against him and was in the forefront with the political migratory bird Yashwant Sinha to file public interest litigation cases against the present regime. As an author, Shourie was unparalleled. He has to be appreciated for the books he authored on topics like the fall in the standard of our politicians and policymakers. Till 2014, Shourie wanted Modi to be elected as Prime Minister of India. But since then he turned a virulent critic of the Prime Minister for reasons best known to him. “Preparing For Death” the last book he authored was in 2020, and since then there was no message from him. His latest book, The Commissioner For Lost Causes that hit the bookshelves recently is yet another proof that the country is yet to come across scams and corruption charges which are as serious as the ones witnessed during the regimes of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and VP Singh. The fact that he has not mentioned anything against the Modi administration is yet another proof that we have a neat, clean, transparent administration in place under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
The Commissioner of Lost Causes is an account of hitherto untold memoirs of Arun Shourie since he came back to India in 1975 after his assignment as a consultant to the World Bank headquarters at Washington. The book is based on his personal encounters with people with whom he had interacted after coming back to India.
Ram Nath Goenka, the founder and proprietor of the Indian Express newspaper had warned Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, of a Brahmaastra in his armory if she went ahead with her plan to destroy the newspaper he had built from scratch.
Indira Gandhi, who had declared an internal emergency in 1975 subverting the Constitution to save her Prime Ministership because of a court order, was upset with the startling disclosures and investigative reports published by the Indian Express and she had decided to take over the newspaper.
She got S Mulgaokar fired from the post of chief editor and entrusted the then Information and Broadcasting Minister V C Shukla to reconstitute the director board of the paper with persons of her choice. “Ramnathji requested his lawyer Iyengar to come over to Delhi. Iyengar was a well-known lawyer and Ramnath Ji knew that he had direct access to Mrs Gandhi. He asked Iyengar to convey two requests on his behalf to Mrs Gandhi. The first was that she could do what she wanted to him but that she should please not let any harm come to Bhagwan Das Goenka or Saroj in any way. If Government does harm them, ‘I’ll be helpless”. Iyengar was to tell Mrs. Gandhi that he – RNG — had in possession letters her mother (Kamala Nehru) had written to Prabhavati (wife of Jayaprakash Narayan) with a London solicitor. They described her agony at the indifference of Panditji (Jawaharlal Nehru) towards her and all the ill-treatment she had received from his sisters. ‘I had given instructions that if something is done to BD and Saroj,’ Ramnathji said he told Iyengar to tell Mrs Gandhi, ‘these should be released; that if there is a direction from me to the contrary then the solicitor must know that it has been obtained under duress, and release the letters immediately’.
Goenka also wanted Iyengar to tell Mrs Gandhi, “I have served your father. I have done things for him. Now I am old and dying. For my self-respect, let me appoint the board. Just send me the names; I will appoint whoever you name. but for the sake of my self-respect let me appoint them.”
The untold incidents over the Bofors Gun scam and HDW submarine deal that rocked the Rajiv Gandhi administration and the mistake committed by RNG and Shourie in supporting V P Singh as Prime Minister in 1989 have been retold with elan in the 600-page book. Shourie, who was honoured with Padma Bhushan for his pro-active stance on all issues says: “We exposed corruption. It is hundreds and hundreds of times larger today. We nailed malfeasance. Standards have fallen so low that the departures from the norm that used to shock everyone those days are not even noticed today. We railed against the misuse of an institution. Today, all institutions are instruments, and are accepted as such… We bemoaned the fall in the quality of persons in public life. Today, one is astonished to come across quality in any institution of State,” says Shourie in his opening remarks. The author is silent about the massive corruption charges which he claims are there everywhere. The entire book does not feature a single instance where one can point fingers at the present ruling dispensation. The newfound friends of Shourie are in for disappointment while his traditional fans have a lot to rejoice.
The memoirs focus on a person who claimed that corruption was a global phenomenon! And Arun Shourie, at the autumn of his life has proven wrong about his assessment of the Modi Government.