Reported By: Pallavi Ghosh
Last Updated: February 08, 2024, 14:38 IST
As Manmohan Singh retired, he received praise from unlikely quarters as Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged his contribution to public life. (PTI)
The BJP came to power in 2014 on the edifice of Singh being a weak prime minister. PM Modi constantly accused his predecessor of being silent during scams, going so far as equating his silence to a man wearing a raincoat in the bathroom
It’s the end of Dr Manmohan Singh’s innings as a parliamentarian. As Singh retired, he received praise from unlikely quarters, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged his contribution to public life.
As the Gujarat chief minister earlier and even when he took oath as prime minister twice, Modi made it a point to pay his respects to Singh.
The BJP came to power in 2014 on the edifice of Singh being a weak prime minister. PM Modi constantly accused his predecessor of being silent during scams, going so far as equating his silence to a man wearing a raincoat in the bathroom.
Unlike his exit from PMO in 2014 where there were tell-tale signs, the entry of Singh into 7, RCR — as it was called then — was anything but predictable. When Sonia Gandhi — after a grand win in 2004 — decided to opt out and choose someone who had gravitas and loyalty, it came as a surprise to all that Singh was chosen by her to be the prime minister. A reluctant politician, and PM, he was strongly supported by Sonia Gandhi which helped him weather many political storms in the party.
Many, like the late Pranab Mukherjee, could never get over the fact that it was not him but Singh who was the chosen one. There is no denying the fact that journalists covering the UPA were aware that there were not only arguments and dissent inside cabinet meetings but also many potshots at the prime minister. There were some who would go to Sonia Gandhi to complain while a section was happy when Rahul Gandhi publicly rebuked Singh over the ordinance on convicted MPs and MLAs while he was in America.
Many hoped Singh would step down after this humiliation but Sonia Gandhi’s fierce defence created a wall around him which made it impossible to dismantle him.
However, as the UPA II faced scams over the years and the taint began to spread to Singh, the halo around his turban began to dim.
In private, Singh’s discomfiture was obvious — as was his helplessness. For instance, in 2009, when he was not too keen to take back DMK leaders who were under the scanner as ministers, he was forced to relent as DMK threatened to walk out of UPA.
Also, despite his desire that some of his ministers needed to be reigned in, he was again helpless as towards the end of his tenure it was clear that the party was becoming more powerful than the government. In fact, in UPA II, a sulking party decided to spread its wings when Singh was being called a king by observers. To give an example, Singh was given a media advisor chosen by the party unlike Sanjaya Baru who was his first choice in UPA I. Baru later wrote a tell-all book, which was made into a movie and the rest is history.
As Manmohan Singh bids adieu, he leaves behind a legacy and tenure mired in many contradictions. Respected for his honesty, yet running a government which was called corrupt. The man who staked his PM-ship for the India-US nuclear deal was frowned upon for not stepping down when publicly humiliated by Rahul Gandhi. He was accused of no longer being a reluctant PM, but someone clinging on to his post.
The BJP, heading for another Lok Sabha polls, is set to question his legacy. Meanwhile, in Singh’s own words, Congress hopes “history will remember me [the ex-PM] more kindly”.