Chidambaram ’s hypocrisies are unending
Normally, there are two kinds of politicians—hypocrites and unabashed hypocrites. Congress leader and former Union minister P. Chidambaram belongs to the second category.
Speaking at the launch of journalist Sagarika Ghose’s book, Indira Gandhi: India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister, he bemoaned the “muzzling of the press, intimidation of leaders,” use of government agencies against organizations and entities, stifling of dissenting voices. Listening to the Harvard-educated leader’s honeyed ode to democracy, somebody unaware of India’s recent past would have concluded that here is the champion of liberty, democracy, and civil rights. His measured words and mellifluous intonations gave the impression of a towering statesman.
In another case, Chidambaram called up the Kolkata-based owner of a media organization and complained about a senior journalist whom he found resolute and uppity
Except that he is not, for he is a cunning, unscrupulous politician who doesn’t care two hoots for freedom and propriety. When he was Cabinet minister in the United Progressive Alliance government, he silenced an electronic media reporter by reminding him that his employers were seeking some favors from him. The reported had dared to ask some uncomfortable question. This happened in a press conference, in the presence of dozens of journalists, not in the confines of the ministerial chamber.
In another case, Chidambaram called up the Kolkata-based owner of a media organization and complained about a senior journalist whom he found resolute and uppity. Unfortunately for the high and mighty minister, the owner had a spine—so unusual for a media baron. The journalist, who is a friend, narrated the story to me; everybody in the media knows about it.
In another incident in the corridors of North Block, Chidambaram was talking to a group of journalists. The haughty minister didn’t like a question asked by the representative of a newspaper with limited circulation. He taunted the reporter by asking as to how many people read his paper. The repartee punctured his vanity, though. The journalist said that more people than the margin of votes by which he won from Sivaganga. In 2009, Chidambaram had won the Lok Sabha seat from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu in circumstances whose mystery is yet to be unveiled. It is alleged that improper means were used to secure the victory.
There are many other anecdotes about the lies and grime of Chidambaram’s heydey. Several of them pertain to the scams he and his son Karti allegedly perpetrated; others are downright salacious. When one does in their private lives shouldn’t bother us, but when the gulf between the precept and the practice gets too wide, we have to take note.
Chidambaram belonged to the dispensation that conceived and introduced the draconian Section 66A that had a chilling effect on freedom of expression; for this reason, the Supreme Court scrapped the legislation. And yet he has the temerity to masquerade as a champion of free speech!
It’s not just talking; it’s also how he talks—the glibness, the smoothness, the (feigned) conviction
Chidambaram’s hypocrisies are unending. He said at the function, “Nobody fears even the Prime Minister. Even on the day, he condemned violence in the name of cow protection, a man was lynched in Jharkhand. The state’s police force and the mob do not listen to the Prime Minister. That is what is worrying me.”
Look who is talking. The guy belonged to a Cabinet whose least important member was the prime minister—Manmohan Singh; and yet he has the cheek to talk about the authority of incumbent Prime Minister!
And it’s not just talking; it’s also how he talks—the glibness, the smoothness, the (feigned) conviction. Such sophistication, such sophistry, such masquerading. Sounding so convincing while discussing liberty and propriety while not believing a word that they utter; perhaps that’s why so many actors become successful in politics, for what matters in Indian politics is histrionics, not substance. Here hypocrisy becomes a virtue; for instance, an alcoholic should be clever enough to politically sell prohibition.
Perhaps this is how one becomes a successful politician. This is certainly how Chidambaram became one.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.