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US presidents have them and so do British PMs. They are the lynchpins of regimes, tasked with translating the wishes of presidents and prime ministers, not an easy job always, into reality. The Indian political class, with hypocrisy enshrined as one of the governing principles, would never deign to acknowledge their necessity and importance until R K Dhawan emerged on the scene.
He played Indira Gandhi’s chief enforcer when she, after her resounding victory in the 1971 elections and the halo she acquired after the victory over Pakistan the same year, emerged as the all-powerful PM.
Indira’s power was pithily captured by a foreign observer who described her as the only man in the Cabinet. And it was Rajinder Kumar Dhawan, or RKD, who projected her power, not just in the corridors of Delhi but across the length and breadth of the country when Congress was the leviathan.
Dhawan, who passed away on Monday at the age of 81, was the man who conveyed unwelcome news to those who sported high-wattage designations. The job of ensuring that members of the flock did not stray from line fell to him, a job he performed with aplomb, moving vigorously to squelch even the faintest whiff of dissidence.
In a message to Dhawan’s wife, former President Pranab Mukherjee said, “In his loss, the country and Congress Party has lost a close witness of the making of our nation during one of its turbulent phases. He will forever be remembered for his invaluable contribution to the Congress party and his support to its leadership.”
But while he cracked the whip, he was also the harbinger of glad tidings, routinely breaking news of appointment of CMs, ministers and governors to the lucky recipients.
He held the designation of personal secretary to Indira but that was a hugely deceptive tag as he wielded more power than central ministers and the Cabinet secretary put together. Such was his awe that powerful CMs and satraps were reduced to uttering a series of servile “yes sir” when he came on the line.
Three words uttered by him, “prime minister desires”, his coinage and contribution to Indian politicalbureaucratic lexicon, were the writ through which he ran the country.