Manmohan Singh, the economist credited with playing a key role in ushering in economic reforms in the 1990s, demits office of Prime Minister after 10 years, leaving a mixed legacy of achievements and failures.
Scams that surfaced during UPA II may have undone the good work of the 81-year-old leader, who had achieved the distinction of serving two tenures as Prime Minister, the longest after the first PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s 17 years in office.
After tomorrow’s counting of votes in the Lok Sabha elections in which the UPA is projected by exit polls to suffer a defeat, Singh will tender his resignation on Saturday.
A celebrated economist, he entered politics at the height of the 1991 economic crisis when late Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao inducted him into the government as Finance Minister. Together they lifted the economy out of the balance of payments crisis and then paved the way for the economic reforms on which no successive government has looked back.
A technocrat who had occupied various positions including as Reserve Bank Governor and Secretary General of the South-South Commission, he had earned a name for probity and integrity that made him the automatic choice for Sonia Gandhi when she decided to renounced the post of Prime Minister.
Taking over as Prime Minister from the NDA government in the aftermath of the 2002 post-Godhra riots and a surcharged communal atmosphere, Singh’s administration brought in a sense of balance in the situation.
Not withstanding pulls and pressures from allies, especially the Left parties, Singh displayed considerable determination to go ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal and to end the sanctions regime against India even unmindful of the threats to his government.
A renowned economist, his governments also delivered a robust 8.5 per cent GDP growth for most of his tenure but the scams–2G, CWG and Coal block allocations–and the resultant policy paralysis of the government stymied his performance.
UPA II could never come out of the rut, a point the corporates initially and the BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi exploited to the hilt to attack the government. Ironically, a man whose personal honesty has never been questioned came to preside over a government that was marked by a series of scams.
The perceived dual power centre in the Congress in the form of power vesting with party chief Sonia Gandhi also came to haunt him with critics attacking him as the weakest PrimeMinister the country has had.
Books by his former media adviser Sanjaya Baru and some other bureaucrats have only helped to highlight such a charge. However, Singh has maintained that history will be kinder
to him than the current assessments. Singh’s rise to the top highlights what a man with a humble background can achieve in Indian democracy.
He was the first Sikh to become the Prime Minister after an Italian Christian–Sonia Gandhi–nominated him to the post to which he was sworn in by a Muslim President A P J Abdul Kalam.
Born on September 26, continued…