By John B Monteiro
Mar 17: According to earlier media reports, S M Krishna, 84 years, was set to join BJP on March 15. However, even as he had reached Delhi, the death of his sister on Tuesday night made him return to Bengaluru on Wednesday morning and now the BJP-joining ceremony is rescheduled for March 20. Krishna has been making media headlines in the aftermath of announcing, on January 29 of his resignation letter sent to Congress President Sonia Gandhi. In the middle of January, another Congress antiquity, 91-year-old N D Tiwari quit Congress to join BJP in quest of a ticket for his son, Rohit Shekar, in the then upcoming State assembly elections. More about the Tiwari Khandan later. These two cases represent many old politicians trying to hanker to hang on to the levers of power, or those who currently hold them, despite their loss of political shelf life.
Coming back to Krishna, Tiwari and their ilk, their case is of injured innocence. In the lament of Krishna, the Congress High Command has "hurt his self-respect and dignity...I would have gracefully accepted their decision" (One of his supporters, Made Gowda, who had enjoyed the perks of office under Congress dispensation, said in Mysuru on January 30: "I would like to identify with Krishna rather than living with cow dung"). Both Krishna and Tiwari for long have enjoyed the bounty of power with many high-powered portfolios at State and Central levels including governorships.
But, today the cow that nurtured them, and which they suckled to dry udders, is high and dry and in no position to offer sinecures to the old guards waiting in the wings for plum fringe benefits like living in gilded cages of Raj Bhavans. The Congress is perceived by them as a sinking ship and they jump off it in quest of fat patrons beyond the party that nurtured them with lucrative positions on the national and global scenes. But, hope (and greed) lives eternal in the human breast – never mind goodbye to loyalty and gratitude. They have their bloated self-worth and dignity to abandon their exhausted political alma mater which is too old (literally) and feeble to show their true place. They draw their daggers of ingratitude and betrayal.
But, this has been an historical legacy. Brutus had done it to Caesar and, thus, entered the lexicon courtesy Shakespeare’s dramatic play Julius Caesar. Today’s Brutuses are too many to become historical villains. To use a Shakespearean expression, slightly twisted, these are motivated malignities, loose cannons and misguided missiles.
These inflated busybodies are spread across parties. Indian polity has a way of neutralising them. One of the tricks is to give high titles such as Margadarshaks and Elder Statesmen. Last year, when Communists came back to power in Kerala, VS Achutanand, a past chief minister and then 93 years, claimed the CM’s post which finally went to Pinarayi Vijayan. But the party had to mollify the elder by making him Chairman of Fourth Administrative Reforms Commission – with perks nearly matching those of CM and stretchable in time for submitting the report.
Even when they are sent to gilded cages of Raj Bhavans, the problem doesn’t end, as shown by the latest case of V Shanmuganathan, Governor of Meghalaya and Arunachal. Aged 67 years, he was forced to put down his resignation papers on January 27, 2017, after a section of the employees of Raj Bhavan lodged a complaint with the PM and President for his alleged role of turning Raj Bhavan into “Young Ladies Club” and seriously compromising the dignity of the gubernatorial office. They complained that Raj Bhavan “became a place where young ladies come and go at will on direct orders of the Governor. Many of them have direct access to his bedroom”. But he is not the first gerontocrat Governor to be involved in such romantic dalliance in a Raj Bhavan. In 2009, then 84 years old N D Tiwari, Congress- appointed Governor, was caught with his pants down gambolling with ladies and had to pay with his resignation.
This brings us back to the colourful, if not examplary, history of the Tiwari Khandan. Born in 1925, Tiwari married Sushila Sanwal in 1954. She died in 1993 without any issue. By then another issue surfaced about his love child, Rohit Shaker, through Ujjwala Sharma, who went through bitterly contested court cases ending with his paternity being established through court-directed DNA test. Cornered thus, he accepted Rohit as his son and married Ujjwala in 2014. It is to ensure Rohit’s political future that Tiwari deserted his long-time political Alma Mater, Congress, to seek a choice seat for Rohit to contest on BJP platform in the then upcoming Assembly elections.
This is all about turbulence of aging and over-aged politicians. But, beyond politics and power, aging involves problems and promises. As Francis Bacon, English writer (1561-1626), says: "Men of age object to much, consult too long, adventure too little, regret too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with the mediocrity of success". Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, US poet (1807-1882), on the other hand, has a hopeful promise:
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
So, are the Krishnas and Tiwaris star-struck?
A decade before Krishna wrote to Sonia Gandhi, Margaret Alva (b April 13, 1942), top AICC functionary, Union Minister and Governor of States also wrote a similar letter to Sonia Gandhi, on November 11, 2008 bitterly complaining of her frustrations on being ignored in the party caucus. But, she was not disloyal to Congress which, she admitted in her autobiography, had nurtured her. At a function to release her recently published autobiography, Courage & Commitment, in Manglaluru on March 11, she reiterated her steadfast loyalty to Congress and responded to reporters: “Why should I leave the party (Congress)?”