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Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh retires from politics after 33 years


Two times PM, the renowned Economist was a self-made man with strong integrity

By Harihar Swarup

The Congress Parliamentary Party was meeting in Central Hall after 2004 Lok Sabha poll results, to elect a leader who will be Prime Minister. The Congress had secured majority under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and all expectations were that she will be PM. Newly elected Congress MPs were raising slogans that she should accept the top post. There were pressure from the BJP that a foreigner should not become PM. Sushma Swaraj, BJP leader, had even threatened that would shave her head if Sonia Gandhi becomes PM. Amidst pressure that she should accept the highest executive post of the land, Sonia Gandhi sprang a surprise; She proposed the name of Dr. Manmohan Singh, an economist, who was Finance Minister in P V Narasimha's government. Dr Singh thus became PM, whose government lasted for ten years.

Dr Manmohan Singh, 91, retired from early this month, after the expiry of his Rajya Sabha term; he remained a member of the upper house for 33 years. He contested for the Lok Sabha only once from South Delhi but got defeated. Thereafter, he never contested for Lok Sabha polls. It was suspected at that time that some senior Congress leaders had worked behind the scenes to ensure his defeat in a bid to prevent him acquiring the image of a popularly elected leader. After once bitten, twice shy Singh never attempted to run for the Lok Sabha—not taking risk even when he was PM from 2004 to 2014.

Interestingly, as he retired from the Rajya Sabha, Sonia Gandhi enters the Upper House for the first time as a Congress MP from Rajasthan—the state Singh represented for last six years, having been elected to the House earlier from Assam.

I have known Dr. Singh very well, having travelled with him to many countries. I last met him a year back in his new abode which was allotted to him as ex Prime Minister. We talked many things including resignation of his second press officer, Harish Khare (the first was Sanjay Baru, who later wrote the book “the Accidental Prime Minister”.) Khare had good equation with PM and quit the post of Media advisor in a huff after the then Principal Secretary, a 10, Janpath nominee, brought an unknown journalist as media advisor. Dr Singh told me he never wanted Khare to leave and prepared to issue an official order that only Khare will report to him. During Khare's term in PMO, the Prime Minister released my book “Power Profiles”.

In 2014, towards the end of his second term, Dr. Singh had said, “History will be kinder to me than media”. This was at a time when he was getting attacked for being “a weak Prime Minister” with Sonia Gandhi acknowledged as the power behind the throne during the two terms of premiership.

In September 2013, Rahul Gandhi gatecrashed at a press conference being held at the press club. He tore into pieces an ordinance cleared by PM (Dr. Singh). He dubbed the ordinance as “complete nonsense”. The ordinance had overturned the Supreme Court's ruling that MPs would immediately lose their membership if they were sentenced to a prison term of at least two years. It was seen as Dr Singh's weakest moment as the PM. Many felt he should have resigned. He did not. What is not known so widely is that Rahul had apologized to Dr. Singh afterwards.

Singh's rise from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of power is the story of a self-made man; that such a rise can take place in is due to the power of incredible democracy, however faltering it may be. Born in Gah, a backward village in west (now in Pakistan), which did not have any school, facilities or electricity, he used to walk miles to an Urdu medium school — and would study under kerosene lamp at night. He attributed his rise to the “system of scholarship” for poor students that existed at the time.

(IPA Service)





The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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