'A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time’ is the recently released autobiography of the late Arjun Singh, who was a Cabinet Minister and one of the most loyal Congressmen. Right from his first term as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in 1980, he was at the centre of nearly three decades of top-level politics. Whether it was the Bhopal gas tragedy, the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the historic Longowal Accord, or the OBC quotas in higher education institutions, Arjun Singh was often in the midst of a political storm.
The book begins with the chapter titled, ‘formative years’, and culminates—after forty three long episodes—in ‘sunset years’. Arjun Singh recalls how he received the news of the demise of Mahatma Gandhi, while he was playing tennis. He elucidates his views on the unfortunate demolition of the Babri Masjid, the rise of the BJP, the dacoits of Chambal, and his tenure as a Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. As with most biographies, he absolves himself from the controversial role he played during all the key events.
Here is a glimpse of his views on Prime Minister Narasimha Rao:
“I vividly recall the scene at a meeting in early 1992 with Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, after he had returned from the US. Only the two of us were present. He was sitting in an easy chair and airing his views on various domestic issues. Suddenly, he sat up and forcefully asserted: “I am not afraid of anyone as President (George) Bush Senior is now behind me.” I was very surprised by this unexpected outburst because the matters we were discussing had no relevance whatsoever to President Bush. It was, in a sense, the inner voice of the prime minister who seemed to have been emboldened after his meeting with President Bush, and felt that the latter’s support would see him through all difficult situations”.
In a moment of candid confession, Singh labels the Maharashtra heavyweight, Sharad Pawar, as ‘fickle and flip-flop’; and wonders when the ‘final rupture’ between him and the Congress would take place. Arjun Singh calls himself a ‘humble follower’, but this posthumous memoir paints him as an architect of contemporary history – whether by the textbooks rewritten during his tenure as HRD Minister, or the cultural legacy he left behind.
Written in spartan yet appealing prose, this intimate portrayal of a Congress loyalist will interest those who follow politics and political history.