E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The former PM's press conferences are always akin to fencing. There’s constant probing, provocative cuts, rapiers flashing to and fro, looking for the blood to ooze out.
It's dangerous sometimes, but it’s pretty thrilling.
Everybody is of course aware of the ‘Now Up, Now Down’, flip-flop relation of the only PM-CM combine in the country. But the ex-PM surprised everybody by agreeing to talk about the performance of the new CM and his ministry.
It was a coup, needless to say, a bit like getting Sachin Tendulkar to visit Kukke Subramanya.
"I will take only one question at a time. Should anybody try to ask a second or a supplementary to the first, I will walk out. Is that clear?"
With the ground rule firmly established, the first question was from the Times of India.
"How do you rate the performance of the JD(S)-BJP coalition so far?"
The ex-PM has this habit of repeating half the question before turning it into part of his answer. This is better than an earlier PM, Morarji Desai, who used to answer a question with a question of his own.
(Sample: Question: "How was your meeting with Jimmy Carter?" Answer: "Why do you want to know? Even if I tell you, what will you do with it?")
"You want me to rate his performance. Fine. Do you know he is skipping meals most of the time? That is not good for his health or for the health of the State." "Do you think development efforts have become static in the last 100 days?" That was from the Indian Express.
"You say development efforts have become static. Do you know that he is roaming from ‘Day One’ as if he is a mobile phone! He hasn’t had time even to go to Vidhana Soudha. Whenever he has entered Vidhana Soudha, it’s only to take a short cut from the rear exit. He is mostly visiting some swamiji or other. He can’t live only on prasada and thirtha. Even the swamijis should understand… It is true the State is mostly run at the behest of some swamiji or other… Still the CM should learn to say ‘NO’ and come to Vidhana Soudha, if only to take some rest!"
"What about support from the Centre," asked the Hindu correspondent?
"You are from Tamil Nadu. Tell me, has the Centre ever supported a non-Congress government? I never lost sleep over it. You all know it… In fact, I used to sleep over this problem, in between meetings and sometimes during a meeting itself, on the dais itself during some inauguration or other… The CM should cultivate this habit… There’s no point in losing sleep over these things… I will answer one more question. That will be the last."
"What do you think of the impending steep hike in oil price?" That was from Deccan Herald.
"You are worried about the possible increase in oil price. Fine… I am thinking about the CM’s head that hasn’t seen a drop of oil last 100 days. At this rate, whether he follows my policy or not, he will also become a bandly like me!"
As the ex-PM was leaving, somebody from Churumuri present in the audience, shouted, "Sir, absolutely the last question! What will happen if JD(S)-BJP Govt. fails?"
"Don’t suppose that I work with only fixed plans. I am REliable and VAriable. I have N Number of Alternatives! That’s R.E.V.A.N.N.A. for you!"