Whoever imagined that
Shourie was the
The dream run hit a bump when Mumbai’s Centaur Hotel was put up for sale to try and minimise the government’s stake in the hospitality business. Shourie rode out the storm. Years later, the disposal of another hotel, ITDC’s Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel, Udaipur, to a private chain under Shourie’s stewardship was questioned by the CBI. The hotel went for Rs 7.52 crore whereas the investigation agency valued it at Rs 252 crore and deduced that the sale entailed a Rs 244 crore loss to the exchequer, which Shourie was summoned to explain.
He was about to be arrested but the
Politics has no space for pity or penitence. Shourie did not regret the hotel sale or his stint in the divestment ministry but something deeper: his support for Modi before 2014. Like others in the BJP, he pitched him as the strong leader India needed to extricate it from a miasma of corruption and policy paralysis that the UPA had brought upon. Was Shourie angling for a place in the government? If he did, it was never let on but media carried stories that he was considered for the finance minister’s job. Vajpayee once described him and the late Arun Jaitley as the government’s “jewels”. The grapevine had it that neither Arun was pleased with the comparison but in 2014, Jaitley squarely beat his namesake to the finance minister’s post. Naturally. Jaitley had an abiding association with Modi, they were friends and Jaitley was Modi’s lead-out to big, bad Lutyen’s Delhi. Jaitley’s confidants claimed that he sank Shourie’s ministerial aspirations.
Evidently, Shourie ran out of patience with the Modi government sooner than one thought. His remark that it was “Congress plus cow” was lapped up by the Opposition and Modi’s traducers. Clearly, Shourie had not lost his tartness with words but his political sagacity was blunted. Congress and Modi? Well, Modi couldn’t have torpedoed the system overnight but the idea of a “Congress mukt Bharat” was a work-in-progress from day one in 2014. Shourie failed to read that Modi was not a Vajpayee or an Advani, his original mentor. For Vajpayee, governance was about keeping the old order with a patina of tempered Hindutva. For Modi, it was harking back to Hedgewar, Golwalkar and Deendayal Upadhayay with a moderately modern coating.
Shourie’s tongue lashings continued. By the end of 2015, he was out of the BJP. In 2018, he formed an alliance with Yashwant Sinha, another disgruntled soul in the BJP, and Prashant Bhushan, the lawyer, and challenged the Rafale defence deal in the court. A statement the trio issued carried Shourie’s imprint. The language was crisp and sharp, much like one of the pieces he wrote on Bofors or the Kuo oil deal. “The gross violation of mandatory procedures. The dogged effort of the government to conceal facts.” And so on. Some of the phrases were incorporated in Rahul Gandhi’s diatribe against Rafale that turned out to be a dud in the 2019 elections. Shourie hit the bull’s eye with Bofors and ensnared Rajiv. He missed the mark on Rafale and couldn’t get Modi.
Shourie was deeply ingrained in the RSS’s thoughts and beliefs. He was the first to flesh out the ideological frame of the AASU’s agitation against Assam’s Bengali-speaking migrants in the ‘80s and took Indira Gandhi apart for going ahead with the 1983 assembly elections without revising the electoral rolls and striking off “suspicious” names. Shourie’s position papers on Assam’s “foreigners” issue anticipated today’s preoccupation with the CAA and NRC. When Mumbai was besieged on November 26, 2008, Shourie sought