Thursday, 24 January 2019

Was Manmohan Singh really as benign, defenseless as The Accidental Prime Minister shows?

Minsters with serious allegations of corruption came together to form a government and he presided over it. Our borders were appallingly permeable during his 10 years, acts of terror were commonplace. We yearned a strong action, an exemplary leadership from the man this country had voted for as PM. Oh, my bad! This country didn’t pick him, in fact, he was the only Prime Minister of India to reach that prestigious office without ever winning any Lok Sabha contest, writes Avantika D on Yahoo News. Read on: 

Not one with much proclivity for politics, I was totally put off by the very opening of the trailer of ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’.

“Mujhe toh Doctor saab Bhishm jaise lagte hain…”

Hah!!! I laughed out. Seriously? Were they seriously intending to liken a man from over five thousand years ago to Manmohan Singh? With the little familiarity I have of the grand epic that is the Mahabharata, I understand, the great warrior was bound by a self-imposed unconditional commitment to the throne of Hasthinapur. Bhism had pledged his undying loyalties to the dynasty. He had his father’s happiness in mind. So what interests were Dr. Singh driven by? Also, Bhism was the Commander-in-Chief of a kingdom ruled by a dynasty, Dr Manmohan Singh, on the other hand, was the Prime Minister of a democracy. His loyalties, unlike Bhishma, belonged to the state and its subjects.

The movie tools a broad brush and paints the former Prime Minister white; depicts him as this na├»ve and docile representative of his political party, who was stripped off of choices. Good content for a movie to boost Dr. Singh’s independent reputation, may incite sympathy in many hearts for him also, but how real is this claim after all?

Dr. Manmohan Singh entered politics, declaring himself a resident of Assam. A case was lodged against him as he had never lived in Assam and had no residential address from the state. The case was struck down when he later produced relevant affidavits, and it is incumbent upon us to believe the documents and concur with the verdict. Only when the courts give Narendra Modi a clean chit in the 2002 riots case or to the Rafale dealings, we are to thumb our nose at the court and keep running with the Murder Modi and Chor Chowkidar slogans.

Manmohan Singh vs The Accidental Prime Minister

This reminds me, in 2007, while Shri Manmohan Singh was helming the Indian government, not only did we lose the case of Quattrocchi’s extradition but were asked to pay his legal expenses also. The closing remarks of the judge was, “India did not even present proper legal documents”. What an awful illustration of international humiliation!

Manmohan Singh was our Finance Minister when the infamous Harshad Mehta scam blew up exposing the porosity of our banking system and brought the infestation of the Bombay Stock exchange to light. What’s worst? Singh’s initial response to the scam was kind of defensive. It was also in his presence, that the entire political drama surrounding the JMM bribery was played in front of us. For the first time in Indian history a former PM, Rao, was sentenced to three years of imprisonment. Yes, he was subsequently cleared of charges, and as always, we unequivocally trusted the courts as the verdict suited ‘some people’.

As PM, Dr. Singh, joined by his cabinet, had approved a bill, that put a limit on the retirement age of AIIMS Directors. This entire episode stemmed from the sole agenda of squaring out a personal vendetta and have AIIMS Director Venugopal removed. Despite the Apex Court’s ruling against the termination, the tirade against Venugopal continued – much like the ongoing Rafale Scam harangue, because we don’t care about the court’s verdict when it doesn’t fit the narrative, you see.

In 2011, enough and more evidences corroborated his cognizance of the Palmolein Case against P. J Thomas. Dr. Singh, however, had always maintained that he had not a hint of such cases. Even the Office of Profit controversy, which consequently hijacked the Parliament till a bill exempting 46 posts from the purview of the Office of Profit, thereby ‘amending’ the 1959 Act, had sprung up during Manmohan Singh’s tenure as a spotless Prime Minister.

It’s not that Dr. Singh is incapable of voicing out his views. Despite being part of the decision-making body, he criticized the Vajpayee government for releasing terrorists in exchange of 176 citizens. But we never got to know his opinions on the exchange of several dreaded terrorists for Rubaiya Sayeed in 1989. We know he went on to form a coalition government with her father, Mufti Mohd Sayeed in later years.

Minsters with serious allegations of corruption came together to form a government and he presided over it. Our borders were appallingly permeable during his 10 years, acts of terror were commonplace. We yearned a strong action, an exemplary leadership from the man this country had voted for as PM. Oh, my bad! This country didn’t pick him, in fact, he was the only Prime Minister of India to reach that prestigious office without ever winning any Lok Sabha contest.

The economist from Cambridge has had a political career spanning four decades. Won’t stoop as low as to call him a rubber stamp; he was my Prime Minister of 10 years after all. But as Prime Minister, he was more of a recompense extended by the INC, a consolation prize aimed at mitigating the gory memories of the 1984 anti-sikh riots.

Returning to, ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’:  Propoganda by the BJP? I wonder what would the BJP gain by cleaning up the image of Dr. Singh anyway?

And as far as the “Mujhe toh Doctor saab Bhishm jaise lagte hain…” is concerned, even Bhishm was not exculpated; he had to suffer a bed of arrows for 6 months for his absolute surrender to the Kaurav dynasty, yeh to phir bhi humare doctor saab hain.

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