31 July, 2021

Headman With Velvet Glove

Shrewd, patient and astute, today’s leaders can draw many lessons from Pranabda’s life

Headman With Velvet Glove

He could light a pipe with élan and work all night on his budget speech. With much the same enthusiasm and ease he could chant Durga Stuti during Durga Puja in his remote village in Birbhum in West Bengal.

I was staying in North Avenue, close to his official residence in Talkatora Road in Delhi. We would exchange greetings on morning walks. So, it was easy for him to recollect my early morning meetings when I sought an appointment with him as Foreign Minister sometime in 2008 or early 2009.

One of my visits to Colombo was at a time when the dreaded LTTE was still strong and challenging the military might of the government forces. The Rajapaksa government had won the mandate in 2005 and resolved to finish off the Tigers. Colombo had turned the tide of the war and the LTTE was on the back foot. The latter must have decided to play its usual trick of seeking a ceasefire, show­ing willingness to hold talks. Their contacts in Tamil Nadu had approached New Delhi even as our age­ncies were keeping a watch. The LTTE’s strategy was to get hostilities...

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