Jaganlal Bhandari - compromised minister or consummate politician?
The character of the Chief Minister can be viewed in two ways – purely as a character in the play, or with a historical perspective. Either, by itself, would be incomplete. Curiously, while the playwright retained the actual name of one of the two historic figures in the cast of characters – Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide chief – he chose to assign a fictitious name to the Chief Minister, who, in fact, at that point in time, was Arjun Singh. Presumably, this was done due to legal and other factors.
Jaganlal does come across as a competent and conscientious Chief Minister, while still being a consummate politician. He had great hopes for the development and the prosperity he thought Carbide would bring to the people of Bhopal. Blinded by this hope, he overlooked the company’s transgressions, as well as the warnings of the company’s detractors. With a little more foresight, the disaster could have been averted.
When the carnage actually happened, he did take a strong stance, but ultimately made a deal. It is difficult to see how the political establishment could have benefited from the deal. It has always been believed that immense pressure was brought upon the Indian political establishment by Washington, though the playwright refrains from making any such insinuations.
In the play, the character of Jaganlal is multi-faceted. While he can be tough and strong, at the same time there is also a benevolent and magnanimous side to him. He is a man who harbors a great deal of concern and care for his people. Unfortunately, his judgment by history will inevitably be harsh.
- Ravi Bhatnagar