Portrait of a PM as a caricature of his former self

Manmohan blames allies for moral deficit in governance


Ajay Singh | February 16, 2011

History is never charitable to weak rulers. Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s interaction with TV editors today has reinforced his image of a ruler quite vulnerable to political machinations. During those 70 minutes when he fielded a volley of questions from the electronic media, Manmohan Singh emerged as a caricature of his former self and seemed to have lost the bearing on governance.

Remember the imagery of Manmohan Singh making a V sign before entering parliament to face the no-confidence motion on the India-US nuclear deal in 2009? That one image demolished the BJP’s carefully orchestrated campaign against him as a weak PM. Even within the BJP, there were murmurs against LK Advani for overemphasising the theme that proved counter-productive.

But today’s Manmohan Singh looked quite weak indeed. Ironically, his apparently candid remarks did not sound convincing. Can you expect a prime minister to explain corruption away on the pretext of coalition dharma? On all the questions related to corruption, Manmohan Singh ducked and referred to the “compulsions of coalition”. Similarly, on the issue of economic reforms, he accused the non-Congress regimes and the opposition, particularly the BJP, of non-cooperation.

In effect, the prime minister seemed to be interested only in defending himself. He sought to steer clear himself of the 2G scam by pointing out that he had no role to play once the spectrum allocation was cleared by the ministry of finance and the telecom ministry. He explained that he could not be faulted for the delay in charge-sheeting the CWG scam accused and the shoddy manner of the probe which let off all prime accused.

It was strange to see him acknowledge the fact that there was an impression of moral and ethical deficit within the government. But who is responsible for that? To this question, Manmohan Singh admitted that he was responsible for the functioning of the government. But his essential message was that he could not be faulted for making compromises on account of coalition politics.

Perhaps there is an uncanny resemblance in the defence put up by the prime minister with that of P J Thomas. The beleaguered CVC has been blaming everybody else for conspiring against him despite his impeccable career. But, unlike a bureaucrat, politicians are not supposed to shift the blame on slightest pretexts. In people’s perception, the prime minister is most powerful figure of the country and is not expected to show signs of weakness. There is ample reason to believe that the prime minister has been vulnerable to political machinations by the party leadership which is more beholden to 10 Janpath than 7 Race Course Road. That he is besieged by vested interests from all quarters is not a state secret. But can India afford to put up with such a head of government? This question will surely come up with more ferocity than the past after the PM’s interaction with the TV editors today.



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