Arun Shourie is not a man you could easily ignore. He leaves an indelible mark upon your subconscious with the strokes of his pen. He is a philanthropist also who had pledged the entire amount (Rs. 120 million) of discretionary spending available to him under MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) to set up of Bio-Sciences & Bio-engineering Department at the IIT Kanpur and in 2005, he had again pledged Rs. 110 million for developing a separate building for Environmental Studies at the institute. He was one of the bold writers who had challenged Mrs. Indra Gandhi’s EMERGENCY of 1975 with his pen, with his writings for Indian Express of Ramnath Goenka. He was an economist with the World Bank and a Consultant to the Planning Commission of India. Nalini Singh, the well known journalist is his sister. He had obtained his doctorate in Economics from Syracuse University.
He is known for fearlessness, intelligence, erudition and command over the subject and language. The world famous American writer Martha Nussbaum described him as a intrepid writer whose ‘dedication to the truth has won admiration throughout the political spectrum. His books ‘nowhere … seek to provide balance; nowhere is there a sense of complexity. All have the same mocking, superior tone.’ Shourie is a winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1982 and he has authored several books. To mention few of them:
Does He Know a Mother’s Heart? How Suffering Refutes Religions
We Must Have No Price
Worshipping False Gods
A Secular Agenda
Religion in Politics
Symptoms of Fascism
These Lethal, Inexorable Laws: Rajiv, His Men and His Regime
The State As Charade:
He was nominated for Rajya Sabah from the state of UP as a BJP representative for two successive tenures. He held the office of the Minister of Disinvestment, Communication and Information Technology in the government of India under Vajpayee’s prime ministry.
Shourie had strongly objected to Act 1986 – Protection of Rights on Divorce which Rajiv Gandhi had proposed and claimed as act to reinforcement of India’s constitutional secularism. Arif Mohammed Khan had resigned in protest and it was widely criticized by both Muslims and Hindus. Arun Shourie had written articles in that period that tried to show that the treatment of women as required by the Quran would in fact offer them protection, although the application of Islamic law in practice was oppressing them. He was severely criticized and many called his ideas as a thinly-veiled attack on Islam. While he enjoys a large list of admirers, he has an almost similar count of his critics.
Late Mr. Rafiq Zakaria, the famous Muslim scholar from Bombay felt that Shourie’s concern for reform of Islam was in fact demonstrative of Hindu contempt that used the plight of Muslim women as an example of the backwardness of the community. Even journalist Vir Sanghvi called his writing of that period a “Hindu chauvinism with a liberal face”.
Few days back he caused many eyebrows to raise as he called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a narcissistic. He opines that Modi is running a one-man presidential government, the direction of which was dangerous for India. The intellectual writer and thinker called the NDA dispensation as a presidential government without checks and balances.
In a 40-minute exclusive interview with India Today TV’s Karan Thapar in the program ‘To The Point’, Shourie analyzed the two years of Modi government and warned that over the next three years, he expected a more systematic attempt to curb civil liberties and an increase in decentralized intimidation besides choking of inconvenient voices.
Making a psycho-analyses of PM Modi, he went on accusing Modi, obsessed with his own self, as both self-love to an exaggerated extent and insecurity. He called him Machiavellian, which meant that he exploited events to his benefit. Arun said the PM’s attitude towards people was to “use and throw” them. “He treats people like paper napkins and is remorseless.”
Shourie also referred to the raging controversy over the AgustaWestland helicopter deal and criticized the Modi government for not appealing against the acquittal by the Italian trial court of the company’s two former chiefs Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini. Shourie used a Hindi metaphor ‘Khoda pahad nikla chuha’ to describe Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s’s speech in Rajya Sabha on the Agusta deal: “It was like digging a mountain to find a mouse.
He compared Modi’s two years as PM as a boxing match with everybody and said he had not had the focus that was expected of him. “This was a great opportunity completely missed.”
Shourie blamed the Modi government for having placed two Congress-ruled states of Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh under President’s rule, calling it “unconstitutional”. “The deliberate BJP policy of attracting and inviting defectors will undermine the party,” he said.
Shourie took on the Modi government on foreign relations too, especially Pakistan. “We have made fools of ourselves in the eyes of Pakistan.” Shourie said there was no consistency or logic to Modi’s Pakistan policy which had confused India. He criticized what he considered “U-turns in handling Pakistan”
By Naim Naqvi