Why Manmohan Singh is seen as a poor performer?
That a professional economist can’t make a successful Prime Minister is proved beyond doubt by the three years of Manmohan Singh government. The report to the people put out by the UPA chairperson ,Sonia Gandhi, is proof enough.
There will be few takers for this report and its various claims. The BJP has simultaneously come out with its own criticisms, though there would be reservations about the BJP’s claims also. The middle ground would be somewhat more in keeping with the growing scepticism about the ability of the government to deliver on even what it promises in the next two years before it faces the next general elections.
Surely, it looks the current political trends might prevail. The UPA might meet with an inglorious exit and the next permutations and combinations is anybody’s guess.
Mr.Kuldip Nayar, the veteran journalist, is a crusader of sorts, besides being an experienced journalist and an advocate of many a cause. One of his causes is the reform of Rajya Sabha, the upper house, of which he was such a distinguished member. In a recent column he had once again raised the issue of the legitimacy of the Prime Minister seeking a third term from Assam, the state he represents but not a state where he is or was a domicile. As per the original Constitutional scheme of things, the Rajya Sabha was a council of states and it was the states that are represented by members and this means that ordinarily the member must be a resident of the state concerned. In this case, after the Supreme Court of V.K. Sabharwal as chief justice bench ruled that the domicile qualification doesn’t matter any more. As Nayar puts it with its telling irony that Manmohan Singh present3ed the Supreme Court the ration card, electricity bill plus his rent receipt, all made up and contrived to meet the legal qualifications under the relevant law. This was obviously a blatant misuse of authority, misuse of the spirit of the Constitution and a whole series of illegitimate act.
Not only that. Mr.Nayar now argues with so much persuasion that it is desirable and in fact, it is the convention that the Prime Minister must ordinarily be from the Lok Sabha, house of the people, and directly elected. The point is that the incumbent PM is reluctant or fearful of facing the people directly. Though it is possible these days to find a safe constituency, preferably from Punjab itself, his home state. So, for whatever are the reasons, the PM has now been “elected” from Assam and thus legitimises his election and authority. But if the PM, as widely perceived as a scholar and economic expert, he must have had the sensitivity to set himself as a role model of sorts. He must have sought for legitimacy for the office that was thrust upon him ,in circumstances, all of a sudden by forces that would always remain a mystery. May be ,one day, the future historians or some tehelka type investigators might come out with some dramatic disclosures. Whatever that outcome might be, for the present ,Manmohan Singh sits pretty in his chair, with some satisfaction and even complacency for three long years in a coalition government that is increasingly being manipulated by allies to serve their own narrow ends. The way the ally, the DMK is dictating terms, often humiliating to the dignity of the Central government authority in many vital decisions-making. The PM is pressurised to lose all his sense of decorum due to his high office. He is made to come out of a full Planning Commission meeting, just to receive a letter from the DMK chief, just to inform the PM about a new minister to be inducted into the government. Usually, even the President of India and Sonia Gandhi, the party boss are given time to talk to the PM. In this case, a state chief minister does the opposite of denying the Prime Minister even the minimum courtesies of fixing up prior appointment. Just the emissary barges in and the PM is forced to come out and receive him!
Also, the PM’s performance in the three years in office is now being questioned, openly, by his own colleagues. Mr.Mani Shankar Aiyar, a relatively junior politician with a minor portfolio, has now openly talks of the government’s policies for the aam adhmi failing to get the endorsement of the very same aam adhmi in the next general elections! And the greater irony is that no one dares to contradict him. It is widely reported that the three year completion won’t see any celebrations, though the government would spend a few crores on DAVP ads!
Is it fair to pin he blame totally on the PM?
Yes, he has to bear the cross. After all, it is he who chooses to do things in his own way and the country is not prepared to listen to him in the way he wants. That is the trouble. Of course, equally the blame has to be shared by Sonia Gandhi too. It was she who hoisted Singh, a totally unpolitical person yet with undoubted political ambitions of his own to shoulder the responsibility/.
For a very long time Singh enjoyed the goodwill of people, also the international community given his reputation as an economist, an economic expert and an economic administrator. But is he a great economist? One can’t say. There have been many economists who served the government before him. Men like V.K.R.V.Rao and I.G.Patel and a whole lot in the Planning Commission, the Reserve Bank and even in the government. But none of them ever came to occupy the Prime Minister’s job. Now, it can be argued that the Prime Minister’s job is not a professional economist’s speciality. Singh will go down in history as the most ineffective head of the government and as such he would be soon forgotten as well on that count.
There is a common impression that Singh is a great economist. No, he is not. He is an average as other economists were. He might have carefully cultivated his image over a long period of time. Those who are in the know of things, the insiders, know well enough that Singh was never a thinker in the ranks of Amartya Sen or Jagadish Bhagwathi, two of his pals for a long time. In fact, I know for sure that Singh never did come into close contact with Sen even when Sen was making waves in his undergraduate days and after as a fellow of Trinity College and afterwards. Singh had never, as far as I know, written any economic research paper or published any other notable column or piece of writing setting out his basic beliefs. This was never his forte. It was P.N.Haksar, the Communist-turned advisor to Indira Gandhi who recruited Singh into the PMO office and Singh was assigned the task of writing some piece to justify Haksar’s way of authoritarian government. So, one doesn’t know whether Singh ever believed in Marxism or Nehruvian Socialism or Liberalism or any other basic Indian political beliefs. Certainly, he was never a Gandhian economist. Nor we can be sure of his current political beliefs.
It is right to say he doesn’t believe in any clear economic philosophy. His talk of economic reforms is no different from the phrase being used by several of his colleagues like P.Chidambaram or Kamal Nath or for that matter Mr.Mani Shankar Aiyar.
So, Aiyar’s criticism that the present UPA has become a tool of crony capitalism and the PM’s immediate reponse with the broad endorsement, as Aiyar claims, could be true in several of the current economic decision-making processes.
We can see the latest economic growth phases are all driven ,more by the big players like the Tatas, Reliance, Bharti Mittal and even the Jet and Decca Aviation in their respective areas, than by any conscious policy decisions with any vision of sorts. Where private players are absent, as in agriculture and in the various services sectors, rural development etc, there is no growth, in fact a crisis is being built up.