The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: daughters

A bunch of girls in Russia

by fpman

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, president of Russia and formerly a counter-intelligence officer, prefers to keep his daughters’ identity a secret.

So now, even with the suspicions there are, we cannot be entirely sure if one of his daughters is an acrobat-dancer-slash-scientist. A pity.

Another interesting consequence of this policy of secrecy, in the country that was once, for a brief while, ruled by a false Dimitriy, is a bunch of false Putinas:

“So far, a bunch of girls have come forth as Vladimir Putin’s daughters,” says Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Putin.

It is certainly a conceivable stratagem in an environment similar to Russia’s. For it to succeed in the (somewhat) longer run, accomplices are a must. Speaking strictly in the abstract, false VIPs of this kind may come in four different varieties: decoys, entrepreneurs, crazies, and momentary opportunists. It is only in crazies’ case that the person concerned would not be part of a group involved in the impostorship. Accomplices are needed to get street cred: to spread rumours around as to who you “really” are, to give confidential references etc. In the case of the entrepreneur it would be a group seeking economic opportunities in this way, mostly. In the case of a decoy, it could be a state-run operation, with the aim to divert attention away from “those we don’t speak of” (I hope you like obscure movie references). Even some of the seemingly crazies may be sent out there to leave a legacy of uncertainty as to who the real VIPs happen to be.

A momentary opportunist is a person who uses reference to oneself as someone special’s special someone to get out of a specific situation, only as a tactic. If you’re looking for an example of this, well, here is an imperfect one, given that it is more that of a wannabe momentary opportunist whose aspirations stemmed largely from the consumption of alcohol on the occasion: a man claiming to be Vladimir Putin’s cousin after he was caught drunk-driving by Surrey police in the UK.

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Purchasing access to the United States through campaign contributions?

by fpman

This NYT story is pretty interesting read on how a wealthy Ecuadorian family may have secured access to the United States for one of its members, Estefanía Isaías. The lady in question is reported to have been involved in fraudulently obtaining visas for her maids for which she was barred from entering the country for a while.

Here is a particularly noteworthy detail of the story, on how the entry ban was eventually lifted:

“The Obama administration then reversed its decision and gave Ms. Isaías the waiver she needed to come to the United States — just as tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the family poured into Mr. Obama’s campaign coffers.

An email from (New Jersey Democratic Senator) Mr. Menendez’s office sharing the good news was dated May 15, 2012, one day after, campaign finance records show, Ms. Isaías’s mother gave $40,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, which provided donations to the president and other Democrats.”

A watchdog organization is subsequently quoted as pointing out the obvious: “When a donation happens and then something else happens, like the favor, as long as they are very, very close, that really paints a story.”

Roberto and William Isaías (of the two, Roberto is Estefanía’s father), who are named as “the family patriarchs” by the NYT article apparently considerably complicate relations with Ecuador given that they have been involved in the crashing of a bank there causing losses to the tune of $400 million. In Ecuador, they have been sentenced in abstentia related to this, and so Ecuador is actually demanding their extradition from the US.

That Estefanía may even have been employed by a fundraiser (Balsera Communications, focusing on the Latino populace) connected to the Obama team is not going to make this look any better from, say, Ecuador.

Chaebol nobility

by fpman

Korean Air is the latest South Korean chaebol (large family-run conglomerate) hit by a scandal related to family matters. Cho Hyun-ah, company chairman Cho Yang-ho’s daughter, recently made a flight she was on turn back so one of the stewards could be kicked off at the gate. The reason: she was served macadamia nuts in an unopened bag which she, as the person actually in charge of the airline’s in-flight services, thought was not the proper way. According to common descriptions of the story she basically transformed into a dragon in response. She clearly went way too far, and by now she has ended up stripped of all of her company titles and was forced to publicly apologize for her actions.

ChoHyun_ahCho Hyun-ah (centre) with father Cho Yang-ho, apologizing (photo: Song Eun-seok)

The NYT doesn’t fail to add that the incident

“is likely to stoke already seething anger at the country’s family owned conglomerates — or chaebol — whose leaders have a reputation for imperious behavior and treating their employees like feudal subjects.”

It is worth remembering at this point Chonghaejin Marine Company’s case. It was their ship, the MW Sewol ferry which sank in April of this year. Over 300 drowned in that incident caused to a great extent by human errors. On its last journey the ferry was carrying over three times the amount of cargo it was supposed to carry, and the extra load was not properly secured. After a relatively sharp turn by the vessel at one point the cargo shifted and caused the boat to capsize.

Yoo Byung-eun was the head of the family whose business empire extended to control of Chonghaejin, run by Yoo Byung-eun’s sons at the time. In the wake of the ferry disaster, the public mood turned against father Yoo, and South Korean authorities issued an arrest warrant against him related to charges of embezzlement, negligence and tax evasion. His children fled the country, and in the meantime he went into hiding, presumably with the support of the 100,000-strong Evangelical Baptist Church which he co-founded.

Eventually police found a badly decomposed body in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, south of the capital Seoul, and based on DNA evidence it was proclaimed that it was Yoo Byung-eun. He was thus pronounced dead. Police is still after Yoo Som-na, a daugther of his who is also accused of embezzlement and is held in prison in France awaiting decision on her extradition. Her defenders argue she would not get a fair trial in South Korea at this point.

The NYT is also referring to a story where a “ruling-family” member at the telecom and petrochemical conglomerate SK group beat up a union activist with an aluminum bat. This exaplains the context where many papers are now calling on government and judicial authorities to set examples with some chaebol princes and princesses to put an end to what they describe as “imperial abuse.”

Auctioning off some Russian foreign affairs correspondence

by fpman

This letter, from 1762, is going to be auctioned on November 19 in Paris. In it, the Russian Empress Catherine II (actually a lady of German origin) is writing to her lover, Stanisław August Poniatowski, who would be King of Poland as Stanisław II only two years later. Catherine has just inherited the Russian throne and is in a precarious situation. She is sending some vital instructions to Stanisław to avoid unnecessary trouble. As quoted here (at the end of the article in question):

“You read my letters with very little attention. I’ve told you and repeated that I risk being assaulted from all sides if you put one foot back in Russia.”

Life was to become only more complicated later on…

CatherineIIWords of discontent in the letter…

For about 10 to 12 thousand Euros you may have the rest of the letter as well. And here you find the rest of the private letters written by famous women that will be auctioned on the same day, if you have some more money to spend…

But I wish to stop by the story of Catherine and Stanisław because theirs is a particularly interesting historical case with a view to the role of personal relationships in politics.

It was Catherine’s hope, and of those around her in St. Petersburg, that they would be in control of Stanisław just like they were in control of many other key figures in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth who were their paid clients at the time, including the Hetmans or the Commanders of the Polish and Lithuanian Armies. Palace intrigue played a role in why Catherine and Stanisław came together back in 1755, but they felt genuine attraction towards one another and would eventually consider marrying each other, before the idea became inconvenient (once Catherine had become ruler of Russia). And Anna Petrovna, Catherine’s second child, was possibly their daughter. In 1764, when Stanisław would be elected as King of the Polish noble republic, Russia spent a lot of money on getting him there and even positioned their troops near the site of the election assembly to make sure they got the result they wanted.

In the end, however,

“Stanisław-August, despite his links with the Empress Catherine, was the leader of Reform in Poland: the Empress, despite her links with the Enlightenment, was the paymistress of Poland’s conservative establishment.” (Davies, 2001: 270)

In other words: Stanisław II was independent-minded and attempted to carry out major reform of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including some very progressive and liberal policies, at the same time as he sought to strengthen the autonomy of his state. He was, after all, one out of only four Polish kings out of the eleven elected Kings of the Polish noble republic (the others were foreigners). Yet he was to be the last one.

It was his quest for highly timely reform that resulted in the end in the Partition of Poland. Russia considered the reforms a threat to its control over what it saw as a client state and a useful buffer zone against threats from the West: Prussia and Austria. Russia thus intervened, and once it did so it was forced by the logic of power politics to enter into talks over Poland’s future, resulting in the three-stage, three-way partition of the country at the end of which nothing was left of it, by 1795.

Reference

Norman Davies: Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland’s Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

The “familiar” aspect of the Hong Kong protests

by AiteVer

Today is Monday, which – as we know – is horrible for so many reasons. One of those reasons is that today is the deadline for retreat the authorities have given for the protesters of the movement ‘Occupy Central’ in Hong Kong.

The protests started on September 28, 2014 when the Chinese government failed to accept the agreed changes to the electoral rules for the upcoming elections in 2017. There is a great summary of the background and causes here. If you need more, and even more, information, check out this video, and also this video, and for some truly geeky delicacies: this article. And then come back and see why we are writing about this.

Since the cause for the civil unrest was the electoral reform, much of the discourse has focused on Chief Executive CY Leung (Leung Chun-ying), who yesterday did not answer to questions… that he could not be asked. “689”, as he is called after the number of votes he got from the electoral committee back in China, is generally pictured as a corrupt leader who is way too close to Beijing in mindset to effectively run Hong Kong. No wonder it broke the news when his eccentric daughter, Chai Yan Leung, thanked the taxpayers for paying for her shoes, bags and jewelry. Yes, you heard that right. In response to her critics on Facebook she said:

“This is actually a beautiful necklace bought at Lane Crawford (yes- funded by all you HK taxpayers!! So are all my beautiful shoes and dresses and clutches!! Thank you so much!!!!)”

Talkin’ about the difficulties of effective political communication once relatives become involved!

Or… not mere relatives but “princesses,” anyway… (according to her Facebook profile pic as shown here).

ChaiYanLeung

The Varholíková-Rezešová case

by fpman

We are operating here under the radical assumption that politicans, decision-makers, and their relatives are people, too. This allows us to easily accomodate the notion that from time to time these people may commit reckless deeds just like other people sometimes do, too.

Eva Varholíková-Rezešová, daughter of former Slovak minister of transport, Alexander Rezeš, has just been handed a jail sentence of nine years by a Hungarian appeals court for something of exactly this kind. On August 21, 2012, in a freak accident, she drove her BMW X5 into a Fiat Punto from the rear on a highway in Hungary, causing the other car to flip over, and go up in flames. Three of the passangers traveling in that car died instantly – a fourth victim died at the hospital.

Even though she was driving well in excess of the speed limit, and was under the influence of alcohol at the time, her defence experts did a good job, and did all that they could to present it as an extremely complex issue whether she was to blame for what happened – or if the Fiat Punto’s deceased driver may have failed to give way to her BMW, while attempting to take over a truck, leaving Varholíková-Rezešová with not enough time to decelerate and/or evade as she was speeding towards the spot in question, in the inside lane.

To deal with the crucial issue of driving under the influence, the defence at various points suggested that Varholíková-Rezešová may have taken medication containing alcohol and that she drank vodka only after the accident.

Notable as these, presumably well-paid, efforts by the defence team, seeking acquittal of the client, may be, the other side of the coin is interesting, too.

Vilifying, even demonizing, a millionaire foreign celebrity, such as Eva Varholíková-Rezešová, for putting to death by fire four citizens of one’s country, speaking from a position of authority, may seem a surefire way of gaining some popularity. When the primary court originally dealing with the case sentenced Varholíková-Rezešová to six years, at the same time ruling that she be placed from detention to under house arrest whilst waiting for the appeals court’s decision, Antal Rogán, parliamentary faction leader of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party publicly criticized the decision in the strongest terms. Interestingly enough, in the wake of his statement, the ruling on house arrest was reverted back to imprisonment, questioning, in the eyes of some, the independence of the Hungarian judiciary, even as no one really seemed to disagree with the decision to send Varholíková-Rezešová to jail.

It is also noteworthy that Varholíková-Rezešová was largely framed in Hungarian press coverage as “Slovak” or at least as a “Slovak citizen,” with her strong Hungarian roots rarely mentioned.

Press coverage in Slovakia was no less hostile towards her. This article dated August 23, 2012 already declared, immediately in the wake of the accident:

“The consequences in Hungary could be much greater than they may have been had the accident happened in Slovakia, where the highly affluent Rezes family are widely believed to have a lot of influence.”

The late Alexander Rezeš was “a right hand man” to former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar and oversaw the privatization of major state assets – making money along the way in the opinion of more than one critic. The story of that speeding BMW of destruction is now seamlessly woven into this narrative.

No wonder the Hungarian judge handing down the sentence is now very popular with many in both Hungary and Slovakia for her clearly worded closing remarks, addressed directly to Varholíková-Rezešová – full with a punchline befitting Horatio Caine of CSI: Miami. Quoting Judge Sarolta Stubeczky:

“You have stated that nothing is ever going to be the same as before. This you should not feel sorry for.”

HoratioCaineCSI’s title song instantly plays in my head when I think of this: “and pray we don’t get fooled again.” Meaning… I forgot.

Gordon Brown and the prospect of Scottish independence

by fpman

The Scottish independence referendum is set to be held on September 18, less then a week from now. With the “yes” campaign in the lead, many from the other side are now making a desperate attempt to convince prospective supporters of independence to change their mind, and to keep current opposers from doing the same.

Such was the address by former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown to a group of activists in Glasgow, the day before yesterday. One of his central arguments focused on the benefits of the National Health Service (NHS). It seems that key groups of voters in Scotland, for example many elderly women, fear that these would be lost (or unsustainable) in independent Scotland, even as the Scottish National Party, for its part, promises to save the system from privatization through independence. We are tuning into this after Brown made some very personal remarks related to the subject. Quoting him:

“When I lost the sight of my eye and faced the prospect of going blind, my sight was saved by the NHS.

When my daughter died it was as the result of not being able, not being able, to do anything to save her life and my respect for the NHS grew as a result of the experience that Sarah and I had.”

Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah have lost their ten days old baby daughter, Jennifer Jane, in 2002. She was born prematurely and died of a brain haemorrhage. The couple since have two children, John Macaulay and James Fraser, but it took a long time for Gordon Brown to recover from the loss. This interview with him might well convey how much. At one point there he says: “I couldn’t listen to music for six months,” which for some reason I find particularly revealing of the pain he must have felt.

That he is now speaking of his daughter’s death in the context of the independence referendum may not be the best way to make the case for “no” but it certainly means a lot to him.

A Non-Definitive Introduction to the Life of Gulnara Karimova

by AiteVer

I’m so excited I don’t even know where to begin. Why? Because the following story has long raised our attention here at the blog. It came up at that allegorical first editorial meeting at that allegorical pub where we discussed how fascinated we were by how one can get so far having a bulletproof last name – as we discussed the rise to fame of Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan’s only leader since 1989, Islam Karimov. Our guess is that the story will not end here so this piece will probably serve only as a brief introduction to the fabulous life of Googoosha or Guli. Why is now the time? It is because this Monday, the Uzbek Prosecutor-General’s Office named ‘Karimova G.’ amongst others as a suspect in the investigation of an organized criminal group.

As a prime introduction to Gulnara, I suggest you watch this:

This report from the 2013 Uzbek Fashion Week has everything that’s glamourous in it: fashion, music, famous people, Central-Asia-specific falconry motives and love messages both for FashionTv and well… Guli. It was posted on December 28, 2013 in the middle of the tumult that followed her return to Tashkent in September 2013 from Geneva.

As the linked RFE story goes about listing the conflicts of interest between her public persona and her business career (based on what we seem to know about the latter), it may become obvious to the reader that she kept a very high profile internationally for the past few years. She was involved in the fashion industry having her own fragrance and Guli fashion line but was also a popular singer and a poet in Uzbekistan (who even inspired the likes of Gerard Depardieu [sic]). Not an artist only in a-r-t, she accumulated a large fortune through her business ventures in media and telecommunications (apparently she was interested in restaurants, too) even as she had to master the art of diplomacy as Uzbekistan’s representative to the UN in Geneva. And, by the way, she also headed a charity organization called Fund Forum. Yet, regardless of said charitable niceties, she hails from a country where students are allegedly forced to pick cotton on the fields year after year. Accordingly, she had been strongly criticized for years for not doing enough, as a UN representative, to improve Uzbekistan’s poor human rights record, and was even implicated in it personally when her fashion show at the New York fashion week was cancelled in 2011, due to human rights organisations’ protest. On the other hand, she could enjoy a lavish lifestyle in Europe and largely undisturbed business back home up until 2012. That is when her opponents began to capitalize on her business scandals in Europe.

Her fall from grace was just as public as her life had been as a ‘princess’. Although she was named ‘the single most hated person in Uzbekistan’ by a WikiLeaks cable, she had 50,000 followers on Twitter including many of her younger fans who regarded her as the smallest evil when compared to other potential successors to her 75-year-old father.

The biggest blow to her public profile came in 2012 when news broke of Karimova’s close associates who allegedly accepted bribes worth of 320 million USD from TeliaSonera in exchange for governmental protection in Uzbekistan. The scandal has since provoked investigation in Sweden, France and Switzerland. This piece of Gulnara’s life would be worthy of its own post on the blog but now we will focus on the aftermath that has become a battle ground between Gulnara and her business associates, pitting them against Karimov’s closest circles, represented especially by Rustam Inoyatov, the president’s right hand, head of the Uzbek SNB state security service, and Gulnara’s younger sister Lola and her mother Tatyana.

Events sped up last year when Gulnara had to step down from her UN post in July (mostly because of the TeliaSonera scandal) and returned to Tashkent in September. In October and November her TV and radio stations were closed down, as well as her charity, the Fund Forum. In the beginning of 2014, she and her daughter were put under house arrest in Tashkent. And finally, after some of his associates were sentenced, including her boyfriend Rustam Madumarov on May 24, she was officially charged this week.

The mesmerizing characteristic of the affair probably isn’t even that a Central Asian high profile businessperson, let alone a presidential sibling, is brought under investigation but on how public this all turned out to be. As noted by FP, unusually for such circles, Gulnara’s fallout with her family was ‘uncharacteristically public’. She had always been known to be very open about her life on Twitter, which she had used to inform her growing fan base of her latest plans, whether it was her yoga class or her next musical collaboration. When her family turned against her, she decided to use the same platform to inform the public about the details of her struggles and began to accuse Inoyatov, as well as her mother and sister of trying to control the president and turn him against her. In the process, her account was disabled, deleted and reinstated multiple times only to finally disappear for good in February, which only strengthened her resistance against the pressure she claimed she was put under.

As a response, there was a BBC interview with her sister last September where Lola attempted to distance herself from Gulnara, saying they hadn’t kept in touch for the past 12 years. Then, after a handwritten letter obtained by the BBC in which she claimed she was held by her family, Gulnara’s son sat down with The Guardian selling the family out once again while voicing his concern for her mother’s well-being. The latest news came in August, when BBC received a voice recording from Gulnara herself repeating her cries for help from the international community to free her from her captivity where she was (and, if true, may still be) treated ‘worse than a dog’. We are speculating (and speculating only) that charging her officially was the response of her adversaries – and so we are eagerly waiting how the story continues to unfold.

GulnaraKarimovaGulnara, freely roaming a field, once upon a time…

“La primera vez”: Mariela Castro’s pseudo-historic “No”

by fpman

Here at the Patrimony we are not subject to the Chinese government’s ongoing attempt to teach journalists “to learn Marxist news values,” and thus, in our ideologically underinformed state, we cannot quite decide if the following piece of news qualifies as revolutionary, counter-revolutionary, or neither of those, in terms of classical socialist doctrine.

The link goes to an article in Spanish, the greatest part of which you can read here in English.

In short: Mariela Castro, Raúl Castro’s daughter, and consequently Fidel Castro’s niece, has recently voted no on proposed labor legislation in the Cuban parliament, in la Asamblea del Poder Popular — the Assembly of People’s Power that is powered by people who say yes to everything twice a year. In case you were worried as to what this might mean for labor code modernization in Cuba, the legislation safely passed, in spite of this very noteworthy resistance. Mariela Castro’s “No” was a lonely No, not only on the given day but historically speaking, too. A first-time No in the assembly. And that is of course the revolutionary aspect of all of this. Or a counter-revolutionary aspect of this… Or… let’s try to understand this a little more.

Here’s a photo of Mariela, demanding release of the Miami Five as they are known in Cuba, from US President Barack Obama — and then here’s a bit of background on her, too.

MarielaCastroMariela Castro (photo: Javier Galeano, AP)

Even as Mariela has her list of demands for President Obama, she is known as the one member of the Castro family who openly says she would vote for him in US presidential elections. This is largely related to her views as an LGBT activist, and her way of supporting Obama’s stance on gay marriage. She is also the odd one out in the family having travelled to the US in the past to attend a conference of the Latin American Studies Association in San Francisco, in 2011. She is a scholar, after all, and she has published several articles in the Cuban journal Sexology and Society, as president of the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education.

In fact, the recent, historic “No” comes connected to Mariela’s activism. She voted the way she did because she was apparently concerned that the new labor law does not provide protection from discrimination to people who are HIV positive or have atypical gender identities.

Now ain’t that nice. However, if one goes all philosophical about this, there is more to the problematique of this parliamentary-familial mini-revolt to polemize about than an implicit clash of traditional and new leftist thinking and core values. Some observers claim that the new Cuban labor law to which the people’s power has given its seal of approval so eagerly, minus the one person in question who didn’t, is actually exposing private sector employees as a relatively weakly protected segment of the labor force. In a country where the private sector is growing.

Given that the one person who said “No” voted the way she did for reasons unrelated to this, yet framing her actions as a stance in favor of what by implication would be an “even more impeccable” labor law than the one presented as good enough for a socialist country, one gets the impression that this “No” is, well, a semi-tolerated, semi-sanctioned one — one that is meant to legitimize rather than de-legitimize.

And yet a first is a first. A case of organized spontaneity this may have been — it may still be followed by more actual spontaneity.

Manmohan Singh: A bookworm in the crossfire of a book war

by fpman

“Strictly Personal: Manmohan and Gursharan” is a freshly published book by the former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s daughter, Daman Singh. Its promise is avowedly modest — you can read an interview with the author here, and another brief introduction here, to learn a few details about what you can expect from it.

DamanSingh_StrictlyPersonalCover of the new book by Daman Singh

Focused on the human side of Manmohan Singh’s political career it builds on the strengths of the former PM at a time when he might just need this, to shape perceptions of his legacy to his advantage. Being a nice, smart and humble person is what is generally regarded to have been his strength, and the book may as well be a reminder of that.

ManmohanSinghManmohan Singh’s Wikipedia profile pic

The father of major liberal economic reforms during his time as Minister of Finance (1991-1996), and later premier (2004-2014), no matter how much he was attacked for his policies, Manmohan Singh has always been respected for his personal qualities which even opponents did not usually deny.

A case in point is Sanjaya Baru, media advisor to the former PM from 2004 to 2008, who, while otherwise criticizing rampant corruption during Manmohan Singh’s time, goes only so far as to argue:

“Dr Singh’s general attitude towards corruption in public life, which he adopted through his career in government, seemed to me to be that he would himself maintain the highest standards of probity in public life, but would not impose this on others … In practice, this meant that he turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of his ministers.”

Baru is nevertheless one of those former team members from Singh’s cabinet who have published books dealing with his tenure that have done some damage to his reputation. Baru’s book has the telling title of The Accidental Prime Minister (referring to Singh himself there).

Meanwhile, the memoirs of a former Minister of External Affairs, Natwar Singh (in office: 2004-2005; no relation to Manmohan Singh) are also out since the beginning of this month, and copies of both that book (‘One Life Is Not Enough’) and Baru’s are selling fast — in record numbers in Indian terms.

Based on what we know from the press accounts so far, both books paint a picture of Manmohan Singh’s government (2004-2014) as one where Sonia Gandhi and the Indian National Congress party were really pulling the strings. See samples of what Natwar Singh had to say here and here. He even says Manmohan Singh considered himself “a very lonely man” in the “dyarchy” that left the most power in Sonia Gandhi’s hands.

This will once again reinforce allegations that as the frontman in said arrangement, the former PM may have been complicit — in a half-knowing sort of way, and in spite of his personal merits — in some corrupt wheeling and dealing going on behind his back. Such allegations include the undervalued sale of coal mining rights to investors under his government. “Undervaluing,” resulting in this case in lost revenues in the order of $210 billion dollars according to an estimate mentioned here, would imply informal kickbacks paid by the investors to certain beneficiaries in return, in what is a fairly typical form of corruption. That, if true, is certainly a bit too much to overlook without getting at least a part of the blame, even if Manmohan Singh’s approach to this may have reflected his understanding of pragmatism at the time and he may have seen no workable way to stop this from happening.

Coming several months after the publication of The Accidental Prime Minister, and a week or two after the launch of One Life Is Not Enough, Daman Singh’s book now is not the kind of book that would spend much time discussing such issues, however. Of Baru’s and Natwar Singh’s memoirs the author has this to say:

“I haven’t read either of the two books. They’re not the sort of books I normally read. As far as I can tell Natwar’s book is about politics which is not the kind of book am normally interested in reading … I wrote this book because I wanted to discover my parents as individuals.”

In her story, Indians can, for instance, sympathize with the young Manmohan, the former Cambridge guest student who, during his time in Britain, did not have much money and had to skip meals and get by on sixpence chocolate bars. They may get useful reaffirmation of Manmohan Singh’s generally positive image as a bookworm — as a man of constant contemplation. In Daman’s words:

“He worked in bed where he sat cross-legged with a pillow on his lap, a stack of files beside him. As he hunched over his papers, inscribing neat squiggles, he would tug his beard and mutter to himself. When he was not working, he was usually preoccupied with a book or else with his thoughts.”

Even the pratfall effect (i.e. that our respect for someone we already hold in high regard may increase after we witness the person in question commit a small, non-consequential mistake, or display weakness in some irrelevant area) may come — in consonance with the image above — to Manmohan Singh’s advantage. Quoting Daman again, on her father:

“He was completely helpless about the house and could neither boil an egg, nor switch on the television.”

Boiling eggs may be tough, but politics can be even tougher.  And politics at the helm of a country of 1.2 billion people can be… even tougherer. To say the least, under such circumstances, one may benefit from books written by empathizing family members. This is even more so in the wake of a wave of semi-accusing accounts by frenemies — people on your side who were always part team members and friends, part fellow travelers and opportunistic exploiters, as is the norm in politics.

Having said all this, these are of course only initial impressions from my part, in lieu of having read the book itself — to which I am looking forward.