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Man in the muddle

Man in the muddle

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 13, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/175744/Man-in-the-muddle.html

PM has reduced himself to a caricature

It is a truism that every election campaign is a revelation and teaches the country something new about itself and its politicians. In that sense, the 2009 Lok Sabha campaign was Mr Manmohan Singh's coming out moment. Long seen and protected as a gentle, apolitical administrator, he showed himself to be a consummate politician. What began as a routine exchange between the Prime Minister and the man who was the Opposition alliance's candidate for his job became, thanks to Mr Singh's astonishing and acerbic assertions, an abusive affair. Mr Singh made personal remarks against Mr LK Advani that were beyond mere political criticism. Next began the thawing of the Left-Manmohan relationship. The Prime Minister who had so strongly attacked the Communists even at the beginning of the campaign soon began seeing the writing on the wall. By this past week, he was talking of doing business with the Left once more, recalling the UPA-Left 'secular' partnership with fondness and calling West Bengal's Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee a 'friend'. On Monday, May 11, Mr Singh went to new lengths of absurdity. He said the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom was "tragic" but the "issue cannot be kept alive forever". In the same breath, he was dismissive of Mr Narendra Modi and said he had "doubts" about Mr Nitish Kumar's secularism because he had shaken hands with the Gujarat Chief Minister. The Prime Minister believes all talk of 1984 is "politically motivated" but refuses to assess the contrived drama over 2002 using the same yardstick. There is an impolite word for such behaviour: Hypocrisy.

Actually, Mr Singh's plight is a tragic drama, unfolding before India's eyes. He has served various Governments well, in a variety of roles, beginning with advising Mrs Indira Gandhi on economic issues. His loyalty to the Congress, especially the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, is unimpeachable. If he had campaigned quietly and understatedly and prepared to bow out with grace, he would have won admirers. Instead, he has reduced himself to a pathetic figure. Despite it being obvious that the Congress is going to lose seats, he is desperate for another shot at the Prime Minister's post. He has allowed his party leadership to expose him to ridicule by meekly allowing it to compare him with Mahatma Gandhi and give him the sobriquet of 'Sher-e-Punjab'. He has even started believing in this faux aggressive persona by using strong but ultimately meaningless language. This is not the Manmohan Singh India respected even when it disagreed with him. This is not the Manmohan Singh who began the election campaign. What have the past three months done to him? They have reduced a technocrat to a caricature. That is a pity.

When the votes are counted at the end of this week, Mr Singh will suddenly find himself alone, bereft of his political sponsors, of the media gaggle hanging on for that one quote, of bureaucrats bowing meekly in his presence. He will become the Congress's most expendable individual, as it seeks to carve a political future. Whether it compromises with the Left and finds a more acceptable Prime Minister, whether it backs a 'Third Front' Government or whether it sits in Opposition, the Congress will have no role for Mr Singh. The man in the bubble will suddenly be buffeted by the winds of hard reality. Why did he have to do this to himself?


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