ByÂ Preetika Bhateja:
He has given only three press conferences in his 10 year tenure, a man of few words, the former Prime Minister of India has received sundry remarks in the last decade, from being called taciturn, unresponsive, subdued and an accidental prime minister to a respectful man with integrity, honesty and loyalty.
He entered the political scenario during the 1991 economic crisis as Finance Minister under late Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s government. With his entry, he brought along structural reforms that liberalised India’s economy and was successful in pulling India out of bankruptcy. Afterwards, he went on to become the RBI Governor, Chief Economic Advisor and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission and of course the Prime Minister of India twice. As Dr Manmohan Singh demits the office, we take a look back at his work.
In his last press conference earlier this year, he stated that “History will be kinder to me”. Tracking down his political trajectory, we can easily find two momentous events where he exhibited utmost bravery – once was the economic reform of 1991, the globalization we enjoy today is all because of the opening up of economy, and the other was the Indo-US nuclear deal under UPA-I that got no support from the Left parties and brought threats to his government but Dr Singh didn’t go back on the international commitment, though the deal had to suffer a bad fate due to a clause stating that ‘The international investors would be responsible for any mishap’.
If we talk of Dr Singh’s first five year tenure which was marked by major initiatives like MNREGA and RTI, his achievements highlight the work of a bureaucrat, that is investing money on schemes. Money was channeled into rural areas, pushing up agriculture, and bringing down poverty dramatically. When he took office in 2004, a G.D.P growth of 9% was recorded but that soon started to fade away to 7-8%. He maintained a good and humble image during this period which made Sonia Gandhi give him another term, starting 2009.
The UPA-II proved to be a time of scams with 2G, CWG, Adarsh society and Coal Block allocations, the credibility chart of Dr Singh was severely affected. CAG had estimated a speculated loss of a whopping Rs. 4 lakh crore, prompting the opposition to allege that there was “unprecedented” corruption. Congress was accused of dual power centre and of the fact that Sonia Gandhi was the ‘guiding light’ of every decision taken by the prime minister. Two controversies came up in this period, one of the FDI in retail and the other was of Food Security Bill. While some asserted that FSB would cater to the nutrition needs of 67% of population, other parties thought of it as a huge waste of money if not implemented correctly.
A lot was expected by Dr Singh, who studied at Oxford and taught at the Delhi School of Economics, on matters of economy affairs, but the growing inflation (10-11%), a floundering economy and the rupee touching all time low during his tenure disheartened all. In matters of Foreign affairs too, India didn’t shine bright, be it Pakistan beheading our soldiers or the Italian marine’s case, Indian diplomacy has never looked so ignorant and rudderless. Also, adding to the woes of his government was the Anna Hazare led anti-corruption movement, massive opposition and public protest, UPA-II has only demonstrated considerable resilience.
Dr Manmohan Singh was given the title of the weakest prime minister, though he was a great bureaucrat – diligent and hardworking, he could not provide the country with a bigger political picture, he never connected with the people which led to a greater divide. His biggest flaw was his loyalty to the Gandhi clan. He was made PM only for his integrity and loyalty, and was vested with limited power. The Gandhi’s knew he was not a man who would demand more.