I have earlier listed a national government of non-politicians. Now let me prepare a national government of politicians.
My prime minister would be Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is a man of broad vision and earthy commonsense. He is a good speaker, he carries the people with him, he has never been involved in a controversy. He is not too ambitious, and he does not have a family, so no family members can take advantage of his position, as invariably happens in Indian politics. In a party of religious and communal fanatics, he is a tolerant and secular individual. Among hawls, he is not exactly a dove, but he follows a middle path.
The best news this morning has been that Mr. Vajpayee has decided after all to contest the Lok Sabha elections. That clears the way for his becoming the prime minister. I would welcome him. I cannot think of anybody else.
I would include Mr. Rajiv Gandhi in the cabinet, give him the job that he is most suited for and probably enjoys the most also. I would make him foreign minister. Then he could travel about as much as he likes, though on regular commercial flights, not a chartered Air India plane, and definitely not two chartered Air India planes, one remining back as a stand by. And his wife cold accompany him (not the children), and he could meet all the-world leaders and charm them, though all foreign policies would be decided by the government at home and not by him, and certainly not by Romesh Bhandari and Natwar Singh and all those other retired gentlemen.
Mr. V.P. Singh would be finance minister. He has been a good finance minister and he can be again. Let us be fair.
Mr. Advani would be difficult to fit in. I mean what do you make a man who is by now definite that he is going to be the prime minister. He has had experience as minister for information and broadcasting (when you were asked to walk, you crawled, and all that), but I would like to reserve that portfolio for M.J. Akbar. No, not Santosh Bharatiya, no, please. Perhaps, ater the rest of the list is complete, I may find a place for Mr. Advani.
For the home minister's job, there is no better candidate than Sharad Pawar. He can get along with anybody, including Punjab and Kashmir terrorists. He is also affable, practical, open-minded Ė a mini-Vajpayee. And he should not mind that comparison, it is a compliment.
Mr. Chandra Shekhar would be minister for civil aviation, since he likes to fly so much. And Mr. Devi Lal may continue as minister for agriculture. After all, he does understand farmers. But there will be no deputy prime minister in this cabinet.
Prof. Madhu Dandavate would be minister for education. That is his job and they are making him all sorts of other things. Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde would be made minister without portfolio. Which leaves law and defence, and Mr. Advani could have his choice between the two. Dr. Subramaniam Swamy may be sent to Beijing as ambassador. The rest could be sent back to their villages.