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How does Manmohan Singh's honesty help us?

It’s now decades since we first heard of the honesty of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Every time the Congress has been besmirched with an accusation of corruption, we are reminded that the PM is an honest man, that he could not have known about the corrupt act.

So the PM is honest and knows nothing about the 2G scam, about the cash-for-votes scam, about the CWG scam, and so on, just to name a few of the more recent scams.

And, of course, Manmohan Singh is an economist, receiving his doctorate from the University of Oxford for his thesis “India’s export performance, 1951–1960, export prospects and policy implications.”

So we have a prime minister who is honest and is an accomplished, well-read economist.

In theory, that’s just what a country like India needed. In a land famed for its corruption, and a land grappling with the needs and demands of a 120 crore population, there couldn’t be a more perfect combination.

Or could there?

The PM’s honesty does not solve the issues that the country grapples with today. PTI

A positive adjective like ‘honest’ gets tarnished and becomes irrelevant if accompanied by other adjectives such as inefficient, indecisive, introverted, under-confident, uninspiring and subservient.

Sadly, these are all adjectives which, increasingly, come to mind when describing India’s prime minister. Once clubbed with ‘honest’, the power and meaning of the adjective diminishes each passing day, as new examples surface of corruption, of inefficiency or of a lack of control over the handling of a problem.

Honesty and knowledge of economics cease to have meaning when, despite repeated assurances from the PM or his finance minister that they will manage the problem, inflation spirals out of control or new cases of corruption in his government are uncovered every few months and colleagues from his ministry and party go to jail.

The PM’s honesty does not solve the issues that the country grapples with today; it does nothing to address corruption, it does nothing to improve the quality of life of the poor, it does not address the growing demand-supply gap in power, it doesn’t improve India’s precarious food security status, it doesn’t help address the issue of Maoist insurgency, it doesn’t reduce the shortage in urban housing and it certainly doesn’t improve the poor quality of life most Indians experience..

Dr Singh’s honesty, to have real meaning, must result in a benefit for Indians. In Dr Singh’s case, his honesty is of no use to Indians at large – the country needs the honesty to become powerful by association with efficiency, decisiveness, confident, inspiring and independent. That’s when benefits to citizens will accrue.

Perhaps many Indians would be happier with a less honest, more efficient prime minister?


Updated Date: Nov 11, 2011 13:19 PM

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