Manmohan Destroying Legacy

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When a capable person, entrusted with the fate of billion plus people behaves in an unexplainably erratic manner, then some thing is wrong somewhere, something that is likely to cause a stink to horrible to contemplate. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India has won kudos by his financial acumen, his apparent honest and integrity. He became prime minister, not by popular vote, but by default, courtesy Sonia Gandhi. A person who reaches this position by courtesy is never able to assert against the wishes of his benefactor, and Manmohan is no exception.

I am troubled not by his becoming the Prime Minister, but by his actions subsequent to his becoming one. His brazen attempt to protect Buta Singh, the Governor of Bihar, till the assertive Supreme Court forced his hands; speak volume for his political integrity and honesty.

I would not be worried even by his support to fodder grabbing Laloo, or by the way he was turning blind eye to the goings on in Rah Bhawans of Goa, and Bihar. I am worried about his subservient attitude to the Yankees, his kowtowing to the White House, his destroying what Nehru and Indira had built. His nuclear agreement is to say the least a compromise. What happened later on is still all the more shocking.

The recently concluded joint US-India exercise was practically thrust. The Manmohan had threatened to resign, in case the Chief Minister of West Bengal did not withdraw his objection. What a way to handle. If Manmohan was right, then the proper thing would be to dismiss the government of West Bengal, as the proposed strike was on Centre’s list by constitution. In case he was right, either he should have been persuaded or listened to. But the threat of resignation to force an issue is simply a sign of inherent weak moral fiber

The popular anger was visible by the number of protesters. Area Police Superintendent Ajay Nand put the number of protesters at 120,000. “And more are pouring in every hour,” he added. To control them the central government sent in its own units. Soldiers in gunships and armored vehicles patrolled the facility as the protesters thronged the air base. Demonstrators made no attempt to disrupt the flights or block Air Force personnel in Kalaikunda where the war games also drew 20,000 spectators.

Some 800 armed policemen also kept vigil at the site of the exercises, code-named Cope-India, a police spokesman said
This was one clear case of the Prime Minister acting, apparently, at the behest of US authorities. He faces another litmus test. The vote on Iran is again showing his partiality to US. India has had excellent relations with Iran. There has no palpable reason for India to oppose Iran. And yet the US Ambassador in India is acting like the Viceroy.

US Ambassador to India David Mulford said the US is keen to have India\’s support when UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, meets to discuss Iran. He practically threatened when he said: \”And if it opposes Iran having nuclear weapons, we think they should record it in the vote.\” India\’s failure to do so, he said, would have a \”devastating\” effect on US Congress members who have yet to approve the nuclear deal. \”I think the Congress will simply stop considering the matter. I think the initiative will die in the Congress – not because the US administration would want it to. \”This should be part of the calculations India will have to keep in mind.\” He also doubted the integrity of India’s assertion, when he said US had doubts about Indian assurances on the clear separation of its civilian and military nuclear program – a key condition of the technology-sharing deal agreed last year.
Ideas set out by India did not meet the \”test of credibility\”, Mulford is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
In case India acts at the behest of Mulford, then India practically signals the collapse of its long-standing policy of nonalignment.

Capping recent agreements signed with the United States on military and civilian nuclear cooperation within an increasingly closer \”strategic partnership\” with it, this constitutes the greatest shift in New Delhi\’s foreign policy since independence from colonial rule in 1947. \”By taking this disgraceful step, India is indicating that it has become a camp-follower of Washington,\” said Gulshan Dietl, a West Asia expert at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University here.

It is intriguing why should he do so, why should he act in a manner that is not only puerile, but also definitely damaging to the Indian democracy. Is the Indian public so blinded by the glitter of money generated by call centers that they cannot visualize the dangers inherent in such a situation?

At the risk of being branded anti-Indian, I have no compunction about expressing my feelings. I admire his academic qualifications. But I cannot forget that we had one Prime Minister in 1977 who was revealed to be a mole of CIA. I am not saying that Manmohan belongs to that ilk. I have no doubt about his patriotism. I doubt his political sagacity and vision. He does not have the vision that Nehru had nor the fiery nationalism that propelled Indira.

Manmohan has failed on other fronts as well. The suicides by farmers in Andhra were a clear indication of the rot behind the glitter. The fact that manufacturing industry contributes just 8% to India’s GDP is also a frightening factor. No economy is built on call centers or massage parlours. It is Agriculture and Manufacturing that make up the backbone of a country’s economy. I have dealt with call center economy earlier. Earlier last year t he Prime Minister had, on the concluding day of the Congress Chief ministers conclave in Chandigarh had said that his government had implemented nearly three-fourths of the commitments in the CMP and underscored the party\’s contribution in bringing bank the nation to the \’\’\’\’politics of moderation\’\’\’\’ and the \’\’\’\’economics of equality and development\’\’\’\’. His supporters just alleged that it was hogwash.

CPI general secretary A B Bardhan and CPM politburo member M K Pandhe said Manmohan’s claim was far from the truth as a number of promises and commitments, including the provision of social security to over 370 million unorganized workers and 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies, were yet to be implemented. They wanted changes to be made in the labor laws to ensure that there is no \’\’hire and fire\’\’ policy and the public distribution system needs to be strengthened.
Bardhan and Pandhe stressed that the people at large were \’\’not happy\’\’with the government\’s performance. \’\’You can see how the prices of petrol and diesel have been repeatedly hiked, subsidy on certain food grains distributed through the PDS have been withdrawn or lessened, while on the other items there is a move to do away with the subsidy altogether.\’\’
CPI national secretary D Raja deplored that the Prime Minister had not given \’\’the real picture\’\’ about the quality of life of the man-in-the-street. \’\’The issue merits national debate. The move to privatize water and electricity and the hike in their rates have further angered the people.\’\’
Moreover, when it comes to payment of huge subsidies, often unwarranted, privatization and labor market reforms, the Singh Government has failed to achieve anything even remotely satisfactory. A magazine article points out \”one sad consequence is that India has been slow to cash in on ending this year of restrictions on the trade in textiles. Because any company employing more than 100 people requires the permission of the State authorities to sack workers, few companies have dared expand to take advantage of increased demand. More flexible China, with a textile tradition less glorious than India\’s, has cleaned up at its expense.\”

Manmohan cannot be pardoned for having failed to see his dream reforms through. India\’s Prime Minister has been labeled \”too meek\” or at least not strong enough to put the coalition partners in their places. After all, Singh is no politician in the strict sense of the term.

It is high time we wake up. A good finance minister need not necessarily be good Prime Minister. We have seen that here in Canada. Paul martin, as excellent Finance Minister failed as Prime Minster. I think Manmohan can be a good second tier leader, but is definitely not Prime Ministerial. The sooner this realization dawns, the better it would be for India.

Dr. Bikram Lamba is a political and management strategist and can be contacted at