ANY serious illness or injury needs adequate recovery time. When Sachin Tendulkar tears a ligament and has to undergo operation, the entire country prays for his recovery. We don’t mind if India lose a few matches in his absence as long as he is back fully fit. Recently, the rotator cuff on Shah Rukh Khan’s shoulder packed up and he went under the knife. We waited and hoped and prayed that he will be back better than before. We are ready to give these young men in their 30s and 40s the time they need to recover.
And indeed we pray that Manmohan Singh is healthy and back at work soon. But it seems his party is not ready to show the same grace to our prime minister who has just had a major heart surgery.
Thankfully, the surgery went off well and his recovery rate is said to be amazing for a man who is all of 77. But you don’t have to be a doctor to know that rapid recovery doesn’t make him fit to get back into the rough and tumble of Indian politics. But the embedded sycophants in the party and outside seem to think so and I assume they want to milk him for all the votes he can get them.
Almost daily, “ unofficial” health bulletins are released about his state. One overenthusiastic partyman even told journalists he will be attending the last day of the last session of the 14th Lok Sabha while one newspaper quoted unnamed sources to report that he works out daily on the treadmill and holds meetings with key aides every morning.
This is nothing less than perverse, does him more harm than good and has left the prime minister’s family seething. It’s a fact that he wanted to attend Parliament. His doctors told him he was fit enough to do that, yet advised him to take it easy and be fit for the impending Big Battle instead of getting tangled in petty parliamentary skirmishes. That’s why he didn’t go. But since some of the papers had said he will attend Parliament and he eventually didn’t, questions were suddenly raised about the state of his health, and rumours began to do the rounds that all is not well.
It prompted the punting classes from the UPA to float trial balloons of alternative prime ministerial candidates and the BJP’s LK Advani even called for a constitutional amendment to ensure that only a Lok Sabha member can become the prime minister. I don’t know what the connection is, but if Advani is alluding to a candidate’s state of preparedness to fight a gruelling election, he couldn’t have been more mistaken. This is a country where candidates have won elections without ever having stepped out of their prison cells. And the groundswell of sympathy for Manmohan is such that he may well win his first popular election, if he chooses to contest, without ever emerging out of Race Course Road. But he will emerge soon. I have known Dr Singh for many years and though I won’t claim to have met him after his surgery, I am told that in a few weeks’ time, he will be ready for the Big Fight.
Tomorrow the election schedule will be announced and not long afterwards will begin the countless meetings of the Congress Election Committee, its Working Committee etc. One cabinet minister told me that Manmohan will be attending all of these and apart from being the UPA’s candidate for a second term, will be an important cog in the campaign wheel. If the overeager partymen leave him to his own to recover, they will be giving his family — and themselves — a very precious gift.