WHEN the Prime Ministers of India spoke in Parliament, the nation used to evince some level of interest. But one need have no such misgivings with Manmohan Singh. In his case what is news is that he spoke. The contents of his speech at best evoke a yawn.
Take the latest: his speech on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address. Manmohan Singh chose to devote the major part of his speech to the BJP. Understandable. With very little to show in terms of achievements of the past nine years, and weighed down by the mountainous charges of corruption, the Prime Minister chose to ignore the core issues of good governance. For a man who has never fought a democratic election and won he mocked at the electoral defeats of the BJP in 2004 and 2009 and made joke of the veteran of electoral politics in India, L K Advani. He went to the extent of predicting a defeat for the BJP again in 2014 because of its arrogance, he said. Self-introspection is definitely not a virtue of this Prime Minister.
Though the tizzy media gave his speech such headlines as ‘PM takes on the BJP’ and ‘PM tears into BJP’ the sum and substance of his talk were that the India Shining campaign of the NDA nine years ago was wrong. Well, we didn’t need the prime minister’s extraordinary intelligence to decipher that, given that the BJP had lost those elections.
Manmohan Singh stooped to the level of mouthing wrong information. By some calculations, no doubt doled out to him by his spin masters Chidambaram-Ahluwalia-Raghuram Rajan, he actually made a claim that under the UPA the country had registered a growth rate of seven per cent. The whole world knows that India is struggling with a less than five per cent rate of growth. Atal Behari Vajpayee who inherited a weak exchequer and a growth rate of four per cent, boosted it to eight per cent in six years, without the accompanying ills like inflation. Under the UPA on the other hand, the growth has slowed, inflation has stayed double digit, with prices going the hot air balloon way up,up and away. Still, the Prime Minister made audacious and false claims on the floor of the house and got away. If one were to discuss just one area–infrastructure—the performance of the UPA has been pathetic. Be it road laying, power generation, irrigation, transport or communication, in nine years the UPA government failed to cash in on the pace set by the NDA government. Only the Prime Minister knows from where the fiction of better growth came.
Manmohan Singh just brushed aside all cases of corruption. To him none existed except the latest VVIP helicopter scam. Since this was fast becoming Italy and one family centric, he felt obliged to defend his benefactor and patron and said the government would take tough action against those responsible.
The Prime Minister has every reason to feel smug about his irreplaceability within the UPA, given its contradictions. The Congress party is staring at elections less than a year away with him as PM-candidate. But he has absolutely no right to feel conceited and complacent about the people of India. Having achieved the record of being the longest serving Prime Minister, after Nehru, he is sure to earn the ignominy of a Prime Minister least respected and remembered.