Truth is out. Manmohan Singh, i.e., MMS is a spineless politician, covering up for his corrupt ministers and serving as a hand-maiden of Madam Supremo. Bharatiya media in the pay of Congress would not dare to write this, so here is an American journalist who tells it all. Do not forget to read PMO’s whining letter to Washington Post and a rejoinder by the newspaper.
India’s ‘silent’ prime minister becomes a tragic figure
Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s second term in office has been damaged by corruption scandals and policy paralysis.
By Simon Denyer, Published: September 4
NEW DELHI — India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh helped set his country on the path to modernity, prosperity and power, but critics say the shy, soft-spoken 79-year-old is in danger of going down in history as a failure.
The architect of India’s economic reforms, Singh was a major force behind his country’s rapprochement with the United States and is a respected figure on the world stage. President Obama’s aides used to boast of his tremendous rapport and friendship with Singh.
But the image of the scrupulously honorable, humble and intellectual technocrat has slowly given way to a completely different one: a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government.
Every day for the past two weeks, India’s Parliament has been adjourned as the opposition bays for Singh’s resignation over allegations of waste and corruption in the allocation of coal-mining concessions.
The story of Singh’s dramatic fall from grace in his second term in office and the slow but steady tarnishing of his reputation has played out in parallel with his country’s decline on his watch. As India’s economy has slowed and as itsreputation for rampant corruption has reasserted itself, the idea that the country was on an inexorable road to becoming a global power has increasingly come into question.
“More and more, he has become a tragic figure in our history,” said political historian Ramachandra Guha, describing a man fatally handicapped by his “timidity, complacency and intellectual dishonesty.”
The irony is that Singh’s greatest selling points — his incorruptibility and economic experience — are the mirror image of his government’s greatest failings.
Under Singh, economic reforms have stalled, growth has slowed sharply and therupee has collapsed. But just as damaging to his reputation is the accusation that he looked the other way and remained silent as his cabinet colleagues filled their own pockets.
In the process, he transformed himself from an object of respect to one of ridicule and endured the worst period in his life, said Sanjaya Baru, Singh’s media adviser during his first term.
Attendees at meetings and conferences were jokingly urged to put their phones into “Manmohan Singh mode,” while one joke cited a dentist urging the seated prime minister, “At least in my clinic, please open your mouth.”
Singh finally did open his mouth last week, to rebut criticism from the government auditor that the national treasury had been cheated of billions of dollars after coal-mining concessions were granted to private companies for a pittance — including during a five-year period when Singh doubled as coal minister.
Singh denied that there was “any impropriety,” but he was drowned out by catcalls when he attempted to address Parliament on the issue. His brief statement to the media afterward appeared to do little to change the impression of a man whose aloofness from the rough-and-tumble of Indian politics has been transformed from an asset into a liability.
“It has been my general practice not to respond to motivated criticism directed personally at me,” he said. “My general attitude has been, ‘My silence is better than a thousand answers; it keeps intact the honor of innumerable questions.’ ”
Singh probably will survive calls for his resignation, but the scandal represents a new low in a reputation that has been sinking for more than a year.
‘I have to do my duty’
Singh was born in 1932 into a small-time trader’s family in a village in what is now Pakistan, walking miles to school every day and studying by the light of a kerosene lamp. The family moved to India shortly before partition of the subcontinent in 1947, and Singh pleaded with his father to be allowed to continue with his studies rather than join the dry-fruit trade.
A series of scholarships allowed Singh to continue those studies first at Cambridge and then at Oxford, where he completed a PhD. Marriage was arranged with Gursharan Kaur in 1958; they have three daughters.
A successful career in the bureaucracy followed, but it was in 1991 that Singh was thrust into the spotlight as finance minister amid a financial crisis.
With little choice, Singh introduced a series of policies that freed the Indian economy from suffocating state control and unleashed the dynamism of its private sector.
More than a decade later, in 2004, Singh again found himself on center stage, becoming in his own words an “accidental prime minister.”
The Congress party led by Italian-born Sonia Gandhi had surprised many people by winning national elections that year, but she sprang an even bigger surprise by renouncing the top job and handing it to Singh.
In him she saw not only the perfect figurehead for her government but also a man of unquestioning loyalty, party insiders say, someone she could both trust and control.
“I’m a small person put in this big chair,” Singh told broadcaster Charlie Rose in 2006. “I have to do my duty, whatever task is allotted of me.”
From the start, it was clear that Sonia Gandhi held the real reins of power. The Gandhi family has ruled India for most of its post-
independence history and enjoys an almost cultlike status within the Congress party. Sonia’s word was destined to remain law.
But Singh made his mark during his first term in office, standing up to opposition from his coalition partners and from within his own party to push through a civil nuclear cooperation deal with the United States in 2008, a landmark agreement that ended India’s nuclear isolation after its weapons tests in 1974 and 1998.
It was a moment that almost brought his government down, an issue over which he offered to resign. While no electricity has yet flowed from that pact, it marked a major step forward in India’s relations with the United States.
The Congress-led coalition went on to win a second term in 2009, in what many people saw as a mandate for Singh.
The 2009 election “was a victory for him, but he did not step up to claim it — maybe because he is too academic, maybe because he is too old,” said Tushar Poddar, managing director at Goldman Sachs in Mumbai. “That lack of leadership, that lack of boldness, lack of will — that really shocked us. That really shocked foreign investors.”
‘He suffers from doubts’
In a series of largely off-the-
record conversations, friends and colleagues painted a picture of a man who felt undermined by his own party and who sank into depression and self-pity.
His one attempt in 1999 to run for a parliamentary seat from a supposedly safe district in the capital, New Delhi, had ended in ignominious defeat. His failure to contest a parliamentary seat in 2009, making him the only Indian prime minister not to have done so, further undermined both his confidence, his friends and colleagues say, and his standing in the eyes of the party.
Congress, insiders say, never accepted that the 2009 election was a mandate for Singh and jealously resented the idea that he could be seen to be anywhere near as important as a Gandhi. Rahul, Sonia’s son, was being groomed to take over from Singh, and the prime minister needed to be cut down to size.
He soon was openly criticized by his own party over attempts to continue a peace process with Pakistan despite the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistani militants.
Singh became even more quiet at his own cabinet meetings, to the point of not speaking up for the sort of economic changes many thought he ought to be championing.
“His gut instincts are very good, but sometimes he suffers from doubts about the political feasibility, about getting things done,” said Jagdish N. Bhagwati, a Columbia University professor who has been friends with Singh since their Cambridge days.
Singh will go down in history as India’s first Sikh prime minister and the country’s third-longest-serving premier, but also as someone who did not know when to retire, Guha said.
“He is obviously tired, listless, without energy,” he said. “At his time of life, it is not as though he is going to get a new burst of energy. Things are horribly out of control and can only get worse for him, for his party and for his government.”
Now See PMO’s whining and apt reply by Washington Post’s Journalist:
Indian prime minister’s office responds to Washington Post’s profile on Manmohan Singh
The office of India’s prime minister objected to The Washington Post’s front-page article, published Sept. 5, 2012, on Manmohan Singh’s evolution as a leader.
The following is a letter from the Prime Minister’s office:
We do not complain about criticism of the government which is a journalist’s right. But I am writing this letter for pointing out unethical and unprofessional conduct at your part.
I would like to put on record my complaint about your article which was published today on many counts:
— Despite all lines of conversations open, you never got in touch with us for our side of the story though you regularly talk to me about information from the PMO. This story thus becomes totally one sided.
— You have been telling the media here in India that your request for an interview was declined though the mail below says clearly that the interview was declined “till the Monsoon Session” of the Parliament which gets over in two days.
— When I rang you up to point this out, you said sorry twice though you tell the media here that you never apologised.
— Your website where we could have posted a reply is still not working, 11 hours after you said sorry the third time for its inaccessibility.
— The former Media Adviser to the PM Dr Sanjaya Baru has complained that you “rehashed and used” an 8 month old quote from an Indian Magazine.
We expected better from the correspondent of the Washington Post for fair and unbiased reporting.
Without going into your one sided assessment of the Prime Minister’s performance, as comment is free in journalism, I hope you will carry this communication in full in your paper and your website so your readers can judge for themselves what is the truth.
Communications Adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office
New Delhi – India
Below is a response to the letter from Simon Denyer, author of the article and our India bureau chief:
— I requested an interview with the PM on three occasions, and also with T.K.A Nair, Advisor to the Prime Minister, and with Pulok Chatterji, Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. Those requests were either ignored or declined.
— When I made my final request for an interview with the PM in July, I was told on July 30 “The PM has declined all interview requests till the Monsoon session is over.” At that stage the current session of parliament (known as the Monsoon session) of parliament had not even begun. There was no mention of the possibility of an interview afterwards. In any case my story touches on the fact that parliament has been adjourned every day throughout the current session by opposition calls for the PM to resign, which is a story I felt should be told, interview or not.
Indeed, we remain extremely interested in speaking to the prime minister.
— My apology was for the fact that the website was down and the PM’s office could not post a reply directly. As soon as the problem was fixed, I informed them. I stand by the story.
— I spoke to Dr Baru personally on the telephone during the reporting for the story. He confirmed that these sentiments were accurate.
R Jagannathan Jun 6, 2011 When Baba Ramdev was bundled out of Delhi unceremoniously, it was a forceful message from the Congress-led UPA government that it was not going to vacate space for civil society to muscle in on its turf — unless the civil society members happen to be Sonia Gandhi groupies. It is also an indication that orders for the crackdown on the Baba came from the political power centre – Sonia Gandhi herself. It marks a new assertion of party over government in order to seize the political initiative from a bumbling Manmohan Singh. But it is worth understanding what really transpired these last few weeks, when the government first started humouring the Baba, held detailed discussions with him, and then hit him on the head – metaphorically – with a club when he was least expecting it. Who betrayed whom? Was it the government, which came out waving a paper saying the Baba went back on his promise to call off the fast? Or was it the Baba, who found the government closing in on him, and decided to back away from a deal he knew was not good for his future? I believe it was the government which decided to pull the plug on the Baba deal. It flows from the answer to the question: why was the Congress schmoozing with the Baba in the first place when it knew he had deep Sangh Parivar connections? The Congress has a problem in the north, where the BJP is a potent threat everywhere, except Uttar Pradesh. This is where the Baba comes in handy. Reuters The answer: the Congress wined and dined him precisely because he was close to the Sangh Parivar. It was not something they discovered later, when Sadhvi Ritambara turned up at the Baba’s fast-fest. In the Congress book of dirty tricks, this is old hat. Whenever the Congress sees a looming political threat, it backs a rival in the same camp to break away and undercut the original threat. To deal with the Akalis in Punjab, Indira Gandhi backed Bhindranwale. To destroy the Shiv Sena, it backed Raj Thackeray, and won the last elections purely from this vote division. To undercut the National Conference, it broke bread with Mufti Sayeed’s PDP in the last decade before it dumped the PDP again for the National Conference. Of course, the Congress also reaps the whirlwind when it sows the wind (Indira was killed by Sikh extremists, and Rajiv fell to the LTTE’s suicide bomber), but that’s another story. It is also worth recalling that the Congress won the last elections in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu precisely because a third player (Praja Rajyam in Andhra, and Vijayakanth’s DMDK in Tamil Nadu) ate into opposition votes and brought the Congress (or the Congress alliance) victory. But for these spoilers, Chandrababu Naidu and AIADMK would have won in 2009. So who do you need to fix before 2014 in the same way? While there are obviously a whole range of regional and sectarian parties who are local threats to the Congress in various states, the only national threat is the BJP, which, despite being rudderless over the last seven years, is the only party capable of upsetting the Congress’ apple-cart. Within the BJP, the biggest threat is Narendra Modi, who has shown that he can get the measure of the Congress, and has the potential to galvanise the party and the majority community to action — given the right political circumstances, which, admittedly, don’t exist for now. But who knows what will be the scenario in 2014? It explains why the Congress is using activists like Teesta Setalvad and the National Advisory Council (NAC) and other one-dimensional secularists to fix him – whether in court or through a blatantly communal Bill to tackle communal violence. The Bill is specifically targetted at Hindu organisations, and no one else. It will never see the light of day, but that does not stop undemocratic NAC members from trying to force it down our throats. But, at another level, the Congress has a problem in the north, where the BJP is a potent threat everywhere, except Uttar Pradesh. This is where the Baba comes in handy. How? In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and also in the rest of the Hindi belt, the Baba could cut into BJP votes if he floats a political party. He doesn’t have to win any seats. If he merely takes away 4-5% of the BJP vote, it is enough for the Congress to win. This is the primary reason why the Congress has been humouring the Baba and talking of doing a deal with him on corruption. Unfortunately, the deal fell through, either because the Congress was trying to be too clever with him, or was trying to fix him in other ways – and he balked at the prospect. This is what forced the midnight swoop – something the Congress had not planned for when it began talking with him. The second reason why the Baba was useful to the Congress was his unwillingness to let the Anna Hazare group run off with the anti-corruption agenda. The Baba’s ego would not let him be a supporter of the Hazare camp, which had eminent lawyers well-versed in the art of drafting laws. It also had the support of the middle-class. The Congress egged on Baba with his rural and small-town clout to stymie the Hazare group. The Congress had no reason to let Anna & Co dictate the new Lokpal bill, and the Baba’s political ambitions proved useful to drive a wedge between the two camps. While the midnight action has temporarily allowed the two camps to kiss and make up, the two cannot ultimately work together. Since the Anna group has lost vital momentum, it is now possible for the Congress to impose its own Lokpal Bill with some minor concessions to civil society and reclaim the agenda. A perceptive comment by K Raman on Firstpost shows how the Baba has been neutered, and Anna sidelined: “A man who owns a private island in Scotland, has an annual turnover of Rs 1,000 crore and flies around in a private jet would obviously have a few skeletons in his cupboard… In the next 10 days, one after the other the skeletons will tumble down… The Baba could be fixed in that way..”. As for Anna & Co, Raman says: “..the government has clearly sent out the message that if they mess around, then they too will meet the same fate as the Baba. Shanti Bhushan’s statement that the Prime Minister and the government has to resign is not helpful, to say the least…Now with what face will this team go back and discuss with the same government on Lokpal Bill?” Clearly, the Congress used the Baba and discarded him when he did not toe the line. The BJP need not be too unhappy, too. The Baba was meant to cut it down to size. So while it may fulminate against the government for its midnight “Jallianwala Bagh”, it should be secretly happy that one potential rival for the Hindu vote is out of the way. The Congress has won – for now. While the Baba did not serve its short-term purpose, the party may still hold the high cards when it comes to getting him to float a party to cut into the BJP vote. But just as a week is a long time in politics, such political manoeuvres are not enduring. The only question is whether, when it is politics as usual, the ordinary citizen has lost out. The upsurge of grassroot support when Anna Hazare began his fast has died down. Cynicism rules. Congress gains.
June 06, 2011 9:54:59 AM
Pioneer news service | New Delhi
The midnight crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s supporters at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, has galvanised the civil society movement against corruption with Gandhian Anna Hazare deciding to boycott the Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee meeting on Monday and undertake fast on June 8 to protest the “inhuman brutality unleashed on the Yoga Guru and his supporters.
The development is a big set back for the Government, which had resorted to a divide and rule strategy in dealing with Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare. Ramdev on Sunday himself disclosed that Kapil Sibal wanted that Anna Hazare should not be present on his dais at Ramlila Maidan or the Government would back down on the black money issue.
Anna Hazare group was also uncomfortable with the presence of Sadhvi Ritambara at Ramlila Maidan on Saturday. Hazare had said he would decide on joining Ramdev’s agitation after coming to Delhi. But shocked by the Government brutality, Hazare camp has decided to rally around Baba.
“We condemn this action. This is a blot on humanity… This is like throttling democracy,” Hazare said.
Asking the Prime Minister to explain the reasons which provoked his Government to issue orders for this police action, Hazare said, “Sunday morning’s brutal assault of the Government reminds one of 1975 Emergency. It is almost an emergency like situation. Today is June 5, the Sampoorn Kranti Diwas. People of this country rose against Government injustice 35 years back. Time has come for the people to similarly rise against corruption.”
Eminent lawyer and member of the Lokpal Bill draft committee Shanti Bhushan said that Sunday morning’s incident, clearly showed the Government’s intent on crushing corruption. “Hence, we have decided not to attend the joint meeting on Lokpal Bill on Monday,” he said.
Comparing the Government’s action to that of Emergency in 1975, Bhushan said it shows to what extent the Government can go to protect black money offenders.
Accusing the Government of not being serious about dealing with corruption, Hazare announced a day-long fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on June 8. “Wherever you may be, you may stage a fast. And pray to God to give wisdom to this Government”, Hazare said.
Hazare’s hardening stand will add to the Government’s woes. Hazare had led an immensely successful five-day fast against corruption at the same venue in April, forcing the Government to finally accede to the demand of inclusion of civil society representatives in framing of a Jan Lokpal Bill.
Accusing the Government of being insincere in dealing with corruption, Hazare said the civil society would defy prohibitory orders on Wednesday at Jantar Mantar to protest the police action against Baba Ramdev’s movement.
“We have been interacting with this Government in the Joint Committee for the last one and a half months. The police action on peaceful protestors and the proceedings of earlier meetings clearly make government’s intentions in dealing with corruption suspect.
“The Government has been trying to crush anti-corruption movement. We have therefore decided not to attend Joint Committee meetings,” he told a press conference.
Hazare said his side was writing a letter to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is the chairman of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill, asking the government to make its stand public on some of the key issues related to the anti-corruption legislation.
“We have already made our stand clear on these issues. After we receive government’s response, we will decide whether any useful public purpose would be served in attending joint committee meetings,” he said.
On Ramdev, the Gandhian said he has to “sort out” the issues with the yoga guru before sharing the same platform. However, he was quick to add that he supported the issue of black money raised by Ramdev.
Another activist and Anna Hazare camp follower, Arvind Kejriwal said the action showed that this government was drunk with power and the whole country would raise their voices.
He said they would like the Prime Minister to explain what was the provocation for such a brutal action.