It would be a mistake to think that Manmohan Singh did the best he could. Politicians usually do not. When Baru once sent an SMS to the editors saying the MNREGA was a birthday gift from Manmohan Singh to the people, he was severely reprimanded by Singh. The Congress wanted to maintain that this was Rahul Gandhi’s idea. Sound economists have opposed public work projects for centuries calling it Sisyphism, but Singh was not opposed to that idea. But he wanted to minimize the costs and often reminded his allies that money does not grow on trees. Manmohan Singh was against Arjun Singh’s plan to implement reservations in higher educational institutions, though he was never too expressive about it. Curiously enough, Manmohan Singh claimed credit for the loan waivers issued to farmers, though most economists consider it another dole scheme that would harm the economy. The PMO has denounced Sanjaya Baru for writing this memoir, misusing his privilege. But that is unfair. Indian government servants rarely write memoirs. They probably want to believe that this is a mark of nobility, but this is often cowardice. Once you have proven your willingness to speak your mind, who will hire you?
Read my review in DNA.
Post Script: The heading was not written by me. What I meant was that it was good that Sanjaya Baru wrote this memoir, because government servants rarely do so. And with all his flaws, Manmohan Singh was a more economically informed Prime Minister than others. It was not an unqualified endorsement of both. I hate politicians as a class.
Babies are deeply idealistic about love, because their prospects of mating are quite low on the probability scale. The voters who mock Manmohan Singh for being a wimp are in the position of the babies who hold others to such highly scrupulous standards in romantic love. Many Indians would want to replace him with a strong, decisive leader, but at best, this means that they are spoilt babies.
The average Indian feels no compulsion to yield to the whims of Sonia Gandhi because she does not order them around. He feels no compulsion to not hold strong opinions, because it is virtually free. Not bound by such constraints, he longs to be a Rajah who would smash everything that would stand in the way of creating paradise on earth. But, the truth is that he is not a Rajah and is not likely to be a Rajah anytime soon. He does not have self-knowledge.
But, it is hard for the Prime Minister to have such fantasies. It is hard for him to “man up”, because he derives his power from Sonia Gandhi, and not from public opinion. There are obstacles to overcome, and these obstacles are real. He has to overcome the inertia of his allies and masters. This is especially true, because Manmohan Singh is an economist, and probably has more sensible views. The more sensible your views are, the less you can afford to be a chutzpahnick.
Read my column In Defense Of Manmohan Singh in DNA
If the admirers of democracy were honest, they would have rejoiced when a tea-seller becomes the Prime Minister. If they were consistent, they would have considered this the logical end result of democratic politics. But, they do not. The liberal intellectuals and journalists still treat Narendra Modi like a pariah. It is perhaps true, as they say, that Narendra Modi is a philistine whose understanding of the world is limited to his narrow experiences. But, they do not realise that the same tribute could be paid to almost any voter. Why is this considered a virtue in the voter- a sign of his incorruptibility – and a vice in Narendra Modi?
For liberal intellectuals, it is very tempting to blame Modi for the “politics of hatred”. But, is there any good reason to assume that the vast ethnic massacres, ethnic cleansing and forced sterilisations that underscored post-Independence India like a long trail of blood has nothing to do with the “politics of hatred”?
But then, it is worse than a waste of time to blame politicians. Without pandering to popular prejudices, they would not have been elected to power. But, the common man could have easily taken reasonable steps to avoid political ignorance. After all, he has nothing to lose. The liberal intellectuals themselves could have read an elementary text on Economics. They too have nothing to lose, except their friends and those positions of power and influence.
Read my column in DNA.