Manmohanomics and its decline

Apr 14, 2014, 07:42 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh

In the twilight of his 23-year old long political career, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, once hailed as the saviour of national economy (remember the 90s?) must be quite relieved that he has reached the end of this long, twisted and treacherous road that Indian politics has taken him through. Needless to say, the farewell is laced with bitterness, what with the fag end of the journey finding him alone, alienated, and all but consigned to oblivion by his party.

Today, you wont even find a trace of Singh on the party’s posters or banners. There is no clamour for him in election rallies, nor any word on his record 10-year-long stint at the helm of the UPA government.

But Singh is not really alone. There are many politicians who have been similarly dumped after devoting decades of their lives, and all the expertise at their disposal, to their respective parties. One thinks of Congress man Sitaram Kesri, under whom Singh joined the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the party.

People saw tears rolling down from Kesri’s eyes when he hugged Dr Singh, saying the party needed people like him.

The party was looking to Dr Singh as a saviour at a critical juncture, in the wake of its embarrassing defeat in the 1996 general elections.

But how many remember that Kesri served as Congress president from 1996 to 1998? And that he was unceremoniously stripped of the post in March 1998, with little regard to his 30-year-long association with the party?

Think of Lal Krishna Advani, the BJP old guard who went down fighting, when the BJP tried to hold him down.

Dr Singh can also find a friend in Somnath Chatterjee, who, despite 10-terms in the Lok Sabha, is leading a life of an independent candidate, after being dumped by the CPI (M), a party to which he gave 40 whole years of his political career.

In this charged political atmosphere, excerpts from a book written by Sanjay Baru, former media advisor of Dr Singh, have created a sensation in political circles. Suffice to say the timing of the book’s release is unfortunate — especially for the Congress party — with five of the nine phases of Lok Sabha elections still to go, which will decide which parties win 432 crucial seats.

The release of the book caught the party off guard, divulging details about the workings of the UPA, with its ‘two centres of power,’ with the greater share of authority concentrated in the hands of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

The party may choose to wave off the contents of the book, but the claims come as no surprise — the whole nation has seen an economist of international repute all but gagged, and struggling to find the autonomy to run a government. Two important politicians from the state could have insider information on what really happened. One of them is NCP chief Sharad Pawar, cabinet colleague of Dr Singh. The other is CM Prithviraj Chavan, who, till November 2010, was minister of state in the prime minister’s office. Pawar, who is usually relentless and ruthless in his criticism of his peers, has on many occasions praised Singh’s methods of running a coalition government.

Baru’s book reveals that Singh used to rely more on the counsel of Pawar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, than his own party colleagues. He found trusted friends in both of them, it implies. This little tidbit makes it clear why Pawar so unambiguously aired his reservations on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.

Prithviraj Chavan can shed light on how he used to coordinate between the Congress chief and the PM on crucial matters, his negotiating skills winning him the trust of both.

It’s notable that after his exit from the PMO, things went downhill between the two, with the PM virtually going silent on important issues concerning national welfare. Whatever turns this twisted road of national politics takes, the decline of the mighty Manhmohan is like a cautionary tale for all members of the erudite intellectual elite, who may harbour dreams of a political career.

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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