A Review of Manmohan Singh’s Tenure as India’s PM
Manmohan Singh has finally bid farewell to 7 Race Course Road, as he steps down after a decade of leading the country in the capacity of the Prime Minister. Much like his ten-year tenure, his departure also saw some interesting developments. First of all, in the farewell dinner organised in his honour by Sonia Gandhi, the one person conspicuous by absence was Rahul Gandhi. This has fueled speculation that the Congress VP is harbouring a deep schism against the party, whose cracks are now beginning to show. Then there was the issue of release of two books which labeled Singh as nothing more than a puppet whose strings were controlled by Sonia Gandhi. On the same lines, the BJP’s Arun Jaitley wrote in his blog that whole no one could doubt the knowledge of Dr. Singh, his inability as a leader would cause history to judge him negatively. Indeed, for a man who was the exact antithesis of the breed of politicians found in India, such a farewell is painful.
Here’s a review of Singh’s stint as the country’s Prime Minister, and why, in my opinion, he failed miserably.
When Manmohan Singh had taken over as the Prime Minister of India in 2004, there was a general sense of reprieve, as the Congress party had shown some prudence in a long time in selecting a man with an irreproachable integrity and a strict adherer to moral and ethical codes. Known to be brilliant economist and an Oxonian, Singh had assumed office at a point when the country had embarked on a course of consistent growth, marked by policies of economic liberalization set in motion by the ex – Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. The antecedent NDA regime had witnessed excellent economic management and a refurbishment program for the defense had been initiated to countermand the pressures of the less friendly neighboring countries like Pakistan and China. The UPA I Government had started off at a point when the bilateral relations with Russia, US and the European Union had been improving, not to mention the South, Southeast and East Asian countries.
UPA I & UPA II
As later confirmed by Manmohan Singh himself, perhaps the zenith of the Singh’s first tenure as the Prime Minister of India had been the nuclear deal with the US that the PM had been able to pull off by the skin of his teeth. While the deal had finally absolved the status of India as a nuclear outcaste in the global perspective, and had somewhat ironed out the wrinkles between India and US international relations, such moves of the PM had been vehemently opposed by the leftist allies of the UPA Government, who were still burdened with the anachronistic doctrines of Marxism and Leninism. Adding to the woes of the PM was the ubiquitous presence of a near moronic political lamebrain of a Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi. I guess she had never really grasped the implications of an economic liberalization, nor was she interested in thwarting the communist oppositions proactive in shelving the nuclear deal. The resignation of Sanjaya Baru, the Prime Ministerial spokesman, chiefly on account of the Congress Party’s non – supportive attitude towards the nuclear deal, also had far reaching implications. Baru was the man who had kept the PM updated of the public and media views. The loss of Baru as an aide to the PM had been a discernable impediment towards the effective functioning of the PMO.
Meanwhile, the UPA Government had made a comeback to power in 2009, marked by landslide victories which had also marked the commencement of the second tenure of Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister of India. While the politically blind Congress Party leaders had translated this comeback in a resonant acknowledgment of the political dimwit Sonia Gandhi with her egalitarian policies and reservations towards economic liberalization, most political analysts are congruent on the fact that such victories had been the consequence of the quite but effective endeavors of Manmohan Singh for the economic growth of the country with a strict control on the inflation levels that had contained it in an acceptable proportion.
The rocky second innings
The second phase of the UPA regime can be best described as a chapter of insolence and impudence of Sonia Gandhi and her cadres of the Congress rank and regime. The electoral victory had gone to the heads of not only the Congress Party leaders, but also its allied political parties, so much so that they were openly defiant and disdainful of Manmohan Singh. The reshuffling of the Union Ministry was actually dictated by Sonia Gandhi, who lost no time in hand picking politically worthless individuals like her, save a few exceptions, to head the different ministerial portfolios. Even the PMO officials had been selected in such manner. The PM was not given a chance to appoint his own officials and it’s a well known fact that, not only the spokesperson to the PM had been selected by Sonia Gandhi and her cadres, but also the Principal Secretary to the PM. The atrocity of the Congress Party had even reached a level where the spokesperson for the PM had been deliberately removed with a representative dubbed as the ‘Communications Advisor to the Principle Secretary’. The Environment Ministry had been appointed twice, both the times with candidates who were not even eligible to contest in Panchayet elections. As a consequence, several decisions pertaining to vitally important industrialization and infrastructure development were either blocked, delayed and even declined. The political scenario had been slowly taken over by the courtiers of 10, Janpath and the prime resident of that address to the effect that even if Manmohan Singh wanted to do something for the betterment of the nation, the efforts were effectively scuttled. Pranab Mukherjee, an old school socialist was retained as the Finance Minister, much to the despair and evidently against the wishes of the PM, who had wanted a more competent and open-minded candidate who would be able to appreciate the needs for the economic reforms much required for the growth of the nation.
Though the media had continued to harp the tune ‘Singh is King’ after the UPA II regime had been established, things were actually going downhill. Instances of corruption and scams started surfacing, starting from the telecommunications and the total haywire management of the Commonwealth Games. The Central Bureau of Investigation had declared its decision to investigate the allocation procedures of telecommunication licenses which later had blown up as the 2G Scam, the coal block allocation process later dubbed by the media as the Coalgate Scam…some of the biggest instances of corruption and shame for the nation, which had soon multiplied into a series of scams starting from the military to the public projects that had been destined to plague the nation for years to come. Behind every scam that had been unearthed by the media, every scandal that has come under the light, there had been a deep political nexus. Corruption had engulfed the system like an uncontrollable parasite eating away at the already rickety infrastructure. In practically no time, the Manmohan Singh Government had earned the infamy of being the most corrupt Government that had been chosen democratically in the independent India.
While the global ratings of the nation had threatened to take a plunge, the reformatory measures initiated by the NDA Government for the growth and development of the nation had been severely neglected and undermined by the extravagant, absurd and times preposterous economic decisions of the UPA II Government. Such fiscal improvidence had soon started reflecting in a growing budget deficit, a yawning Current Account Deficit, the slump of the rupee in the international market and an exorbitant inflation rate that had been decelerating the growth of the nation in every way imaginable.
Question remains what Manmohan Singh had been doing all this time? Fact is, the situation had spiraled so much out of the hands that even if he had wanted to do something his cornered position, his weak authority, his nonexistent control over the rank and regime of the UPA II Government had made it impossible. Manmohan Singh had been reduced to a meaningless representation and the entire situation had screamed of his waning command over the nation as the Prime Minister.
Many political analysts had opined that, when Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister of India for the second time, he had been burdened with too much expectation of reformation and administrative decisiveness. Such expectations had not been unfounded in the light of his first tenure as the Prime Minister of India. But as a PM in his second tenure, Manmohan Singh had totally failed to leave up to such expectations.
Why I think Singh failed
Manmohan Singh can be best described as a technocrat with no political experience worth mentioning when he had taken over the charge of the Prime Minister of India. When he had become the PM in 2004, the portfolio of the leader of the nation was literally dumped on his back by Sonia Gandhi in the face of the general hue and cry of the nation. Sonia Gandhi, as a foreign national, had been compelled to thrust the powers of ruling the nation in the hands of Manmohan Singh much against her aspirations. Now, as a man Manmohan Singh had many limitations. He had been a nice, polite and quiet person almost to the point of being an introvert. As a man he was never cut out for being the leader of the masses. He had severely lacked the impossible to ignore charismatic personality, a cutthroat, ruthless and demanding attitude, and the shrewdness necessary for being a politically successful man. And of course he never had the spine and the firebrand qualities to rise above the dominance of the Congress Party ranks and regime and establish himself as the leader of the nation.
His biggest character defect was perhaps his timidity. He had been a timid man almost to the point of being subservient. That had been the reason behind him being pushed around by the Congress Party and its allies. He had not even the grits to push back. That had made it so easy for Sonia Gandhi and her courtiers to subjugate him and use him as a puppet or a pawn, whatever had been necessary to meet their personal political goals. Such a man is never accused of failures. Far worse, he becomes the subject of pity! Consequently the population of the country is going to remember him or more precisely forget him as a pitiable helpless individual, who had always cringed in front of the real powers of the Party President and had eventually danced to her tune.
It is often said that choices make a man. Manmohan Singh’s best bet would have been to step aside when the UPA II Government had come to power. He could have still stepped out of his office walking tall and under such circumstances people would have possibly remembered him as an exemplary Prime Minister of the country, who had been instrumental in clinching a near impossible nuclear deal with the US that had paved the way for the nation to emerge as a nuclear power to be reckoned with, a man whose endeavors had recorded almost a double digit growth rate for the country. He could have proved that the much hyped media claim is in fact the truth, that Singh was really the King.
But, alas! He did not do so. According to many political analysts it had been the political shortsightedness of Manmohan Singh that had made him stick around with the UPA II Government for his second tenure as the Prime Minister of the nation and that had been his biggest mistake. Being a part of a monarchic democracy, dictated by an all powerful majority Party President with no constitutional commitment, with extremely delimited executive powers for a Prime Minister, not to mention the nonexistent political handholds, had proved to be the road to perdition for Manmohan Singh.
If he were a shrewd politician, he could still have extricated himself honorably from the meshes of the UPA II Government when the corruptions had started eating away at the foundations of the administration by putting his foot down. But, he had only watched helplessly as the economy and the integrity of the country disintegrated right before his eyes. He had been too weak to devise a political strategy of his own and implement it to override the fractious regime and turn the tide around.
Putting it all together
So, I guess I had effectively outlined the reasons behind the failure of Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister of India. However, it would be an injustice to sling the failures of the entire UPA II Government on Manmohan Singhs shoulder. An politically incompetent man, surrounded by more incompetent men, Manmohan Singh’s failure was to discharge his duties as the Prime Minister of India. In my opinion he is the classic example of the fall guy. He took the fall for the incompetency of the entire UPA II Government. Where I really feel bad is that, Manmohan Singh was undoubtedly an honest man but despite that, willingly or unwillingly, he had been a party to condoning corruption. He might even come to terms with his failure as a politician but the guilt is going sit on his conscience like a dead weight till his last breath. Perhaps that is the price tag for an honest man being associated with a completely dishonest regime!