Sage advice: do not speak

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By OUR BUREAU in Calcutta
  • Published 26.09.08

Calcutta, Sept. 25: The proverbial three-monkey principle — see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil — was cherished by Mahatma Gandhi.

Today, the Mahatma’s grandson was reminded of another golden principle that can help the CPM get a monkey off its back: do not speak.

The advice — not unsolicited — to governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi came from a grand old past president of one of the country’s oldest chambers of commerce.

Gandhi, the chief guest at the 154th annual general meeting of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had asked Tarun Dahari Sinha what he expected of a governor.

“On the 154th year of this chamber’s eventful journey, I would like to ask the oldest past president in the room what does he expect of the passing phenomenon called governor,” Gandhi said, switching to an interactive session instead of the customary written speech on such occasions.

“Your Excellency, the question is a rather tricky one for me to answer. I am addressing a gathering of this nature after many years,” Sinha, in his eighties, replied.

“But I would imagine a good governor is one who listens but does not speak,” the former chairman of Indian Aluminium and chamber president in 1983 added in jest.

With a broad smile, the governor said he could not have hoped for a better answer.

Sinha might have given the advice in jest — and probably meant it as a compliment to the governor for skirting the regular speech and hearing out the audience — but it would have been music to CPM leaders’ ears had they been present there.

A day earlier, the governor, whose public statements have often become red rags to the CPM, had said dialogue should be held “well in advance”, not when “a crisis hangs overhead”. He had also spoken of the need to “think carefully” before turning to arable land for industrial ventures.

The observations were seen by the CPM as a swipe at the government, prompting a fusillade from party veteran Benoy Konar who continued in the same vein today.

“He is a partisan governor…. Every day, he is revealing his true colours — that he belongs to Mamata Banerjee’s camp,” Konar said.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said Gandhi had gone against “constitutional norms” because what he said went “against the state government”.

In comments that appeared tailor-made for such situations, the governor told the chamber: “There should be an atmosphere for free exchange of thoughts and ideas where motives are not misunderstood and misread.”

Referring to Singur, the governor said: “The people, I think, have full confidence in those who are dealing with the issue.”

Some CPM leaders have been saying that the governor should not have got himself involved with the issue.

The last word, it appears, has not been uttered yet. Before Gandhi signed off, he asked the chamber’s youngest member, in his forties, the same question he had asked Sinha.

“We… look up to people like you to guide us,” said Kalyan Kar, MD, Acclaris, a city-based IT services company. “So we expect you to not only listen but also speak.”

Stay tuned.