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Is Manmohan Singh changing?

Updated: Mar 30, 2013, 11:25 AM IST

It is quite likely that the majority, if asked whether our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is changing, would disagree. Nevertheless, to the discerning eye, the change, however small it may be, would be apparent.

Lately, the Prime Minster has started talking. Really? Before you rubbish this observation, let me clarify that he has started talking more than his previous self. Well, we can call it the low-base effect! He has recently taken pot-shots at his arch-rival LK Advani, saying that when the ‘iron man’ was pitted against the ‘lamb’, everybody knows who won. In fact, if one were to look closely, his body language has also changed. There is more energy, more vigour, and more confidence now. If you haven’t noticed already, try doing so fast, lest it disappears yet again.

Manmohan Singh showed a streak of assertiveness in his first term as the Prime Minister when he became ready to stake his government for the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal. Alas, that was just a flash in the pan. However, this characteristic is raising its head again. Manmohan took an aggressive stand against Pakistani troops’ killing of two Indian soldiers. In fact, the recent slew of economic reforms can be partially credited to him because if left to Sonia Gandhi and her flatterers, most of the economic reforms would have been stalled.

So, this brings us to the logical question of ‘why’ this change is happening, that too at the fag-end of his prime ministership? The first answer that comes to my mind is that he could be eyeing a third term. However, this thought goes away as soon as it comes in. This scenario is quite unlikely because the lady who calls the shots may not consider him given his age, his current unpopularity, his growing assertiveness, and of course, for making room for the heir-apparent, Rahul Gandhi.

Having nullified the first argument, let us move to the other possible reasons. Another reason could be that he wants to leave a good impression before his term ends. He may have realized that the best way to achieve this objective is by concentrating on his core-strength – economic reforms – the very reforms that made him what he is today. Probably, that is why we are seeing the government come up with a slew of economic reforms including contentious ones like FDI in retail. Another thought that could possibly be crossing his mind is that now is the time he has nothing to lose. He probably knows that he cannot and may not even want to stand for the third term, so he might as well do all that he has been wanting to do, without any associated risks.

While all the aforementioned reasons are only conjecture, one reason that can be given with certainty is that he has learnt on-the-job, and is more confident now than earlier. Nine years is a long time, but at least he has learnt some lessons.

Sadly, irrespective of what the reasons are for the change, these may be too little, too late.

(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer)