MaunMohan says Pranab makes the UPA’s world spin.

Is he praising dada or fixing him?


BV Rao | December 23, 2011

Manmohan is mostly silent (maun). He hardly speaks. Thank god he occasionally speeches. That allows us, once in a very long while, to analyse his unmoving manner and understand his inscrutable mind.

On December 21, he handed over the Best Administrator of India award to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. In a short speech thereafter, Manmohan spoke very highly of the latter. So highly that the normally red-with-rage Pranab-da apparently turned pink in embarrassment.

I’m sure that everybody there, including Pranab-da, thought that Manmohan was praising the dada’s political sagacity and administrative acumen. But after reading the text of Manmohan’s speech, I seriously doubt it. The thing with Manmohan is even when he says something, he says so little that a lot remains unsaid, leading to grievous misinterpretations.

I want to clear the air because I am sure Manmohan did not mean what he said or he did not say what he meant.

Because, here's what he said:

“It gives me great pleasure to be here at this very unique function to honour my esteemed colleague and friend Shri Pranab Mukherjee with the K Karunakaran Foundation’s inaugural Best Administrator of India award.

“I believe that the successful management of the UPA is due substantially to the inspiring leadership of the Chairperson of the UPA, Smt. Sonia Gandhi and to the very able trouble shooting skills of Pranabji...

“….In running the government, Pranabji has been my most valued colleague. We have consulted closely on all important decisions of our government. I wish to thank him personally for all that he has done to help the government function effectively and cohesively.

“Pranabji's knowledge of parliamentary matters is stupendous. The wide respect that he commands and his long association with political leaders across the spectrum have proved invaluable in conducting Parliamentary business. It is unfortunate that despite our (he surely meant “his”) best efforts, parliament has not been running smoothly. I would like to say that it is the job of not only the ruling party but all political parties to cooperate constructively in running the House…

“My teacher, the great economist Nicholas Kaldor, often used to say that whatever the economic model, in the ultimate analysis, success or failure of a nation would depend on the calibre of the people and the individuals responsible for making it work on the ground…

“I conclude by once again congratulating Shri Pranab Mukherjee for receiving this most well deserved honour.”

But here's what he meant:

First up, Pranabji, you might be the Best Administrator of India, but I am the prime minister of India. The two are mutually exclusive, at least as long as I’m around. Secondly, between Pranabji's perspiration and Sonia G's inspiration, what's left for me to do? Then why the hell does everybody blame me for everything? Especially for that “policy paralysis” thing (what is it by the way?)

You might be the stupendous parliamentarian Pranabji, but then again, you don’t need to be a stupendous parliamentarian to be prime minister. My knowledge of parliamentary matters might be rudimentary, Pranabji. But I know this much: There is no better time than a parliament session for a good foreign tour. And, don’t take it otherwise Pranabji, all your invaluable experience doesn’t count for much, does it? You can’t still get a day’s decent business done in parliament. If you are the stupendous parliamentarian who can’t run parliament (they also call you the leader of the house, don’t they) why am I taking the heat? You see, Pranabji, even this paralysis is not of my making. In fact very little is of my making, as I said at the outset.

My teacher, the great economist Nicholas Kaldor – you don’t have to be a great economist either to be prime minister, it’s enough if people believe you are one – was right, Pranabji. The success or failure of a nation depends on the calibre of the people responsible for making it work on the ground. As head of 936 EGoMs, as the finance minister of an economic power house, as the chief trouble shooter for the party and the government, as the guy who knows all the rules and has all the solutions and who loves to gather all parties around him once a week, Pranabji, are you my guy on the ground, or the guy who is grounding it?

But still, I want to conclude by once again telling you how happy I am that you have got this Best Administrator of India award, Pranabji. I have no role in the way things are running. This award at least clarifies that and gives the dada his due. As things stand today, Pranabji, I would rather you got the award than I.

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