Wednesday, Dec 04, 2002
Front Page |
Southern States |
Other States |
Advts: Classifieds | Employment | Obituary |
By R.K. Bhatnagar
Ten years have elapsed since the elder statesman, R. Venkataraman, moved out of the Rashtrapati Bhavan after holding the highest office of the President of India. RV, as he is popularly known, was in good health when this writer met him recently in New Delhi. Though 92, the age does not lie heavy on him. A regulated life, daily walks and controlled food habits have helped him maintain the body and mind well.
With clarity of thought and a rich experience spanning nearly eight decades of active life, RV is forthright in his answers to a spate of questions put to him. He had the privilege of working closely with a galaxy of three generations of leaders, starting from Nehru to Atal Behari Vajpayee. In an exclusive interview, he said he had precious memories of working with the former Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
In his opinion, Nehru laid down invaluable democratic traditions in the formative years of independence. He cited the case of T.T. Krishnamachari, one of the ablest Finance Ministers, who was not directly responsible for any lapse in the Mundhra case but was indicted by the Chagla Commission. Nehru accepted his resignation on the principle of ministerial responsibility for administrative actions though it caused great anguish to him.
Lal Bahadur Shastri, according to Mr. Venkataraman, was the most realistic, practical and down-to-earth Prime Minister. Never getting ruffled, he took cool and calculated decisions. His handling of the 1965 Pakistan "incursion" elicited the admiration of the entire country, "particularly the defence forces".
The former President referred to Kamaraj as "a genius, that is the person with common sense with an uncommon degree" who was the architect of the all-round development of the Madras State as Chief Minister. Kamaraj had no conventional education but possessed the mental capacity to absorb every abstruse and intricate area of knowledge. He had canny ways of dealing with problems. Whenever people insisted on his doing something immediately, he would calmly say ``let us see''. In fact people used to cut jokes about his ``let us see'' answers.
Mr. Venkataraman praised the former Defence Minister, Krishna Menon, though he described him as "a most controversial politician". RV, who had worked with him in the Indian delegation to the U.N. for nearly a decade, said that Menon possessed a sharp intellect and equally sharper tongue. He had a mastery of the English language, which was the envy of his detractors. He had, in fact, no inferiority complex and could cut or wound an opponent irrespective of his status.
Mr. Venkataraman, who is a great votary of coalition governments, said that the time of one-party rule in the country was over.
During his tenure from 1987 to 1992 as President, he had to deal with four Prime Ministers (Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar and P.V. Narasimha Rao and appointed three of them in two years (V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar and Narasimha Rao). His relations with each one of them, though coming from different parties, were very cordial.
Sounding a note of caution in governance, RV said that India follows the Cabinet form of government. Even though composed of different political outfits they should abide by Cabinet responsibility for all acts of governments. While parties could discuss different points of view within the Cabinet, no party in the coalition should criticise or disassociate itself from Cabinet decisions. The September 11terrorist attack on the U.S. shocked him so much that he wrote a long article providing concrete suggestions to meet the menace.
He said that "terrorism has become a threat to the future of society itself. If the intellectuals want to make a contribution to the solution of the menace, they will have to strengthen the moral and spiritual approach rather than try to quell violence with violence.
At the same time, positive steps by international organisations such as the U.N. should be urged to initiate steps to curb terrorist activities.
(The writer is former Press Secretary to the former President.)
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | Home |
Copyright © 2002, The
Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of