An eye to deeds, not just words

When the nation asks Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, if he could not find one good and reliable ophthalmologist in India, I could say that among the best in the country sits right under his nose at the JJ Hospital in Bombay. Bur having suffered a peculiar eye problem recently, in his defence, I can recount my experience with private ophthalmologists who either had no idea on how to tackle the problem or were in too much of a hurry to wield the knife or, as I could fathom, were simply faking their knowledge of the procedures.

Then a close friend of both took me to the JJ Hospital and the award winning dean of the hospital restored my shaken confidence in doctors and faith in my own ability to overcome my problem. I am not naming him here because this is not about doctors but the Home Minister who should have known better than to go public with his need to consult an ophthalmologist in the US when. A Padmabhushan (for conducting a delicate and most difficult surgery on a teen and making bis eyes whole again) lives and works in Shinde’s home state . However, I have always considered Shinde to be a man with a determination to get things done- though he might go about it softly and sometimes in such a rather ham-handed fashion that no one’s quite aware of what he might have accomplished,

For example, some years ago when he was chief minister of Maharashtra, Shinde quietly put an end to the problem that was Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s rallies at the Chowpatty sands in Bombay which not just created a civic nuisance but also gave several governments headaches in terms of securing Thackeray from attackers who might be hanging out in the open seas and go undetected. Instead of banning those rallies himself, he went to the Bombay High Court – to ask what he must on security grounds. The courts obliged by banning all political rallies at Chowpatty – that ruling came in handy as late as last year when Thackeray’s nephew, Raj Thackeray, proposed to add to a potential communal conflict after the violence by some Muslim groups at Azad Maidan in August. Earlier, as Maharashtra’s Finance Minister, he also kept builders in check by quietly budgeting penalties and making them pay through their nose for violations – they have gone out of hand ever since the Shiv Sena-BJP regime gave in to all their demands which subsequently led to scams like the Adarsh Housing society scandal that scalped even the state’s then chief minister.

However, Shinde’s one drawback is articulation – while he has been both a cop and a legal officer and is thus eminently suitable for the job of the country’s home minister words more often than not fail this man with a beautiful smile but iron teeth. He burst into tears before all and sundry when, unexpectedly, the Congress won the assembly elections in Maharashtra under his watch (I had never seen a chief minister cry before then) and he chose inappropriate words to describe right wing terrorism as “Hindu terrorism” when, in fact, he was right about what he was saying. He promised to deliver Telangana within a month and then left another minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, to talk him out of that mess 30 days later.

Shinde’s problem ever has been words but I have never known him to fall short of the mark in terms of deeds. I guess he might best serve himself with speaking as little as possible. However, he must know a Home Minister’s task is both thankless and unending. Such a huge country as India is, there is always some problem breaking out in one corner or the other and no sooner one leak is plugged, another opens out when you have just walked away in satisfaction about a job well done. But the job of a Home Minister is never really done – that is why he has more than one deputy to make it possible to call it a day or night – turn by turn. But as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru himself underlined, one has miles to go before one can call it a day or even night for some of the worst incidents happen as the sun sets as we have seen in case of innumerous blasts and insurgent attacks all over the country.

Still I would not fault Shinde for paying heed to his eye for ultimately he has to have a sharp focus on things. The country, after all, is under his watch and it is he who must have the gimlet eye. The sharper the better.

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