Column The other Mr Hyde

Written by Bibek Debroy | Updated: Jul 23 2008, 07:25am hrs
The Hyde Act is the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, so named because it was introduced by Congressman Henry Hyde. When in doubt, one should read the classics. Robert Louis Stevensons Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde springs to mind, published in 1886. Coincidentally, Jekylls first name was Henry too. Here are some quotes from the novella to persuade you to read the classic. You start a question, and its like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others; and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head in his own back garden and the family have to change their name. No, sir, I make it a rule of mine: the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask. This could well be the PM, mulling over his August 2007 interview and renaming of UPA, minus the Left. I am painfully situated, Utterson; my position is a very strangea very strange one. It is one of those affairs that cannot be mended by talking. This is probably what the PM told Pranab Mukherjee after the last UPA-Left Coordination Committee meeting.

I swear to God I will never set eyes on him again. I bind my honour to you that I am done with him in this world. It is all at an end. And indeed he does not want my help; you do not know him as I do; he is safe, he is quite safe; mark my words, he will never more be heard of. This must be Prakash Karat on the PM, better still, on Somnath Chatterjee. If ever I read Satans signature upon a face, it is on that of your new friend. This is Mayawati to the Congress, after the alliance with SP. On the 8th of January Utterson had dined at the doctors with a small party; Lanyon had been there; and the face of the host had looked from one to the other as in the old days when the trio were inseparable friends. On the 12th, and again on the 14th, the door was shut against the lawyer. Thats what happened to the SP at dinners in 2004 and 2008. The next thing was to get the money; and where do you think he carried us but to that place with the doorwhipped out a key, went in, and presently came back with the matter of ten pounds in gold and a cheque for the balance on Couttss drawn payable to bearer and signed with a name that I cant mention, though its one of the points of my story, but it was a name at least very well known and often printed. Black Mail House is what I call the place with the door, in consequence. Thats AB Bardhan.

This document had long been the lawyers eyesore. It offended him both as a lawyer and as a lover of the sane and customary sides of life, to whom the fanciful was the immodest. And hitherto it was his ignorance of Mr Hyde that had swelled his indignation; now, by a sudden turn, it was his knowledge. This is for the privileged few who had access to the safeguards agreement. A fortnight later, by excellent good fortune, the doctor gave one of his pleasant dinners to some five or six old cronies, all intelligent, reputable men and all judges of good wine. This refers to assorted dinners where deals were made. All this last week (you must know) him, or it, whatever it is that lives in that cabinet, has been crying night and day for some sort of medicine and cannot get it to his mind. What better description of the UPA cabinet Though so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the futherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow and suffering. Thats an apt description of every MP.

His terror of the gallows drove him continually to commit temporary suicide, and return to his subordinate station of a part instead of a person. This can describe many smaller parties, trading off survival as MP with prospects in future general elections. Some day, Utterson, after I am dead, you may perhaps come to learn the right and wrong of this. I cannot tell you. And in the meantime, if you can sit and talk with me of other things, for Gods sake, stay and do so; but if you cannot keep clear of this accursed topic, then in Gods name, go, for I cannot bear it. Finally, this is what government should be telling Indias citizens.

The author is a noted economist