The splendour of the Republic Day parade cannot be exaggerated. The setting is breathtaking.
Heads of state and government seldom voluntarily retire. Most hold on to the job even if they are in poor health or too old.
Jawaharlal Nehru should have retired after he had a stroke on 6 January 1964, at the AICC session at Bhuvaneshwar. He neglected his deteriorating health and died on 27 May 1964 in his 75th year.
I could give several other examples of leaders convincing themselves of their immortality.
Joseph Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR from 1922 to 1953, when he died in mysterious circumstances. For the last few years of his life he was a stricken man, if not a semi-invalid. Neither his doctors, nor any member of the Politburo had the courage to approach him during his illness.
New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern shocked her country and the world by her decision to resign. Had she not she would have been re-elected in October. Prime Minister Ardern became a world figure. A gunman targeted a mosque, 51 people killed and 40 injured in 2019 in Christchurch. She swiftly changed the gun laws. She won a second term in October 2020. Of her resignation she said, she “had no more in the tank”. She added, “…Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it is time. And for me it is time.” She is in her early 40s.
India’s top wrestlers—30 of them, young girls and youthful men—have been protesting in bitter cold against the unacceptable conduct of the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a sitting Member of Parliament. He has held the post for 13 years. His TV performance on Thursday must have done him much harm. He was seen twice slapping a young man. He also said he would not resign.
The lady wrestlers have complained of “sexual harassment”. The well-being of the wrestlers is of paramount importance. “Wrestling is India’s most successful individual Olympic sport. It deserves better”, wrote a leading newspaper in its centre page.
The energetic Sports Minister should act soon to address the grievances of the wrestlers. It will take some doing as Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is an influential Member of Parliament and a well-known UP politician.
Republic Day is round the corner. The day has a special significance. On this day 73 years ago, India became a Republic. Few outside India gave India a chance for democracy surviving more than a few years. Winston Churchill was one of them. He called Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Rajaji and other Congress leaders “men of straw”.
In 1942, President Roosevelt asked Churchill to make meaningful steps to accept India’s demands for ending British Raj in the country. Churchill told the US President that he would resign if pushed further by the US President. “I have not become the First Minister of the King to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.” Five years later the British Indian Empire was indeed liquidated.
The splendour of the Republic Day parade cannot be exaggerated. The setting is breathtaking. This year’s Guest of Honour is President Sisi of Egypt. The Rashtrapati Bhawan, North and South Blocks, Parliament House and India Gate were built between 1920 and 1930.
Mercifully, Shastri and Vigyan Bhawans are to be pulled down, so also the hideous Ministry of Defence, built in the 1950s.
The British monarchy is confronted with a strange problem. One of its members, the erratic and unpredictable Prince Harry has written a book (it has sold 3.2 million copies in a month) which is highly critical of the monarchy. He may have made a lot of money, but he is in the Royal doghouse. He has let the Firm down. The British royal family is privately called the Firm.
On Friday evening nearly one hundred former Stephanians met for dinner at the Taj Palace hotel. I was the chief guest, being the senior most ex-Stephanian. Almost all had taken to golf. The annual golf tournament was over. I was asked to speak first. I related this story.
In 1950, King Tribhuvan of Nepal came to Delhi, Nehru invited the King for lunch. The first three courses were without any conversation. Finally the King asked Prime Minister Nehru if he played golf. “Not yet your Majesty. I am only 62 years old”, was Nehru’s witty reply. In those days golf was considered a game for old men.