Of rats and other survivors

First,let me give credit to the friend (she knows who she is) who gave me the idea to write a piece on ‘turncoats’.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: January 9, 2014 9:39 pm

The first column of a new year should have an element of good cheer,a hint of levity,so I cannot make the Prime Minister’s dreary press conference the core of this piece. At the same time,no responsible political columnist can totally ignore so rare an occurrence as a press conference by Dr Manmohan Singh,so I shall bring it in tangentially. In any case,it relates to the subject I planned to write about before he chose to speak to the media for only the third time in a decade of deep silences. Why did he choose this particular cold winter’s day? What did he expect to achieve? I do not know.

What I do know is that,if he thought that by giving his government a good report and pronouncing that history would judge him kindly,he might lessen the disenchantment and defeatism that envelops the Congress,he was wrong. The rats of Lutyens Delhi,dear Prime Minister,are already beginning to desert the ship. Among those quietly building bridges with the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party are high officials,low officials,big businessmen and small,high-minded editors,lowly reporters and even socialites and shopkeepers. That is how it always has been in this city that has been ruled by conquerors,kings and more recently by the most powerful democratically elected Dynasty in history.

First,let me give credit to the friend (she knows who she is) who gave me the idea to write a piece on ‘turncoats’. It was at the inaugural of a BJP chief minister and behind us sat an array of famously obsequious Congress sycophants. What were they doing at a BJP gathering in which the loudest cheers were for the hated Mr Narendra Modi? These people,who for years have used ‘secularism’ as their reason for being devotees of the Dynasty and for despising the BJP,had overnight changed their political stripes. Why? For the simple reason that they have noticed that the Congress has virtually conceded defeat. In private conversations and public,senior Congress leaders admit that the only hope they have of stopping Modi is Arvind Kejriwal. When senior leaders start speaking this way,it does not take long for rats and other survivors to get the message.

Could it be because of this that the Prime Minister chose this moment to have a press conference? Has the smell of rotting floorboards and the scurrying of fleeing rats reached the rarefied heights he inhabits? Could that be why he began his press conference by announcing that India was now ‘set for better times’? It was not the only deception he tried to effect. He conceded that there had been an economic slowdown but blamed this on ‘global factors’.

Later,in answer to a question,he was a little more truthful and admitted that there had been domestic factors like the slowness with which projects were cleared by the Ministry of Environment,that virtually reinvented the licence raj. What he did not admit was that his environment ministers acted against his wishes because they believed they were acting on the wishes of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. What he did not admit was that foreign investors fled when they noticed that his government had introduced such things as retrospective taxes and midstream changes in policy.

There were other attempts at deception. He admitted that prices had become uncontrollable in recent months but again refused to blame his policies,choosing instead to blame it on higher consumption patterns in rural India. His government had given rural India a new deal,he said,that had resulted in wages going up and ‘real consumption per capita increasing four times faster’.

As a former fan of Dr Manmohan Singh,what saddened me about his press conference was his praise for what had been ‘achieved’ during his tenure in education and healthcare. Before saying this,he would have done well to visit any government school in a village and compare it with the number of private ‘English medium’ schools that now compete with it. Before praising his ‘rural health mission’,he would have done well to go to any rural government hospital and compare its services with the hundreds of private clinics and hospitals that have burgeoned because public health services remain so abysmal.

The enduring impression for me of his press conference was that the good doctor appears finally to have become a real politician. It is his bad luck that this has happened too late. He has graciously announced that he will not be seeking a third term in office without noticing that this is not really an option since there are very few indications that he can lead his party to victory once more. This is why the sound of scurrying rats is heard so clearly these days in Lutyens Delhi.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @tavleen_singh

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    Aniket Navalkar
    Jan 5, 2014 at 1:39 am
    Totally agree with article . Winston Churchil said "History will b kind to me because I intend to write it". Sadly for Dr Singh history will not b kind and he wud soon b history for his nonleadership.
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      Atma
      Jan 10, 2014 at 9:02 am
      Man Mohan Singh was never elected by People of india but appointed by Sonia hi so as a true loyal to lady, her worked as Parivar Mantri instaed of Pradhan Mantri.
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        Abhinav Saral
        Jan 5, 2014 at 8:47 am
        Great piece by Ms Singh . On another thought ...At times it feels sad to realise that after 66 years of independence we have left with just two choices for PM or may be three now , third looking more like a hype; the former two till Christmas of 2013 were looking like ''bas yahi option is desh ne hume diya hai''. But the good thing is our gchildren will surely have better & more choices because the change has started happening..
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          Never Again
          Jan 5, 2014 at 8:35 pm
          True.
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            Jai Hind
            Jan 6, 2014 at 2:24 am
            super point
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              Jagannath Shetty
              Jan 5, 2014 at 6:58 am
              Like the respected writer, I am one of the admirers of Shree Man Mohan Singh but I have to confess that he has disappointed me and India. I don't know why some journalists did not ask a simple question to MMS. They should have asked why congress is not backing leaders like Chidambaram, Scindia, Jayanthi Natarajan, Kapil Sibal for PM's position. Why they are backing Rahul who has no experience as a Minister so far forget about Prime Minister. Rahum may be a good personal but bot a leader at all. He fumbles even to put forward his own pionate ideas. Emergence of AAP party is a good sign indeed but it is too early for them to have a national ambition of forming a government. In the max they can aim at getting some good number of seats say 60 to 75. AAP should be a clear alternative to REGIONAL PARTIES in the 2014 elections. REGIONAL PARTIES generally are corruipt going by the standard of DMK/SP/RJD/BSP. No regional parties should be voted during 2014. I think if 3 parties fight the 2014 election it will be a good contest. AAP will be King Maker and a good supervisor of the government
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                KRA
                Jan 5, 2014 at 8:55 pm
                As always you are brilliant, the analyst of analysts!The turncoats are roaches not rats, the former shun light and thrive in darkness. Rats are ok, roaches are deable!Regarding the Dr., he would have been better off fading away quietly rather than portraying himself as a hapless, hopeless, clueless, I-tried-but-not-my-fault, I-feel-sorry-for-myself image. It was a disastrous PR effort, his handlers should have been fired for this pitiful performance.
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                  maheshjagga
                  Jan 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm
                  The rats are not deserting. Many of them have been advised to jump the the new ship of Arvind Kejriwal. Many columnists who till yesterday singing praises of great & visionary leadership of Rahul hi are suddenly talking about how Arvind Kejriwal would change India!Congress hopes that by confusing enough people & dividing the anti Congress vote with help of AK, they can restrict BJP to less than 200. In the resultant scenario, they would be able to support a khichdi govt and they can remain stakeholders.But I believe they have not yet understood the situation completely yet.
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                    Magadi Gopal
                    Jan 10, 2014 at 8:12 am
                    As always, an excellent column.
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                      Deepak Mehta
                      Jan 5, 2014 at 4:56 am
                      ''That is how it always has been in this city that has been ruled by conquerors, kings and more recently by the most powerful democratically elected Dynasty in history.''So very true;you could have added courtiers,sycophants and wannabes...sadly of all parties but mostly of the Nehru/hi dynasty...spawned by another courtier,Motilal.
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                        Moshe the
                        Jan 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm
                        The only choice betwen this nation IS NOT between the Worldbank and Walmart (Congress) and Ambani to Adani (BJP) Its a NEW GOVERNANCE that crony capitalist journos just dont seem to see
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                          Nan59
                          Jan 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm
                          Why does IE recycle old articles with yesterday's date? This one, and the National Interest, were published last week.
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                            R R
                            Jan 6, 2014 at 1:36 am
                            Excellent column by Tavleen Singh on inept Manmohan Singh who instead of being a PM, behaved as a personal secretary of Sonia hi. He brought enormous shame to the chair of PM & to India by making it most corrupt country in the world. Equally disturbing is his bad mouthing of most honest chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi & contempt of Supreme Court SIT which gave a clean chit to Modi. Equally laughable is MMS's recommendation of Rahul has credentials? Rahul hi has just one qualification to be Congress's PM candidate - 'hi' in his name. To be PM, he has NONE!
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                              RKJ
                              Jan 5, 2014 at 8:55 am
                              MMS - An economist and honest prime minister but when he counted his failure on three points - rising price, unemployment and failure on checking the corruption all of these are dents to his image - failure as an economist and honest prime minister. History will judge him on these points only, Why foreign investment ran away, why rupee nose dived are points to be added to his list top of which rubbing salt to injury by proclaiming eradicatio0n of poverty Rs 32 per day enough and one who earns this much is not a poor.
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                                Sachin Khandelwal
                                Jan 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm
                                Elections are now due in April May. The sycophant hi dynasty has ensured India remain poor and the Hindus divided to prolong its power play. Arvind Kejriwal is being used or should I say morphed into a weapon to deny Modi's BJP lead Hindu nationalists an outright victory. The double talk of AAP of action against the congress corrupt which was their chief election plank should act as an eye opener. Their leaders now smile and even applaud the Congress liners like the PM in waiting will remain in waiting in a veiled ref to Modi, whereas AAP should be by now deep in filling charge sheets against the corrupt ex Congress ministers and officials as per their main poll plank. By giving freebies Arvind Kejriwal has "proved" his bonafide as great CM to be PM whereas the 3 time Gujarat CM who has achieved development milestones remains in their eyes an "untouchable" chaiwala. BJP supporters should now try to be more focused in spreading the message of Modi for PM to defeat this AAP Congress anti development combo.
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                                  kalvin
                                  Jan 11, 2014 at 2:54 pm
                                  Maam i also remember once in your article, you wrote If Sonia chose not to join politics, we Indian will never let her sleep(something like that and more). during my graduation, i remember our Prof. and Lecturer taught us theory X and Y, a good leader and strong boss, but never been erted which to follow. and Mrs Singh thanks for teaching the both side of politics.
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                                    kalvin
                                    Jan 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm
                                    Maam your articles, rocks! as always, and perhaps the w dictionary words are in your head, I am glad to learn proper use of new vocabulary which comes embedded in your every articles, thanks.
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                                      kalvin
                                      Jan 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm
                                      i find reading the w article in one page more comfortable, just my opinion.
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                                        Sunil Kokrady
                                        Jan 6, 2014 at 2:13 am
                                        What he had clearly said was that people, media have no right to judge his performance. Let Only paid historians judge him.
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                                          Ragunathan
                                          Jan 5, 2014 at 1:34 am
                                          Good one Madam
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                                            v .mohanan
                                            Jan 5, 2014 at 1:09 pm
                                            You have hit the core of issue, Ms. Singhand there was no need for so much of writing like the others did. Thank u
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