In the shadow of a dynasty

We would have to wait for history books to see whether Manmohan Singh deserves a footnote or a full-page description

GN Bureau | May 17, 2014



On the morning of May 17, prime minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation for the last time before handing his resignation to president Pranab Mukherjee.

While his brief farewell speech mentioned that he respected “the judgement that you [people] have delivered” and that “the just concluded elections have deepened the foundations of our democratic polity”, he said nothing about the allegations of his inefficiency, especially during the second term of UPA.

Given his reticence over last 10 years, though, this is not supremely surprising.

There are times for rebuttals and justifications, someone sympathetic to Singh could argue: that this was time for saying goodbye, to all that made and unmade Manmohan Singh the politician.

Here really was one occasion, however, when he could have cleared the airs – for we never know if he would ever again choose to speak about his rather long stint as the prime minister.

It’s clear that in the last few months all was not well between him and the Congress matron. That Sonia and Rahul called the shots in the government is an inane piece of information. Other things weren’t quite right, either: economy, especially during the UPA-II, has been in tatters; other allegations abound: scams, crony capitalism, inflation.

The public disenchantment during UPA-II was so high that the government failed to defend itself even from criticisms that had nothing to do with its performance: for all the public anger against, say for example, increasing oil prices, the truth is in last 10 years the price of oil in the international market has more than tripled (from approx 30$ to 100$ per barrel).  Many other indicators during the two terms of UPA, too – agriculture growth rate, decline in poverty (or the introduction of a legislation like RTI) – were better than that of the preceding NDA governments. So while Singh could be blamed for his inability to control the government, he is also to be blamed for not being able to convincingly defend the good things his tenure meant for the country.

What exactly, then, does this inane piece of farewell speech mean? Not much. Since the man has consciously evaded every opportunity to defend himself or attack the detractors, we really haven't an option but to wait for history books to see whether he deserves a “footnote” or a full-page description.

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