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ManmohanoMIX

Editorial. John Dayal. January XII. XIV


MMS:The Backdoor Man!

 


          Dr. John Dayal By Dr.John Dayal

 

Manmohan Singh and
Sonia Gandhi - fnbworld

 

 

International Monetary Fund and
Indian economy - fnbworld

 

Food for thought -
fnbworld

 

Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s statement at his New Year press conference ruling himself out from a third term, if the United Progressive Alliance were to win the April-May 2014 General Elections, surprised no one, least of all those in his Congress party clamouring that he leave now and make way for party vice president Rahul Gandhi. Though unlikely, this could yet happen if Congress president Mrs. Sonia Gandhi thinks her son and the party will be better off if he is not just the prime ministerial candidate, but the prime minister as he leads the party in what is expected to be the most vicious and polarising election battle in recent history.


The Indian electorate, more than half of it rural, has a nasty habit of surprising everyone and thwarting ambitious leaders. It wiped out Indira Gandhi’s Congress in 1977, and yet re-elected her in 1980. It confined the Bharatiya Janata Party to a mere two seats in a 542 seat Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, brought it to power for six years, and then defeated it decisively in 2004 when it was supposedly at the peak of its popularity. The Congress won an entirely unexpected victory, and ruled the country for two terms as a minority government with its cantankerous partners in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).


In his press conference, Dr. Singh sheepishly said history would be more kind to him that the media or his political opponents. It is a moot question which aspects of his 10-year rule as Prime Minister, and his five-year stint earlier as the Finance Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao in the 1990s, does Dr. Singh bank upon for his place in history. The Oxford-trained economist, who has worked for the United Nations, and back home was economic advisor to the government and Governor of the Reserve Bank, will be best remembered for dismantling the economic apparatus of government controls on industry and finance created by Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mrs. Indira Gandhi, which is euphemistically called the “Licence Raj’.


The liberalisation and opening of the Indian economy to western and Japanese capital, held by some to be dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), helped create India’s Information Technology and Telecommunication sectors, but did not create a safety net for the poor and the marginalised. After initial growth rates of over 8 per cent, Dr. Singh had the mortification of seeing growth plummet to below 5 per cent in the last two years, as the economy, no longer insulated from the turmoil of Wall Street, withered in the Western meltdown. In one fells swoop, Dr. Singh who was once the darling of Indian industry and financial giants became a pariah, his regime and his party suffering in consequence. The corruption in his government came centre-stage.


The poor once constituted the main vote of the Congress party, which has had to wage an internal struggle with the government, so to say, to force a few schemes to offer some relief to the poor. The Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Scheme, which gives a 100 days paid work to landless unemployed rural poor, and the Right to Food, even the Right to Information Act must be credited to Congress president Sonia Gandhi who astutely created a semi-official National Advisory Council to formulate these landmark legislations in the face of stiff opposition from sections of the government and economy. The laws against corruption were enacted under pressure in of a urban middle class mass movement and popular outrage.


The Manmohan Singh regime failed to assuage the hurt of the minorities, religious groups such as Muslims and Christians, the Tribals, and the Dalits. He admitted as much in his parting statement. Many of their issues perhaps were in the domain of the governments of the states who deal with law and order, but he showed no leadership in encouraging the states to act. There has been no abating in the violence against Muslims and Christians in several regions, but the government failed to enact the Prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence Bill, which was also formulated by the National Advisory Council.

 

The Bill was expected to be opposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an adjunct of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) whose stock in trade is fomenting hate against Muslims and Christians, but Dr. Singh’s cabinet showed a shameful lack of courage in getting this very important law passed in Parliament with his other allies. Dr. Singh did lead a minority government dependent on the support of a range of allies with contradictory interests. But when it suited him, he did manage, for instance, to get Parliament to clear a deal with the United States of the civil of nuclear technology in the teeth of opposition from major parties and peoples groups.


The ten years of government have also not seen any lessening of the tension in Indian Kashmir where people have been in confrontation with state and Union Governments almost on a continuous basis. Little progress has been on political solutions to heal deep wounds and emotional cleavages, other than an empty rhetoric that Kashmir is an integral part of India.


The government has also failed miserably all these ten years in foreign relations and internal security. Its current diplomatic crisis with the US on the issue of an underpaid maid and her women diplomat employer who was arrested in New York, shows the ham-handedness in which issues have been handled. Dialogue has been given a go-by. Relations with Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been at the lowest in several years. The security apparatus has been buttressed with new rockets and missiles, aircraft carriers and warplanes, but on the ground, incursions and intrusions by Pakistan on the western borders and China along the northern lines of control have exposed chinks in the Indian armour.


Dr. Singh will, finally, have to answer to the charge that it was under his watch, that religious fundamentalism consolidated further and grew, creating the ground in which Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, could emerge as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, now posing the strongest threat yet to the Congress party in the general elections later this year. And the Congress can no longer be sure it retains the trust of the poor, the Dalits, the Tribals and the Minorities which and voted for it all these year. That is bad news not just for the Congress, but to Indian secularism which remains the sole guarantee of the safety and security of the religious minorities, among others.

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