From Bureaucrat To Politician
MC Gupta
RELENTLESS: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Yashwant Sinha Bloomsbury, 2019, 542 pp., 559
September 2019, volume 43, No 9

From bureaucrat to politician, and from one century to the next, Yashwant Sinha’s is a journey from modest beginnings to the highest corridors of power. In Relentless, he has presented his life and career in a memorable and somewhat lengthy memoir of over 500 pages. But then, he has so much to say. With a Prologue and an Epilogue, the book is divided into eight parts spread over 40 chapters. Part I, ‘Roots’, is followed by Parts II and III, ‘The IAS Years’, Part IV, ‘New beginnings: Life after the IAS’, Part V, ‘The BJP’, Part VI, ‘Beyond Borders: The MEA Years’, Part VII, ‘To the State and Back’, and finally Part VIII, ‘Postscript’. Sinha recounts his modest beginnings, his parents and his siblings. He also recalls his friendship and strong attraction for Meenakshi who later married Sujit Mukherji, a senior executive in a major publication house. Later, he married and has had a happy life with Nilima and their three children. He is frank and honest about matters like his affliction with cancer (which he, fortunately, has got over) and his love-hate relationship with Ramaswami Mani, a batchmate, who later went to UNO and died prematurely.

Yashwant Sinha joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1960 and served for twenty-four years in the Bihar cadre and at the Centre, with postings abroad in between. Parts II and III are about his career as a civil servant, his posting in the sub-division, as District Collector in Dumka, his years in the Ministry of Shipping and Transport apart from his sojourn as First Secretary (Commercial) at Bonn and later as Consul General in Frankfurt. Sinha then recounts his days back in India and Bihar where he served as Principal Secretary to Karpoori Thakur, the then Chief Minister.

After leaving the service in 1984, he joined Chandra Shekhar and later Atal Bihari Vajpayee and developed a deep bond with both, as he did with many world leaders with whom he struck one-to-one equations. A special mention has been made of Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State.  Expressing utter dislike for China he admits to ‘“Dislike”, even intense dislike, because of the way it has evolved into a bully today, and the way its rise is threatening its smaller neighbours and the rest of the world.  I have never liked bullies in my personal life and, therefore, do not like them on the international relations stage either. A point of reference is China’s summoning Nirupama Rao, our Ambassador in Beijing, at an unearthly hour of three in the morning once.’ In a similar vein, he says, ‘What I learnt from this experience (Pokhran-II Nuclear Blast) is that you must be strong to command respect. The weak are generally ignored, if not ill-treated.’

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