The tragedy of Manmohan: He's become an insult magnet

Manmohan Singh’s silence, evidently, has failed to defend his ‘honour’. He might have chosen not to answer more than just uncomfortable questions that have seized his reputation as a man of remarkable intellectual integrity and hence put the lid back on the rather crowded Pandora’s Box of contemporary Indian politics.  His silence has translated into timidity, even in international political narratives.

After  Time magazine audaciously splashed his picture on its cover and declared him an ‘underachiever’ and the Independent declared him Sonia Gandhi’s ‘poodle’, now The Washington Post seems to have followed suit and labelled him a ‘tragic figure’ in the present Indian government.

Manmohan Singh is being panned by the international media.

Though the writer, Simon Denyer, seems to have taken his cue from what renowned Indian political historian Ramachandra Guha opines about Singh, another bordering-on derogatory comment on India’s Prime Minister, probably points a finger at how the fast-crumbling political discipline of a country labeled ‘the world’s largest democracy’, has gotten the world hooked.

The Washington Post article looks back at what has been written about Singh in several publications in the past and seems to agree with Ramachandra Guha. Guha says that Singh’s decline from an intelligent, erudite bureaucrat, rooted in his middle-class upbringing and the artist ofIndia’s most defining economic reforms to a silent, willing pawn in Congress’ politics, is nothing less than ‘tragic’. The Washington Post quotes Guha as saying that Singh was ‘handicapped’ by ‘timidity, complacency and intellectual dishonesty’.

It refers to the economic decline of the country under the man who was once credited with salvaging it from a breakdown, the fall of the rupee and the rampant corruption in his cabinet which he presumably turned a blind eye to. Singh’s ‘silence’, which is now being dismissed as a refusal to own up to his backbone, has also given way to popular jokes – a few of which are mentioned in the article.

“One joke cited a dentist urging the seated prime minister, “At least in my clinic, please open your mouth.”

The article also harps on why Sonia Gandhi must have chosen Singh as the Prime Ministerial candidate:

In him she saw not only the perfect figure­head for her government but also a man of unquestioning loyalty, party insiders say, someone she could both trust and control… From the start, it was clear that Sonia Gandhi held the real reins of power. The Gandhi family has ruled India for most of its post-independence history and enjoys an almost cult-like status within the Congress party. Sonia’s word was destined to remain law.

The article also quotes ‘insiders’ as saying that the Congress was unwilling to credit Singh with UPA’s re-election in 2009 – it interfered with plans of handing of the party’s reins to heir-in-long-waiting Rahul Gandhi. Which possibly could be one of the reasons why Singh’s wings were clipped – something he probably didn't protest.

Guha, concludes, “At his time of life, it is not as though he is going to get a new burst of energy. Things are horribly out of control and can only get worse for him, for his party and for his government.” It’s a tragedy well-scripted by the Congress, one is tempted to say.

Read the full Washington Post article here.