Ritesh K Srivastava
Dr Manmohan Singh has got the popular mandate and the authority to decide the fate of a billion plus population for the second time, but the debate over his individual contribution towards Congress’ victory in the recent polls has not ended.
Now that the democratically elected Congress-led UPA government has come back for a second tenure at the Centre, a question that will be relevant again is whether Dr Manmohan Singh is a strong leader or not. Will he emerge as a stronger PM this time than his previous stint or will he continue to be perceived as someone who plays second fiddle to Sonia Gandhi.
We are talking about a PM who ended our country’s decades of isolation in the P5 club by securing a successful nuke deal with the US despite severe resistance , a man who was able to maintain a good economic growth rate despite global meltdown, especially at a time when most developed economies fell flat.
Although he silenced his detractors by securing a second term, still, a section of our society feels that he is a ‘weak PM’ or “someone working at the instances of 10 Janpath”.
Chiefly due to BJP’s campaign, people in general think that our PM continues to work under the shadow of the UPA chairperson, who is a formidable force behind the government’s every initiative and policy.
UPA government’s pro-people policies, youth icon Rahul Gandhi’s charismatic personality and Dr Manmohan Singh’s honest and clean image were all attributed to be the major factors which led to Congress-led alliance’s stunning victory over arch-rival NDA led by the BJP.
A section of our society feels that it was mainly due to Rahul Gandhi’s magnetic influence on voters, especially the youth, and Gandhi family’s collective appeal coinciding with BJP’s negative campaign, that led to the victory of the Grand Old Party than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s individual leadership.
However, there is no denying the fact that the honest and clean image of our soft-spoken Prime Minister, who is often regarded as the “father of modern Indian economy”, also worked wonders for the party.
As the legend goes - well begun is half done- Dr Manmohan Singh seems to have won half of the battle and by refraining from taking pot shots at the opposition for its failed “weak PM campaign” and calling for a “new beginning” in relations with the opposition, he has actually won a million hearts.
I still remember the first day of the first session of the 15th Lok Sabha, when Dr Singh exuded confidence by saying, “I hope there will be a ‘new beginning’ and that the Parliament will be allowed to run smoothly - that dialogue, discussion and reason will prevail in our proceedings. We will give all due respect to the opposition in discharging their responsibilities”, he added.
PM Manmohan’s goodwill gesture probably compelled the Leader of Opposition, LK Advani, to forget the bitterness of the past and second the PM’s optimism that the 15th Lok Sabha will mark a “new beginning for government-opposition relations”.
In yet another indicator of Dr Manmohan’s growing influence in the party, the Congress high command gave him a free will to handpick his favourites to join his government or even leave the old birds, who have failed to perform in the previous government.
The UPA government has demonstrated its seriousness in providing an accountable government by announcing a 100-day action plan meant to address the immediate problems.
It is not surprising that today, Dr Manmohan has emerged as one of the world’s top political leaders besides US President Barrack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao following his impressive speech at the recently concluded G-20 summit.
It could be a matter of pride for us that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown, finds Dr Singh a great leader not only for India but of the world. Dr Singh represents a country where democracy and democratic institutions still continue to thrive despite all negativities.
It is extremely heart warming to hear US President Obama describing Dr Manmohan Singh as wise and intelligent leader.
Some might criticise Congress for indulging in vote bank politics by appointing a Dalit, ‘Meira Kumar’, as first woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha, but no one can deny that it was only the Congress party, which had the courage to do so. It was also the same party to appoint a woman as the President of India for the first time.
Although, the UPA government has begun its second term with a bang, all eyes will be on Dr Singh’s approach towards most pressing problems being faced by the country.
Our Prime Minister’s ability to change the economic outlook by maintaining a high growth rate and insulating the economy from the global recession, nailing Pak-sponsored terrorism and illegal immigration, improving the internal security and the intelligence network, food security, national ID-cards scheme, women’s empowerment etc will strengthen the poll prospects of the Congress in the future.
The government’s ability in extracting maximum benefits from its proximity with the White House, its diplomatic approach towards political development in neighbouring states and the success of its foreign policy aimed at establishing India as a ‘big brother’ in the Indian sub-continent will all be deciding factors for the Congress party.
At the international level too, Dr Manmohan Singh is likely to face pressure to sign NPT, farm negotiations in WTO and capping of carbon emission norms.
Besides, government’s commitment of bringing back illegal money stashed in foreign banks will be another issue that will be under the opposition’s scanner.
In view of the Gandhi family’s traditional domination of the Congress party, it would be difficult for the Prime Minister to escape obvious comparisons, but the fact that he has vast experience, great vision and ability to translate India into a technology superpower can not be overlooked.