Thursday, July 24, 2008

SINGH - KING, MANMOHAN - DHANMOHAN


Singh is now officially King. The politician by accident is now the consummate strategist. The lame-duck Prime Minister is now the ‘I'll-take-the-duck’ PM. Manmohan, the one who attracts others with his qualities, may now also have become ‘Dhanmohan’, the one who does the same with his money.

Dr Manmohan Singh was never like he was in the few days before he faced a Confidence Vote on July 22, 2008. The surprising spring in his stride, his never before seen body language exuding supreme confidence, and his emphatic thumbs up as well as victory signs flashed with real purpose to TV cameras, were clear signs that he had managed to get the magic numbers of MPs required to get that vote required to push the Indo-US Nuclear Deal through. And when the vote did take place, after Parliament had been disgraced by the flashing of bribe money in the House, Manmohan Singh signalled to the whole world that he had, finally, arrived as the determined and decisive Prime Minister nobody ever thought he was.

To be fair to Dr Manmohan Singh, he had more limitations and constraints placed on his functioning as the PM than any PM has had so far. To begin with, he got the job solely because he was handpicked by the real leader of the Congress, Sonia Gandhi, when she found that her foreign origins were going to make it impossible for her to become and remain the PM. The party was with Sonia, not with the PM. As if this was not a bad enough constraint, his government was completely dependent on the Left for its survival.

Manmohan proved to be the perfect choice as far as Sonia was concerned. They made and ran a great team in which there was never a danger that needless and dysfunctional suspicion and difference of opinion would derail the trust that they both had in each other.

It was the Left that almost succeeded in pushing Manmohan into historical obscurity by just not letting him get on with the task of implementing key economic reforms that are vital if India has to get into the next orbit of progress and prosperity. The economic dream team of Manmohan, Chidambaram and Ahluwalia could do little but dream about the day when they would actually be able to get a real move on. That stagnant situation for which the country has already paid a price would perhaps have continued till the elections next year. And, Dr Manmohan Singh would have then quickly faded away into obscurity, with all the charges made by Advani against him, the ‘nikamma’(no-good, worthless) PM, sticking forever like glue.

The nuclear deal that Manmohan signed with Bush was one achievement that he was convinced would earn him a place in history. But, there was little hope that it would go through, given the extremely hostile and unwavering stance of the Left and the equally extremely ridiculous negative stance of the BJP which placed petty political opportunity above national interest as seen by it. Then there was the demand to abort the deal from his own party men who did not want to risk losing out on power for even a single day, and certain media luminaries who shared their view. Almost any other ‘strong’ PM would have given in and forgotten about the deal in the face of such a relentless storm. Less than a month back, when all efforts to get the Left on board failed as they had to, almost everyone in India was convinced that Manmohan had indeed succumbed, once again, and that the deal was dead.

“They wanted to veto every single step of the negotiations which was not acceptable. They wanted me to behave as their bonded slave.” These were the strong and truthful words that Dr Manmohan Singh used in his reply to the motion of confidence on July 22, 2008. He was not allowed to deliver this speech by the opposition and had to place a written copy in the House.

That is really what the Left did to the government for more than four years and got away with it. For more than four years, the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world, the leader of more than a billion people was treated as a ‘bonded slave’ by a small, regional political group with proven extra-national loyalties based on an ideology that has been disgraced and dumped globally. For more than four years, leaders of this small group displayed unacceptable arrogance and irresponsibility, as they almost completely paralysed the government while pretending to support it imperiously from outside. For more than four years, these commies of India got away with murder even as, perhaps because, they refused to take any responsibility for governance or the decisions of the government by declining to be a part of it.

This blackmail and pressure that the commies, and to some extent other smaller parties too, resorted to raises the fundamental question about whether the present Parliamentary form of democracy is responsive to India’s unique social and political dynamics and whether there is an urgent need to holistically examine this issue. I have been arguing in this blog for long that this system has failed to deliver to the people of India what it was meant to, and that fundamental changes need to be made without further delay. It is time our leaders sat down and applied their minds to this seemingly intractable problem before it is too late.

By taking the fight into the commie camp and emerging triumphant, Dr Manmohan Singh has, in one surgical stroke, dispelled all notions about him as a man, a politician and a leader. Singh has proved that he is truly king, as the name and title track of the new Bollywood film, “Singh is Kinng”, loudly proclaim. But this crown is not the spotless one that one would imagine a man like Manmohan Singh wearing.

The shocking visuals of bribe money being flashed in Parliament, to cap the grave allegations that monetary and other inducements were being given in a shameless manner to secure the support/ abstention of MPs belonging to opposition parties, have sullied Manmohan’s name to some extent. He was well on the way into the hearts of most sensible Indians by his principled fight against the Left and the BJP. But, the way he first joined hands – had no choice really under the circumstances – with the Samajwadi Party whose USP is entering into and brokering sordid monetary deals, and then allowed dubious means to be used to secure a majority vote, took the sheen away from his well deserved victory.

It was a victory that was required by India. It could also have been a victory of the principles and the dignity and the superior human values that Manmohan represented. Unfortunately, the latter did not quite happen. Manmohan did become as sort of Dhanmohan for those few days before the vote took place. May be there was no choice. May be Manmohan was himself not involved in such deals, though at the very least, he was guilty of having knowingly looked the other way. Fortunately for him, the person accused of giving the bribe money displayed in Parliament was Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party.

Even Dharmraj Yuddhishthir, the always truthful, spotless upholder of Dharma, was guilty of consciously uttering a misleading statement, if not an outright lie, to get Dronacharya to drop his weapons, which was the only way to kill him, on the battlefield of Mahabharat. Perhaps Dr Manmohan Singh has done more than that. But, a slip or two on the battlefield against a treacherous enemy is not enough to diminish his stature and belittle his terrific tenacity to do what he honestly believes is right and good for the country, no matter what the cost.

What the PM does in the next few months available to him to undo the colossal damage that the power-drunk commies caused to India while treating him as a bonded labour, will determine the real quality of the steel that he has shown he has, to the surprise of all. For now, there is little doubt that Singh is really King.