Former US President George Bush’s brother and Republican party potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked by Fox News, “knowing what we know now” would he have gone into Iraq if he had been President. Megan Kelly was referring to the faulty intelligence on the WMD programme and the Iraq war. It took one week of waffling for Jeb Bush to finally distance himself from his brother’s mis-action... “I would have not engaged, not gone to war with Iraq.” He repeated this last week at the first GOP Presidential debate.

So here is my pick on what these leaders might have done things differently had they ‘known then what we know now.’

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush at the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio on August 6, where he was asked whether he would have gone into Iraq had he been President, “knowing what we know now”. Pic/AFP
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush at the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio on August 6, where he was asked whether he would have gone into Iraq had he been President, “knowing what we know now”. Pic/AFP

Indira Gandhi: My pick is Operation Bluestar. Had she known the fallout would she have done what she did? I would say no. But then others say that it was probably the Emergency. Had she known then that the intelligence she had been receiving was false, cooked up to feed on her insecurities, she might not have imposed Emergency.

Jawaharlal Nehru: Went prematurely to the UN in 1948 over the Kashmir war. The terms of the ceasefire of the 1948 war, as laid out in a United Nations resolution, required Pakistan to withdraw its forces, both regular and irregular, while allowing India to maintain minimum strength of its forces in the state to preserve law and order. On compliance of these conditions, a plebiscite was to be held to determine the future of the territory. This move to internationalise Kashmir haunts India till today. Maybe Nehru would have not gone to the UN.

Morarji Desai: All but shut down RAW. The Prime Minister elected on an anti-Indira platform was consumed by hatred for the external intelligence agency created by Mrs Gandhi. Had he known then that no nation could survive without an external intelligence agency, especially when faced with a neighbour who was developing a state strategy of asymmetrical warfare, he might have trusted Pakistan less and Indian intelligence agencies more.

Atal Behari Vajpayee: Would have gone by his gut instinct and not have called early elections and would have scrapped the ‘India Shining’ campaign. Outcome of 2004 elections might have been different.

LK Advani: Probably would not have resigned as MP and made that pledge that until his name was cleared in the Jain Hawala diaries case he would not enter public life. That paved the way for the rise of AB Vajpayee and the history of the BJP was altered. Politically, not a prudent move. Some would even say LKA’s Jinnah comment was his undoing moment. I would still pick the decision to quit based on unproven allegations.

Rajiv Gandhi: Bofors. Though nobody has been able to prove that he or any of his family benefitted from the Bofors gun deal, RG made several mistakes in handling the aftermath. And then there were others the firing of a foreign secretary in a press conference. Gandhi lost forever the trust of the bureaucracy, a cardinal error in judgment by a PM, not to have the babus on your right side.

VP Singh: Mandal. Subsequent governments ratified the Mandal deal and even increased the quantum of reservation on the grounds of providing social justice. But the self-immolations by students and large-scale agitations across the country tarnished VP Singh’s image as a middle class messiah. Had Singh known then that such a tsunami of hate would come his way; he would have done things differently. Bring in the changes in a phased manner. He admitted this in an interview to this columnist, years later.

Narasimha Rao: Babri Masjid. Slept while zealots, altering the course of political and social history of the country, tore down the 16th-century mosque. Had he known the sweeping outcome this would unleash he might have protected the mosque. Maybe.

Narendra Modi: 2002. The shadow of those riots has dogged him since. My take is that had he believed less in himself and his ability to control his people, he might have called in the army the very first day.

Sonia Gandhi: 272. She spoke too soon. It was necessary to get the numbers together before making the claim.

Manmohan Singh: Raja and Kalmadi. If he had been advised right and been strong enough to cut out the leeches in his administration, his would truly have been the India Shining decade.
In my mind is that Kenny Rogers song “If I knew then what I know now/ I’d have found the way to make things work out… somehow...”

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash