THE no-confidence motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition on August 18 produced a lot of heat and some light. Sonia Gandhi's nine-point charge-sheet certainly rattled Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. He had no answer for any of the charges. After Sonia Gandhi's hard-hitting, well-thought-through speech, which made a visible impact in the House, Advani's unfocussed, rambling performance came as a tonic for the Opposition. Advani even went to the extent of misquoting me. He, rather unwisely, said that "Natwar Singhji ne Pokhran ka virodh kiya tha", that is, Natwar Singh opposed Pokhran-II. I did nothing of the sort. I have sent him a copy of my speech in the Lok Sabha on May 27, 1998. Advani said Pokhran-II is a great achievement. Is it? It made Pakistan a nuclear power. It has given Pakistan permanent defence parity with India. The conventional defence superiority we had for 51 years disappeared in May 1998. And where is our nuclear deterrent?
Advani also attacked the Congress for imposing the Emergency. No one defends it. However, the holier-than-thou gentleman forgot to mention that the people of India voted Indira Gandhi back to power in January 1980.
The expectation in NDA quarters was that Prime Minister Vajpayee would demolish the case forcefully made against his inept, inefficient and corrupt government. His performance was sanctimonious beyond words and his lecturing the Congress made matters worse for him. The wordy wizardry of yesteryear was nowhere in evidence. He even objected to Sonia Gandhi charge-sheeting his lamentable government. What else is the Opposition to do in a no-confidence motion debate - give certificates of good conduct? It was a spectacular case of self-righteous petulance. His speech was an anti-climax. The Prime Minister failed to rise to the occasion. Sonia Gandhi emerged the winner by a long shot.
Reasonable debate, civilised give and take, good-hearted humour, quick repartee are the life blood of parliamentary discussions. These were missing. Members of the treasury benches set a shockingly bad example of taking the initiative in unacceptable behaviour. Repeatedly the Speaker reminded the House that the debate was being telecast live to no avail. Personal abuse continued to be hurled at the serene Leader of the Opposition.
I HAD never met Shri S.N. Subba Rao until August 20. This was at the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Award Ceremony at Jawahar Bhawan in New Delhi. He was given the award for the year 2002. He is a devout Gandhian and practices what he preaches. His acceptance speech, mostly impromptu, was a masterpiece. He had the audience with him right from the beginning. He was real and he made us all feel good if not humble. The man was the message. Such occasions seldom produce electricity. This one did. After the presentation ceremony, he did something quite extraordinary. He sang in 18 languages, asked us all to join in. The theme of the songs was Sadbhavana - goodwill, empathy, compassion. What a voice, what Gandhian passion and what magnetism Subba Rao has. That evening will remain with me as a treasured memory. It was a fitting tribute to Rajiv Gandhi.
THE illness of Leander Paes has aroused deep emotion. Here is a 30-year-young sporting hero, lying in hospital in Orlando, Florida in the United States. We all saw him in July winning the Wimbledon mixed doubles finals with Martina Navratilova as his partner. He is arguably the best doubles player in the world. I have watched him play many times. He is a dynamo. I was the president of the All India Tennis Federation some years ago and in that capacity, I met him in Delhi, Jaipur and Indore. What exquisite manners he has. Hopefully, he will be up and about soon. Modern medicine does miracles. Our best wishes to him and his family.
UGANDA's Idi Amin is high on the list of 20th century monsters. He died the other day in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He should not have been given asylum but should have been tried and punished. My favourite Idi Amin story is:
One day Idi Amin told his Foreign Minister that after a week Uganda should be known as Idi. The very nervous but quick-witted Minister told his boss that there was a country called Cyprus and its people were called Cypriots. If Uganda became Idi then its people would all be called Idiots.