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Teachers want Rao’s Inside Man out

Hyderabad, July 3: P. V. Narasimha Rao may no longer be in the headlines, but his novel, Insider, is still making news.

After creating a flutter in 1998 when it was launched — over its indictment of political personalities — the novel has raked up a controversy now for being recommended for both students and teachers by the state council for education, research and training (SCERT).

A chapter from the Telugu version, Lopali Manishi (Inside Man, literally), was included in the class IX Telugu syllabus of the state board last year. But a question on the escapades of the novel’s hero in the first-quarter exam kicked up a storm.

“The chapter depicted the hero as a wayward character in pursuit of political and social recognition,” educationist Kosalram of Osmania University said. The state government then dropped the chapter from the syllabus.

Rao wrote Insider over a span of 20-odd years, which included his tenure as Prime Minister. An overview of the country’s political scenario over the 40 years Rao was in active politics, the novel is about the sexual longing of the protagonist, Anand, for a former Congress MP called Lakshmi Devi.

Rao had reportedly said at post-launch interviews that Anand had an autobiographical streak to emphasise his survival in politics despite political malice and conspiracies.

“The book caps my 40 years’ political career and is an account of backroom politics, conspiracies, musclemen and moneymen. I am only writing the truth. Everybody knows about it,” Rao had said at the launch, attended by current Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and three of his predecessors.

But not many are taking kindly to Rao’s “truth”. There are now demands from teachers and writers — whose works were overlooked by SCERT — to drop Insider from the syllabus of the teachers’ training course in the state. The Class IX fiasco has not deterred the state from continuing with the novel in the teachers’ course.

Even Telugu Desam Party leaders and educationists have urged the education ministry to withdraw the book.

Out of power after Sitaram Kesri ousted him as Congress chief, Rao –- especially his works — hasn’t had a smooth ride since. Another of Rao’s works, Sahasra Pan, a compilation of his poems in Marathi, was approved by the state for publication. The approval was abruptly withdrawn.

The compilation, however, was made into Doordarshan serials in Hindi and Telugu. But Veyi Padagalu, the Telugu version, was taken off air though it was popular during its month-long run.

Somewhat like his works, Rao himself appears to have fallen out of favour with the political establishment and his party, the Congress.

Though party chief Sonia Gandhi finally remembered the 83-year-old Congress patriarch and personally invited him to the Shimla brainstorming next week, Rao excused himself, citing his ill health and preoccupation with the Ramananda Thirtha Rural Institute.

Like his party, the NDA-governed Centre, too, has chosen to drop Rao from their priority list — of security. His Z-grade cover downgraded, the former Prime Minister now moves around Hyderabad with only a carload of sleuths.

Rao’s only ally in the state appears to be Manmohan Singh, the director of school education. Defending the selection of Insider for the teachers’ course, Singh said: “Both the quality of language and the content are very rich and there is nothing wrong in sharing the experiences of a man of PV’s stature.’’

Try telling that to the teachers.

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