The Hari Putar Dialogues - 58
(The Times of India; 18 May 2009; Pune: As busy as the country was with the election results, there's one who was not only fascinated by the entire process but was suitably impressed by the results. In the country to promote his latest work Paths of Glory' as part of the Landmark Jeffrey Archer Tour, master storyteller Lord Jeffrey Archer says he followed the elections very closely. "I was told that the government will be formed by a conglomeration of parties, but it's nice to see one party leading and even better to see that you will now have a stable government which will only help the economy," he comments. Talking about development, one thing that truly troubles him is the traffic in the country, from cars moving, according to him, "in the wrong direction" to people crossing the roads without a care for their lives. "I'm expecting a call from the Prime Minister offering me the transport cabinet. I will definitely improve the traffic," he chuckles.)
Putar: There is a report in The Times of India today that Lord Jeffrey Archer is very impressed by the elections in India. He is impressed with the process as well as the results.
Hari: Is this the famous writer, whose books are best sellers?
Putar: The very same. In fact he is presently in India to promote his latest novel.
Hari: But Archer is not only a novelist. He has been an author, a playwright and even a politician. He was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party. He has also been a jailbird, if I remember correctly.
Putar: That's true. His political career ended after a conviction for having committed perjury and perverted the course of justice. He was sentenced to four years of imprisonment and sent to Belmarsh prison. While in prison he wrote a three-volume memoir, A Prison Diary.
Hari: He has led an extraordinary life to say the least.
Putar: The newspaper says that while he is impressed by the result, he is dismayed by the traffic conditions in Delhi.
Hari: That's not unusual.
Putar: He says that he is expecting a call from the Prime Minister to make him Transport Minister and that were he to be given the appointment he would definitely improve things.
Hari: I wonder if that would ever be really possible. After all they say the Mexican Government hired Rudolph Giuliani to help them tackle crime in Mexico City.
Putar: That's different. You can hire a foreign national to work as an adviser to your government. You have foreign sportsmen who work under contract to train our sportsmen. But you can't import politicians to work as Ministers.
Hari: Perhaps this would be possible in the future. Governments should introduce an exchange programme for politicians just as they have one for students.
Putar: If this was possible and we imported a British parliamentarian to work as a Minister in our government under an exchange programme we would need to send someone in return.
Putar: If we took Lord Jeffrey Archer as the Transport Minister, who could we send in return, whom the British would be happy with?
Hari: I'm sure the Brits would be happy with someone like Shashi Tharoor, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations, who recently became a Member of Parliament under a Congress ticket.
Putar: That's true, but perhaps we should send someone more representative.
Hari: Like whom for instance?
Putar: Like Laloo Prashad Yadav for instance. You've heard the joke about the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to Bihar, haven't you?
Hari: No, I haven't.
Putar: They say that when the Japanese Prime Minister came to Bihar, he was dismayed, but not completely discouraged. He met Laloo, who was Chief Minister of Bihar at the time and said: The situation is difficult, but as a hard working Japanese I can tell you that if you give me the State of Bihar in five years I can turn it into Japan.
Hari: I'm sure Laloo must have had something sharp to say in response.
Putar: He is reported to have said: Sir that is nothing! If you give me Japan for only five months, I can turn it into Bihar!
Hari: On a serious note though, Laloo performed very well as the Railway Minister. You have had students from Harvard University doing research on the remarkable turn around of the Ministry.
Putar: That's true. Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: Lord Archer was convicted of perjury by the courts after he had been a politician for many years, isn't it?
Hari: That is correct.
Putar: So would it be fair to say that he is an expert in prison affairs?
Hari: Absolutely. As you said, he has even written a memoir of his days spent in prison.
Putar: So if we were to import him under the Politician Exchange programme, instead of the Transport Ministry, we should perhaps make him a Deputy Minister in charge of all the prisons in the country.
Hari: That sounds like a sensible idea.
Putar: Unlike the situation of Lord Archer who was convicted only of perjury here in India we have many criminals involved in serious crimes who have turned to politics. Like Lord Archer they too have experience of prisons, although their experience is longer and more varied.
Putar: So could we take just the one Lord Archer and make him in charge of prison affairs and send the whole lot of our criminal turned politicians to the United Kingdom. Do you think the British Government would see it as fair trade or fair exchange?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.