E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Walk the Talk was no cakewalk. It started in right earnest with the Prime Minister-nominee of the BJP jogging his mind along with Shekhar Gupta.
Shekhar is no Karan Thapar and doesn’t pounce on his prey. He gives time and space which soon start hijacking each other landing the walker-cum-talker into an unholy mess.
“Are you ready for the walk, Advaniji? I know you are past 80, so I won’t take you far.”
“I am ready, Shekhar. I will stop, whenever you want to.”
“I remember, your Government decided to improve the highways and give a major boost for road construction in the country,” started off Shekhar in a rambling sort of way, ambling along Raj Path.
“You are right. I remember very clearly how it all started. Once, Pramodji came to my house late at night. He was very exhausted after a long drive from Jaipur. The muddy and potholed roads and traffic had driven him mad. While he was still cursing why the previous Congress Governments had done nothing in this regard, an idea struck me.”
“What was that, Advaniji?”
“I thought we must connect our major cities with a network of roads of international standard. That’s how we launched the ‘Golden Triangle’ project. The plan was to connect Kashmir with Kanyakumari and make both ends somewhere in Assam. I put this to the Cabinet next day, took Atalji’s approval and got the work started. I am glad it is a major network today. Truck drivers on Grand Trunk road still honk whenever I cross them at road junctions to show their appreciation.”
“What you launched was golden ‘Quadrilateral’ not ‘Triangle’, Advaniji.”
“It was some such thing. I don’t remember the exact words now.”
By that time they had walked up to Ram Lila Grounds. Shekhar was taking glucose with orange juice to keep him going.
“What was the slogan given to Ram bhakthas when you saw them in Ayodhya, Advaniji?”
“Either it was ‘Sambhalo! Gir na jaye!’ or ‘Kaam hote hee dheere dheere utharo!”
“Weren’t they told ‘Ek dhakka aur do!?”
“Quite possible. I don’t remember the slogan. It all happened so many years back.”
They were now close to the Pakistan Embassy in Chanakyapuri.
Shekhar was visibly tired and was taking large swigs of Electral all along to keep away from dehydration. Advaniji was ‘Sprite’ful as ever.
“Advaniji, when you visited Jinnah’s mausoleum, what exactly did you say?”
“I remember as if it happened yesterday! Benazir was standing next to me. As I paid floral tribute to Jinnah saheb, I remember telling her, “What a great leader he was.” On second thoughts, I think it was Nawaz Shariefji who was next to me. I told him, ‘Here was a leader both India and Pakistah will be proud of’.”
“Are you sure that’s what you said, Advaniji?”
“Now that you ask me, I think it was Imran Khan who was next to me. As we entered the hall, we were discussing how Inzamam ul Haq should improve running between the wickets. When I saw Jinnah‘s picture, I clearly remember to have told Imran, ‘Here was a man who would knew how to run anything—party, country, anything. Inzamam should learn how to run from Jinnah saheb.”
By now Shekhar had started losing whatever hair he had by constantly pulling them out and his patience too.
“Is that what you said?”
“Shekhar, you please tell me if you know what I might have said. I just can’t recollect now. That’s why I put it all in my book which is also quite sometime back.”
“Advaniji, how can you forget what all you said and did when BJP was in power? What will happen when you become Prime Minister?”
“You know something. There is no end to how much one can remember. We must learn to let go. I will write another book ‘On my Days as Prime Minister’ so that I don’t have to remember each and every decision we make.”
“Thank you, Advaniji. We will not walk back. My driver is following us. We will drive back.”
“Thank you, Shekhar. Have some more glucose. You will feel better.”