No, this piece of writing is not about the famous Bollywood actor, Akshay Kumar or his movie, but about the real life Singh of India who is currently ruling the country. Yes, you guessed it right. It is about our Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.
Flashback to 2004 general elections. When Sonia Gandhi announced her decision to entrust the post of prime ministership to the economist, Dr Singh, the whole country was shocked. Even Manmohan Singh himself was seen to be a reluctant politician. However, change was bound to happen.
Coming to 2009 general elections. Not only had Dr Singh silenced his critics who thought he was not fit for the prime minister’s post, he also fought the elections in his name unlike the last time. Much to the despair of BJP, he won and became the PM yet again. This time he was welcomed by the country with open arms.
Dr Manmohan Singh has an impeccable record of excelling in everything that he does. As a bureaucrat he became the Finance Secretary; as an academician he became the Chairman of UGC; as an economist he became the Governor of RBI; and as a politician he became the Prime Minister. But, he did not stop there. He has worked diligently at proving his critics wrong. Here is a look at some of his recent comments and actions that have changed his image for the better.
One common accusation against the PM is that he does not speak very often. It is a very common scene in Parliament that even when the Members of Parliament are shouting at each other, the PM sits quietly, keeping his calm. Many opposition leaders have time and again asked, “Why doesn’t the PM speak?” Well, he does but only when he thinks there is a need. And when he does, people sit up and take notice. Inspite of opposition from various corners including many from his own party, the PM took a firm stand in favour of the nuclear deal. He took a personal interest in the deal and made it a success.
A few days before the Commonwealth Games 2010 were scheduled to begin, Dr Singh pulled up Union Sports Minister MS Gill and Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy during a Cabinet meeting. He even stopped Gill from making a presentation and asked him to behave like a Sports Minister.
During a press conference a few months back, Dr Singh silenced those who thought he would not last his full term in office the second time. He told them categorically that he had no intentions of retiring anytime soon, resting all rumours about Rahul Gandhi replacing him mid-term.
Manmohan Singh in his recent address to leading editors said that development should not get hampered due to environmental concerns (vis-à-vis the Vedanta project in Orissa). He took this stand inspite of knowing the fact that Sonia Gandhi thinks otherwise, as was proven a couple of days later when she said that progress could not be carried out at the cost of environment.
The best and the most recent example of Manmohan Singh coming of age was during the Obamas visit to India. With reference to the growing concerns over the fate of outsourcing industry in India and the protectionist measures being adopted by the US, Dr Singh surprised everyone when he did not mince words in saying that India is not in the business of stealing jobs. Most Indians could not believe their ears and all were pleasantly surprised. This was a very strong message indeed.
Another strong message from the PM was for Pakistan. He lashed out at Pakistan, telling the world that India is not afraid of the K-word and that talks and terror cannot go hand in hand.
Politics is not just about winning elections, forging alliances, signing deals and making speeches. The most significant trait of a politician is how one manages relationships, the softer side.
Dr Singh broke protocol by personally receiving the Obamas at the airport. In another instance, when former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga was on a personal visit to the PM’s residence, Dr Singh invited BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman to join them for lunch. He invited her because he appreciated her role in TV debates and told her that she brought content to the debates. This left Nirmala Sitharaman speechless along with many other BJP politicians.
This is not the first time that Dr Singh has pleasantly surprised many with his out-of-box thinking and humane approach. A few years ago, when Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf’s family came visiting India, Dr Singh made sure that all arrangements were made for their comfortable visit. Musharraf’s family even had lunch with Dr Singh. This was deeply appreciated by Musharraf himself.
The best part about Dr Singh is the amount of respectability he has earned internationally in such a short span of time. Barack Obama has time and again praised Dr Singh and so have many other international leaders like former International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General and Egyptian presidential challenger, Mohamed ElBaradei. Even Pervez Musharraf has a deep regard for the PM and has been vocal about it. This just goes to show how Dr Singh has helped earn respect and recognition for India internationally as well. This fact has been substantiated by the Newsweek magazine that has given the top spot to Dr Singh in its list of ten world leaders and has described him as ‘the leader other leaders love’.
There are many more such instances that prove that our man-of-a-few-words has come a long way. At a time when his silence over the A Raja issue is being questioned, it is important to look at the broader picture as well. He has put to rest many of his criticisms and will continue doing so with his sheer dedication and focus. He has silenced many who used to say that he is a puppet PM at the hands of Sonia Gandhi; he has silenced those who think he cannot take a stand; he has silenced those who think he is not fit to be a PM. Hopefully, he shall keep taking all challenges head on and prove to his countrymen that he deserves every bit of success that he has seen. Thus, it would be no exaggeration to say that Singh is King indeed.
(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer.)