Hiren Mukerjee is a queer bird. I am tempted to use the phrase, with its P.G. Wodehouse flavour, because he might well have used it to describe himself. It suits his evocative, metaphorical, often devastatingly penetrating, if somewhat dated, literary style. It also fits a personality who for 25 years was verbally the most fiery and uncompromising Communist spokesman in the Lok Sabha, while remaining outside one of that fast vanishing breed: the gentle, considerate democrat, always ready to consider an opposite point of view and respect those maintaining it, even if they were beyond the pale in ideological terms.
It is the second Hiren that infuses his Portrait of Parliament with a feel for the pulse of the institution, enlivened by vivid pen portraits of many who have played major and minor roles in it. Inevitably, the account is nostalgic. Political parties could still afford to nominate a large number of candidates who were not professional politicians, but who had achieved eminence in other areas of activity, when he was elected to the first Parliament in 1952. As the struggle for power, or at least the patronage and influence that a Member of Parliament commands, became fierce, other qualifications became progressively less important. This is neither unnatural nor unfortunate. Politics is principally concerned with power; those skilled at it are bound to dominate Parliament, whether for good or ill.