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Delusions of Grandeur

K.S. Dhillon

By Arjun Singh with Ashok Chopra
Hay House India, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 390, Rs. 599.00


This interesting if hugely controversial story of Arjun Singh’s life takes off with a rather colourful phrase: ‘It all started when the first grain of sand fell into the crucible of time on 5 November 1930, the date on which I came into this world.’ He also attempts to strike a heroic posture right at the outset by quoting, in the preface, from Winston Churchill’s tribute to former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in the British Parliament on the latter’s death in 1940, suggesting thereby that his own life too was governed by the values that Churchill ascribed to his political rival. It seems that he had developed a marked antipathy to the feudal values and cultural mores of his ancestors early in life, which brought him into serious conflict with his father when he became overly nationalistic in his outlook. The father’s firm rejection of his young son’s boyish zest for freedom and nationalism was taken so seriously by Arjun that he suffered a nervous breakdown, requiring some medical intervention.   The book describes his growing years, his education, briefly in Allahabad but mainly in Rewa, his meetings with Jawaharlal Nehru and other Congress leaders and finally, his initiation into the art and craft of politics at the hands of D.P. Mishra, known as the Chanakya of Indian politics. The book then goes on to cover his rise in the Congress party, first as the President of MP Youth Congress and then as the leader of the opposition in the MP Legislative assembly and finally as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, before joining the Union Cabinet. In between, he did a short tenure as Governor of Punjab at a time of intensifying Sikh militancy. He returned to the Union Cabinet, now headed by Narsimha Rao, after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, developed serious differences with Rao, accusing him of inaction and failure to prevent the demolition of the historic Babri mosque in Ayodhya by a frenzied Hindu mob in the presence of thousands of armed police. After an exchange of a series of letters between Singh and Rao, the former resigned from the Union Cabinet and was, in turn, expelled from the Party for indiscipline. It was at this point that he vigorously started wooing Sonia Gandhi, who had been leading a reclusive life, after the demise of her husband.   Singh now emerges as an accomplished player ...

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