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CRAFTY EXECUTIVE WHO NUDGED GOVT 

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FROM RASHEED KIDWAI   |     |   Published 24.07.02, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, July 24 :    New Delhi, July 24:  President K.R. Narayanan today left Rashtrapati Bhavan with a burning desire to see many more Dalits like him donning the judges' gown, representing India abroad and becoming captains of industry. In 1955, Jawaharlal Nehru had dubbed Narayanan the best and brightest officer in the Indian Foreign Service, who came from the weaker sections yet was the most meritorious. At a chief ministers' conference, Nehru was asked to include backward classes in all-India services to which he replied: 'I cannot send a man abroad who is useless. (But) I am happy to tell you that the brightest person in foreign service is one who is from weaker sections,' pointing to Narayanan. Like Nehru, Narayanan was all for merit. Throughout his tenure, he kept harping on the need for greater representation of the weaker sections in the judiciary. According to Narayanan, political empowerment of Dalits was incomplete without their getting a share in sectors such as the judiciary, the economy and the media. Sources close to him said his desire to see a Dalit entrepreneur billionaire is still a dream unfulfilled. Narayanan's five-year stint in Rashtrapati Bhavan was most challenging. While the political class may continue to debate on how his tenure was laced with political uncertainty and paradigm shifts, there was a general consensus among the intelligentsia that Narayanan conducted himself as a 'textbook' President, lending dignity to the office. He avoided kicking off controversies, yet seldom shied away from nudging the executive - be it on brigand Veerappan, the killing of missionary Graham Staines, the criminalisation of politics, Constitution review, political horse-trading, hate campaigns, intolerance or the Gujarat carnage. Trained as a diplomat, Narayanan missed no opportunity in acting as the nation's conscience-keeper but without pitting Raisina Hill against the executive. His crafty dealing with the government did not go down well with the ruling coalition. Though Sonia Gandhi and Harkishen Singh Surjeet were toying with the idea of giving Narayanan a second term, the Vajpayee regime decided to go public with an unprecedented step - telling the incumbent President that his services were no longer required. Narayanan swallowed the humiliation but his masterly inactivity in opting out of the race as an Opposition nominee worked. Sources close to the President said Narayanan took pride in ensuring that a distinguished person such as A.P.J. Abdul Kalam succeeded him instead of some Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist. Perhaps, in keeping with his passion for Dalit empowerment in all spheres, the National Geographic magazine has decided to put him on the cover of its December issue that chronicles social transformation in India. According to the magazine's editors, Narayanan is the most powerful symbol of social change in India in the last 50 years.    
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