Finance Minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman must be totally flustered by her husband (estranged ?) Parakala Prabhakar’s article on India’s current economic scenario, clearly stating that the Indian economy is totally mismanaged. In his article in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper, he urges the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to follow the pattern formulated by former Prime Ministers P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. While the article is worth reading, as Finance Minister’s husband or estranged husband, Prabhakar could have avoided embarrassing his wife Nirmala and her party, the BJP. One is reminded of the Hindi saying, Khaya nahin piya nahin, glass toda (खाया नहीं पीया नहीं गिलास तोड़ा)!
Who is Parakala Prabhakar?
Parakala Prabhakar (60) was Congress students’ wing National Student Union’s (NSUI) Unit President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in 1983. He fell in love with Nirmala Sitaraman who also landed in the University to pursue her MPhil studies. Those days’ he was one of the backroom boys of the powerful Union Minister P V Narasimha Rao. His father was a Minister for 20 years in Congress Governments in Andhra Pradesh and his mother was a many-time Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Congress. Prabhakar was elevated as the National Vice President of NSUI till he left for London with wife Nirmala in 1986 to pursue studies in the London School of Economics (LSE). He completed his Doctorate studies and returned back to India in 1991 when his mentor Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister and was Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Youth Development. Later, in 1994 & 1996, he contested the AP Assembly elections as a Congress candidate and lost. In 1997, he joined the BJP and contested from the Narasapur Lok Sabha Constituency in 1998 and lost there too. He also lost a Vidhan Sabha election in 2006. He was a spokesperson of BJP’s Andhra Pradesh unit for some time.
Rise of Nirmala Sitharaman
Meanwhile in 2003, during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-1 regime, his wife Nirmala Sitharaman was posted as a Member in the National Women’s Commission. In 2008, Parakala Prabhakar joined film star Chiranjeevi-floated political outfit Prajarajyam Party and soon after, he joined the Telugu Desam Party. Meanwhile, Nirmala was sighted around the BJP’s Delhi Headquarters as the former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s “official biographer” in late 2009. She could always be seen in Arun Jaitley’s office and by early 2010, she became an official spokesperson of the BJP. The rest, as they say, is history and we have seen the meteoric rise of Nirmala with the blessings of her Godfather, the late Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
When BJP came back to power in 2014 at the Centre, Nirmala became a Union Minister and her estranged husband Parakala Prabhakar became the NDA-ally, Naidu Government’s Communication Advisor with a Cabinet Minister Rank. Eyebrows were raised when a National War Memorial contract of around Rs.250 crores was given to a Hyderabad based company NCC Ltd (earlier Nagarjuna Constructions) when Nirmala Sitharaman was the Defence Minister. After the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) left the BJP alliance due to allegations raised by Jagan Mohan Reddy, Parakala resigned from the Communication Advisor’s post.
Many say that for the past 6-7 years, husband and wife are estranged and are seen only in photo opportunities. As a happily married person, I can vouch for this – no husband would dare write such an article, estranged or not.
Back to the article
Now back to Parakala Prabhakar’s awkward article about his wife, and the BJP Government. The article headline says the country’s economy needs a lodestar. What did he mean by that? His article in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper (interestingly their daughter Vangmayi Parakala also works in ‘The Hindu’ as a journalist in the Delhi Bureau) is in poor taste as it shows not only his wife the Finance Minister but also her party the BJP and the Government which is facing criticism on its performance on the economic front, in poor light.
Some say Parakala Prabhakar also has freedom of expression. Yes, he does, but it is unfair to use it at the expense of his wife, who is the Finance Minister. An avoidable namby-pamby article which may have caused more damage to the already beleaguered FM.