Manmohan Singh bids Goodbye

Accountability is a word which is fast disappearing from the Indian political scenario. As soon as exit polls predicted that the Congress is all poised to slump to its historic low, efforts have started to shield Vice President Rahul Gandhi from any possible blisters post 16 May. Today, Manmohan Singh formally said goodbye to his staff at 7 Race Course Road, and markets responded joyously post exit polls to a possible Modi rule.

As reported widely, virtually every poll has predicted a rout for the Congress, with one giving it as low as 57 seats. The Congress has taken a principled stand to not comment on the exit polls as the party believes that these are grossly incorrect. But leaders like Jairam Ramesh, Kamal Nath, and Salman Khurshid made an exception to the rule in their bid to save Rahul Gandhi’s image.

Khurshid said that Rahul Gandhi will continue to lead the Congress irrespective of the results. Kamal Nath said that the incumbent government couldn’t adequately spread the message of good work done by them. Rahul’s close aide Jairam Ramesh advocated the theory of collective leadership; he said that the organisation works at multiple levels and it is up to the party to leverage the goodwill which Rahul Gandhi accrues for them.

Clearly, the Congress leadership is pre-emptively trying to shield Rahul Gandhi against the massive criticism he is very likely to face if they finishes with a historic low tally in a campaign which he headed for all practical purposes.

Sources say that Sonia Gandhi has categorically asked party workers not to blame the outgoing Prime Minister if the actual result is dismal. She has reportedly asked the leaders to stick to the line of collective responsibility to explain failure. It will be interesting to see how Rahul Gandhi reacts if and when such a situation arises.

The Congress’s trusted ally NCP today predicted a BJP-led government at the centre. According to Praful Patel, the BJP will be the single largest party and hoped that country has a stable government to rule decisively for 5 years. There have been rumours about the NCP supporting the NDA post 16th. But Praful refused to answer to such rumours, saying people’s mandate should be respected and the NCP has always behaved as a responsible political party. They obviously want to build up a bit of suspense about their next move!

One thing, though, is well known: irrespective of the results, Manmohan Singh will no longer be a resident of 7 Race Course Road. Manmohan Singh today met his office staff and formally thanked them for their contribution in the last 10 years. Nearly 500 people working in different capacities at South Block were present. High emotions and a touch of sadness and poignancy were evident as the staffers gave a standing ovation to the outgoing PM.

Even in his last days, the PM has loads of activities lined up. Tomorrow, the Congress President Sonia Gandhi will host a dinner for him. On Thursday, the PM is hosting a dinner for his officers. Manmohan Singh is formally expected to demit office on Saturday, just a day after publication of results. He is expected to give a farewell speech to the nation that day, after which President Pranab Mukherjee will host a farewell dinner for him.

The BJP’s senior leader Arun Jaitley effusively praised the outgoing P.M Manmohan Singh in his blog today. Jaitley hailed Dr Singh’s knowledge and grasp over virtually every subject, and said that personal integrity of the Prime Minister was always above doubt. But Jaitley added that the inability of the PM to stand up against his party and colleagues in crucial matters like retrospective tax, coal blocks and 2G auction will force historians to have a poor account of him. However, Jaitley conceded that the PM is leaving the office with dignity and grace, and will continue to be a senior statesman whom nation can look up to.

A new tell-all book by a former member of the Planning Commission further confirms the perception that it was Sonia Gandhi who was leading the country by proxy in the last 10 years. According to Arun Maira’s book Redesigning in the Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions, in every important matter of policy, the UPA chairperson called the shots.

Maira scathingly wrote that in India, “British monarchy” has been replaced by “monarchical political parties” with “autocratic and dynastic structures”. In the book he has remarked that Rahul Gandhi is all set to continue the tradition. This is the third book after the much-publicised one by Sanjaya Baru and another book by P.C. Parekh which has effectively exposed the somewhat dysfunctional power structure in the government that many allege led to a policy paralysis.

The business community certainly believes that things will change for the better after Narendra Modi assumes power. Post exit polls yesterday, markets opened with giving a thumping approval to the predictions. The BSE breached the 24,000 mark today, finally ending at 23,871. The Sensex has shot up nearly 1500 points in the last three trading seasons. Many believe the markets will touch 25,000 if it’s “Modi Sarkaar” on Friday. The Nifty ended at 7,108.75, up by 94.50 points. Rupee ended the day at 59.66 which is nearly a closing high of the last 10 months.

However, If there is a repeat of 2004, there can be potential bloodbath in the markets! The RBI governor Raghuram Rajan today assured that they are prepared to face any kind of volatility in the coming few sessions of trading. Many believe Rajan’s own job may be on the line if the NDA actually comes to power!

The USA today hailed the successful completion of the marathon Indian election and said that it is an example of “power of the democratic process in work”. Spokesperson for the foreign office said that the country is looking forward to closely working with the leaders chosen by the Indian people.

The person Obama administration most likely have to work with spent the entire day in Gujarat, meeting all legislators and parliamentarians belonging to the BJP. It is widely speculated that the party is deciding on Narendra Modi’s possible successor to the post of Gujarat CM. Officially, though, nothing was confirmed as the BJP is expectedly exercising caution. Anandiben Patel, current Revenue Minister in Modi government, is tipped to get the promotion, though young guns like Nitin Patel and Saurabh Patel are also not ruled out. Any final decision, though, will be taken after the 16th.

It is rumoured that Nitin Gadkari, after getting a clean chit from Income Tax, is eyeing to get back his old post of the BJP President. Especially if Rajnath Singh decides to join the government as it has been widely reported, there will be a vacancy for the top job in the saffron party and the wily Gadkari is looking to seize the opportunity. He met Rajnath Singh and L.K. Advani today, and had also met Narendra Modi yesterday. Sources from Delhi however say that Rajnath is unlikely to give up the post of President and Gadkari may well have to be content with a post in the Union Cabinet.

Amidst controversy, the Union Government formally confirmed the name of Lt. General Dalbir Suhag as the next army chief of India. He will succeed Vikram Singh.

President Pranab Mukherjee is consulting constitutional experts to be ready for all possible situations post results. The President will have a tough job at hand in case of a hung parliament.

That was all for today! We will be back with the buzz from the corridors of power again tomorrow.