Time to go..

Time to go..

There is no persuasive reason for Manmohan Singh to remain, says N.V.Subramanian.

3 September 2012: Troublesome as BJP's demand for the resignation of the prime minister is, Manmohan Singh has called the situation upon himself. If the accusation against the Nehru-Gandhis is of seeking power without responsibility, the prime minister stands guilty of wanting office whilst foregoing its duties and obligations. Something of the dynasty may have rubbed off on Manmohan Singh to make him so thick-skinned and derelict.

The Manmohan Singh one knew or heard of in the early-1990s when he first became minister was sensitive, emotional, committed to the task of rescuing India's economy, and remarkably thin-skinned. Though he had been a politician for some time, he hadn't grown a politician's bullet-proof hide. He was quick to anger at evidences of corruption, and in one case in this writer's knowledge, in an informal meeting with an old economist friend at his finance minister's office, he wrathfully pushed across a file documenting a minister's corruption in the North East. "What can I do? What can I do?" he grieved, holding his head in despair. It was also a time as everyone knows when he resigned in connection with the securities' scandal and in general frustration with the political breaks applied on reforms. His prime minister, the redoubtable P.V.Narasimha Rao, tactfully held him back.

Up to the first half of UPA-1, Manmohan Singh remained thin-skinned. His close aides said he figuratively carried a resignation letter in his pocket, and in that duration, it became one of Sonia Gandhi's tasks to hold his hand, so to speak, and prevent Manmohan Singh from quitting. The cynical would say Manmohan Singh never once meant to carry out his threat, being excessively ambitious. But certainly, Sonia appeared to have her crisis moments with him.

By then, of course, the Nehru-Gandhis were being openly accused of wanting power without responsibility, which was why the dynasty had bypassed strong politicians such as Arjun Singh and Pranab Mukherjee to make a technocrat prime minister. But Manmohan Singh showed one last bit of spunk in July 2008, saying he would resign if Parliament did not approve the Indo-US nuclear deal. Succumbing to his blackmail, Congress rigged the confidence vote in Parliament.

After that, Manmohan Singh changed for the worse.

He became thick-skinned. He became a shirker. And he was loath to take responsibility.

There may be a number of theories for why he became so. This writer believes that public accusations that the Nehru-Gandhis had power without responsibility affected him. He thought the best policy was to follow their example. In any case, he commanded no respect from ministers who served at the pleasure of the Nehru-Gandhis. In consequence, he set himself up as a titular prime minister, enjoying the trappings of office, but unwilling to enforce the authority vested in it.

So 2G happened, Delhi airport and Adarsh, CWG and Antrix-Devas, and Coalgate…. The file noting that the PMO wanted to be kept at "arm's length" from 2G decisions well describes the PM's work ethic. As coal minister, he went further, permitting Coalgate with no questions asked, endowing his neglectful assent to scandalous allocations with perfumed reform characteristics.

Does this man deserve to be prime minister?

On one hand, Manmohan Singh was grateful to the Nehru-Gandhis for making him prime minister. But he figured, on the other hand, that the best mode of survival was to enjoy office without taking responsibility. This licensed cabinet ministers to do as they pleased, which encouraged an environment of untrammeled looting in UPA-1 and 2. If Manmohan Singh continues in office, this will keep happening.

Is that desirable?

N.V.Subramanian is Editor, www.newsinsight.net and writes on politics and strategic affairs. He has authored two novels, University of Love (Writers Workshop, Calcutta) and Courtesan of Storms (Har-Anand, Delhi). Email: envysub@gmail.com.

N.V.Subramanian is the Editor of www.newsinsight.net.

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