Dr Subramanian Swamy’s close encounters with the high and mighty
There is no stopping Dr Subramanian Swamy while he plays his passion out. And his sport and passion/pastime are to attack public personalities and organisations. The targets of his iconoclastic rage include the RSS, BJP, former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Nehru-Gandhi family and a host of others. Once he decides on his target, there is no stopping him. His recent savage onslaught on Dr Raghuram Rajan drove the globally eminent economist to opt out of a possible second term as RBI governor.
Choosing J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for his latest target, Swamy likened her to the “tail of a dog, which can’t be straightened”. He also demanded President’s rule in the state after her sack.
But then she is the CM of a coalition in which his own party BJP is the junior partner? Does it matter to Swamy who speaks and acts as if basic rules and norms do not apply to him? Swamy even accused her of having “old links with terrorists”.
During the budget session of Parliament, Swamy created a furore in the Rajya Sabha with a witty remark that Congress members seemed better informed about the Constitution of Italy than India’s. The word ‘Italy’ was expunged from records after an uproar by Congress members who are touchy about the subject of Sonia Gandhi’s origin. “I never knew Italy was unparliamentary,” quipped the irrepressible Swamy Swamy, who has been described as “the stormy petrel”, “gad-fly”, “intrepid legislator” and “maverick” of Indian Politics.
He once described the late, venerable Gopalaswamy Parthasarathy, India’s Diplomatic Patriarch, as “the international ‘chaprasi’ (attendant or peon)”. It was sometime during 1983-84 when GP, as the diplomat was popularly known, had brokered, in vain, at the behest of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to thrash out a peaceful solution to the vexed Sri Lankan Tamil problem. I still remember how a smiling Swamy distributed to correspondents copies of his press release containing his acerbic comments. (The late GP is not to be confused with the much younger G Parthasarathy, former envoy to Pakistan and a well-known columnist on diplomatic and strategic affairs).
In the Rajya Sabha during a winter session, he once called some BJP MPs as being dressed perfectly “like British butlers”, alluding to their wearing three-piece suit even as the House was debating a question on Indian culture. Swamy was then a member of the Janata Party which he had headed for long since the 1980s.
“This is not Pakistani Assembly, I must be allowed to speak,” he once agitatedly told Ms Najma Heptullah, who was then the deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha after he was repeatedly denied permission to take the floor.
Soon after Emergency was imposed in 1975, braving an arrest warrant against him, the audacious Swamy entered Parliament House, gave the security the slip, signed the Rajya Sabha Register and made a 60-second speech, condemning Emergency and reading out “an obituary” of the “death of Democracy”. Before the authorities could realise what had struck them, the “intruder” bolted out in as dramatic a fashion as he entered ‘’the gagged Parliament” and flew to the United States of America.
After a long gap, Swamy is back in the Rajya Sabha as a Nominated Member. With Swamy around, there won’t be a dull moment in the Upper House for the next six years.
Swamy is an internationally known Harvard Professor who continues to enliven Indian politics for over four decades now. Never a dull moment if you are in his company. A captivating speaker, Swamy is also a highly engaging writer. Read his book, “The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi – Unanswered Questions and Unasked Queries”; you will realise what a gripping writer he is.
A remarkable feature of Swamy’s passion for taking on the high and mighty is that it has been mostly a losing battle for some reason or the other. The only noted success of his campaign was against LTTE, which has been nearly annihilated by the Sri Lankan army with Indian help, diplomatic and strategic.
The DA case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was a major Swamy initiative. She has been acquitted by the Karnataka High Court, but the appeal by the state government is still with the Supreme Court. Swamy must be keeping a hawk eye on the land’s highest court of law.
More than a decade ago, I interviewed Swamy for Asiantribune.com, a Sweden-based online newspaper run by a Sri Lankan Tamil, a target of LTTE for his views against the Tigers.
“If and when you decide to write your autobiography, you should title it, “Swamy And His Foes”, I suggested as I left Swamy’s Nizamuddin home.
“Not a bad idea”, agreed Swamy with a twinkle in his eyes.