Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is Manmohan Singh a Washington appointee?

A Prattler's Tale

(Memoirs of Ashok Mitra, chief economic adviser to government of India when Mrs. Indira Gandhi and former Finance Minister of West Bengal)

(Book Review by) MJ Akbar

Deep into Dr Ashok Mitra's new book, A Prattler's Tale: Bengal, Marxism and Governance (Samya, Rs 595), I began to feel a growing sense of irritation. Here was this virtually ceaseless, seamless sequence of the most wonderful political anecdotes I had read in years, and so many of them lost the last-mile edge because the author had refused to name names, although the descriptions took you near enough the identity.Dr Mitra's career is packed with "former" designations -- chairman of the Agricultural Prices Commission and chief economic adviser to government of India when Mrs Indira Gandhi was prime minister (she called him Ashok), finance minister to Jyoti Basu after the Left Front triumph in Bengal in 1977 -- and his memoirs are a treasure house of incident, perception, analysis, and sheer good fun, replete with the kind of story that is a highlight of the epicurean adda, or gossip, sessions that were and are a preferred privilege of the Kolkata Bengali elite.This book will be exploited by the intelligent historian and should be enjoyed by anyone remotely interested in public affairs. Dr Mitra has a justified reputation for fearless honesty. So why had he hidden so many names?And then, ouch! I came across a comment about me that was sharp to the point of being merciless. Relief followed: Ashokda, which is how I have called him for well over two decades, did not mention my name.I went down on a metaphorical knee to offer thanks to God, in whom Dr Mitra does not believe, and the author, in whom Dr Mitra does.Was the comment accurate? Yes. It was absolutely correct and I fully deserved the toxic barb. Dr Ashok Mitra is honest, but he is not ruthlessly honest. Phew.Mine was a case of trivia, but the absence of names in one story was of serious import. Dr Mitra has a startling revelation about the surprise appointment of Dr Manmohan Singh as PV Narasimha Rao's finance minister in 1991.....

Whole article is on this link.....

(MJ Akbar is Chief Editor of the Asian Age)

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