That the Union government has been an unmitigated disaster since the UPA got re-elected in 2009 is a point that is not even debated of late; it is accepted as a truism. It has thrown the reform agenda out of the window, and the three-year-long policy paralysis in New Delhi is something that is going to bite us hard, if it hasn’t already.

Since its return, the UPA-2, as it is known, has been embroiled in scam after scam, and the veneer of honesty the former finance minister brought to the office of Prime Minister in 2004 was quickly erased as he presided over what is easily the most corrupt administration in the history of Independent India.

What is worse, the Centre has tried to silence public dissent by banning and blocking websites, blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. It is as if we are living in the dystopian world imagined by George Orwell in 1984.

Which is why the adverse yet childish reaction of the government — the official messenger being an off-the-record Prime Minister’s Office — to an analytical piece in The Washington Post on how Manmohan Singh has become a “tragic figure”, should not come as a surprise. The PMO even sent out off-the-record briefings to news channels saying the Post has apologised for the negative article on the Prime Minister. Nothing was further from the truth. The Washington Post, in fact, flatly denied any apology.

Indeed, why should the Post apologise for something that is common knowledge across the nation? If anything, the US newspaper should be faulted for being mild. The Indian press has been far more aggressive in its dissection of the government.

That the PMO even thought of sending this “The Washington Post has apologised” message across sets a dangerous precedent. Of course, the media houses that reported it without even bothering to call the Post are equally at fault; but that is an academic debate.

The crux of the matter is that the PMO has lowered the dignity of the august position. Let there be no debate about that.