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Volume XLIV, No.49

What Undid Pramod Mahajan?

Tuesday 24 April 2007, by K S Duggal

I suppose it can now be told. It is no more too close to the tragic happening to be termed bad manners or sheer paparazzi.

Pramod Mahajan (PM) had in his person the makings of a Prime Minister as indicated in his initials, duly noticed by the media. A midnight-freedom child, at 57 he was youthful, attractive to look at, with a gift of the gab carrying conviction in a fast-developing society like ours. Above all, he was imbued with scientific temper, and spoke in the idiom of the upcoming generation. Having risen from the ranks, with organisational skill, a protégé of the icon of the political party he belonged to, he had already been anointed ‘Lakshman’ by the ‘Rama’ himself.

Be that as it may, there was a tinge of the tragic in his bearing. It was this that led him to advocate mid-term elections, shout “India Shining” from the housetops and look at the world around from the pedestal he had yet to occupy. He had already started living the majesty he felt he was destined for.

Serving on the Information Technology Standing Committee of which he was the Minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet, I was one of Pramod Mahajan’s keen admirers during my tenure as a Member of the Rajya Sabha. I honestly believed that the strides India had made in the field were due to his initiatives. Albeit there were sectors in which we needed to do better. In one of the debates in the Rajya Sabha when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee happened to be present in the House, Pramod was narrating his achievements when interrupting him I sought to know the status of tele-density in India vis-à-vis our neighbours China and Pakistan. Rather than replying to my question, he looked askance at me saying: “What has this to do with what we are discussing?” and carried on with his account. Dr Raja Ramanna sitting by my side nudged me and whispered: “It has everything to do with it.” And there was no doubt about it. We were far behind not only China in tele-density, even Pakistan’s performance in this regard was much better than ours.

What hurt me was the way he dismissed an inconvenient query. Evidently he was trying to impress the Prime Minister sitting by his side. What we detested was the way he looked towards the Nominated Members bench. While at one time I considered Arun Shourie, Arun Jaitley and Pramod Mahajan the three promising stars of the BJP, I started avoiding Pramod Mahajan when we came across each other in the lobby or elsewhere in the House.

Before long he wished to canvass my vote for the motion on POTA which was in serious trouble in the Rajya Sabha. Evidently he was not confident to approach me alone; he had Sushma Swaraj to accompany him. Unfortunately, I had to disappoint Sushma despite the fact that I was and continue to be one of her ardent admirers for the courage with which she gives fight for causes dear to her heart.

However, when Pramod was dropped from the Cabinet, I felt that it was a grievous loss to the Ministry of Information Technology. I wrote to him a personal letter on his Safdarjang Road address appreciating all that he had done to promote scientific temper in the country.
It is, indeed, a great loss that Pramod Mahajan’s assassination cut off a promising carrier so tragically. When I heard the sad news I was sitting with a friend to whom I narrated all that I had said in my letter to Pramod when he was dropped from the Cabinet, the praise that I had showered on him.
“Did he reply to your letter?”—my friend asked me. I was struck dumb. It occurred to me that my letter had remained unacknowledged.
Reading in the morning paper, about Praveen Mahajan confessing to a senior police official that “he was unable to take the ‘humiliation’ and ‘insult’ at the hands of his elder brother” which drove him mad and he committed the heinous crime, set me thinking about the late Pramod Mahajan, my colleague in the Rajya Sabha. Unlike the general run of politicians around, he would not help a kin make money by means fair or foul. And on top of it looked down upon him, making him feel more miserable.

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