By Apoorva Rao
Amidst the ongoing cacophony typical to the Indian elections, outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has managed to gradually and quietly disappear from the public’s collective memory.
Despite his efforts to slowly walk out of his role as the prime minister of the state and escape the media gaze, stories of Manmohan Singh’s downward spiralling role as the prime minister has found unlikely authorship in three of his former staff who held key positions in his office.
The PM’s media advisor Sanjaya Baru and technocrat Arun Maira have each released a book that has reiterated the charge on Singh that he had always been the puppet of the Gandhi family matriarch Sonia Gandhi. (read more)Former coal secretary PC Parakh’s book, too, accuses Singh of having no real power and blames his inaction for the entire coal scam fiasco.(read more)
The former academician-bureaucrat turned politician probably never foresaw the deep controversies he would surround himself with when he was passed on the mantle of heading the country by Sonia Gandhi. He became the namesake head of UPA I that was formed with chiefly with the Left support.
Before reaching the ultimate point of his ‘accidental’ political career, Singh’s beginnings were actually quite humble. He was born in a poor family on September 26, 1932 in Gah (now in Pakistan). His mother passed away when he was a five month old baby and his father would rarely be around. He was raised by his paternal grandmother Jamna Devi.
Despite the financial and the later political hardships, Singh as a child did very well in school. His achievements continued as he went on to win scholarships to Cambridge and Oxford. He excelled in the academic world earning a doctorate with a thesis on the critical role of exports and free trade in India’s economy. He is possibly the most educated prime minister of India as he happens to be the only Indian prime minister to hold a doctorate.
Manmohan Singh went on to have an illustrious career record. He worked for the United Nations from 1966 to 1969. He later entered the Indian bureaucratic world and held key positions, some of them being advisor for the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Chief Economic Advisor (1972–76), Reserve Bank governor (1982–85) and Planning Commission head (1985–87).
It was in 1991 he found praise from everywhere for liberalising the Indian economy though he alone can’t be credited for it. In 2004 he enjoyed public support as the prime minister of India owing to his former credentials as the finance minister of the country and his image as that of a clean politician.
He did have good moments during his tenure of 2004-2009. Under him, the National Advisory Council (NAC) was set up which was chaired by Sonia Gandhi for considerable amount of time. Through the NAC, key bills such as the Right to information act, the Right to Education act, the Employee Guarantee Act, and the Food Security Bill were passed by the UPA government.
The Congress-Left Front partnership went on well till the ‘N’ word propped up. The US–India Civil Nuclear Agreement was signed under the UPA-I. Despite the Left’s opposition and threat remove support from the coalition, the UPA-I leadership with its foreign policy managers can be credited to the signing of the bill.
This was the only time when Manmohan Singh stood up for something and threatened to resign as the prime minister when Sonia Gandhi and other Congressmen were contemplating to drop the nuclear agreement owing to the Left Front opposition to the bill.
The Left stepped out of the coalition and the UPA-I found other political allies to continue their reign. Owing to the welfare schemes and lack of any clear leadership in the opposition BJP, the UPA won the 14th Lok Sabha elections and Manmohan Singh chaired the prime minister post yet again.
The second time round he was not as lucky though. The ‘clean image’ that he was often credited with was torn to tatters as the government battled accusations of the CWG scam, 2G scam and the coal allocation scam. The socialistic agenda was weakened with the lack of Left parties in the coalition.
All the good of the nuclear agreement was reversed when it passed a bill that prevented the participation of foreign and domestic companies in India’s nuclear power generation programme. UPA-II failed to use opportunities to strengthen relations with its neighbours—Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Singh was rapped by the opposition for being just a mute observer as scams took place under his supposed leadership.On Tuesday, Singh bid farewell to his staff who gave him a standing ovation. Sonia Gandhi too is expected to throw him a farewell dinner. (read more)on Wednesday evening. As he moves out of his 7 Race Course Road home, even the opposition has a few kind words to say to him.(read more)
But people who have worked closely with him have chosen to keep a hard spot light on him revealing the many debacles the government suffered under him. The upwardly mobile techno-savvy countrymen are sending cruel good bye messages(read more) to him. It seems the mild mannered man may be forgotten but won’t be forgiven by the people of this country for being subservient than efficient.