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Who do you defend — Dr Manmohan Singh or Washington Post bashing Indian PM?
In an article "India’s ‘silent’ prime minister becomes a tragic figure", the Washington Post has described Manmohan Singh as "a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government". While acknowledging that he helped set India on the path to modernity, prosperity and power, the article said he is in "danger of going down in history as a failure".
The Indian government has reacted strongly to the Post article. We solicited reactions to the controversy from the Indian ambassadors to the US and the UN, the Consul General in New York, and several community leaders. Those who responded till press time are featured below. We invite our readers to send in their brief responses on the issue to [email protected]
Tarring chief architect of India’s new economy
The Washington Post article denigrating the lifetime achievements of a great leader such as Dr. Manmohan Singh lacks objectivity, is biased and with skewed perspective.
Dr. Singh was the chief architect of India’s new economy. He has taken a centrally planned, inward looking, public sector centered economy and reversed its direction. This dramatic change paints his picture as a sort of revolutionary. If India has entered the 21st century, the current PM has a lot to do with it.
Corruption is not limited to any political party. It is endemic and cuts across all spheres and every cadre. Congress party has shown great courage in dealing with corruption even at the highest places, be it 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games or the Adarsha Society scam, where the officials involved either were thrown out of office or are in jail or under investigation. The Right to Information Act (RTI) passed by the Congress-led government has become the catalyst in unearthing numerous cases for which Congress has gotten little credit. The BJP needs to look itself in the mirror, especially in Karnataka, and should realize that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others.
As for the economy, India is still growing at a rate that is the envy of the western world today. BJP and regional parties are also to blame in shooting down the FDI initiative by Dr. Manmohan Singh that sent a negative signal to the global investment community. BJP and its allies were trying to protect the middleman at the expense of the consumer.
Were mistakes made? Maybe. Once Dr. Singh said, ‘We must have the courage to accept our mistakes’. One rarely witnesses such a person in the political arena today, a person of bravery, integrity and character.
President, Indian National Overseas Congress (I), USA
Growing pains before greatness
India is a country beyond incredible – it is very old and very young, and is poised for a re-tryst with destiny given the unique combination of an awesome new President, Hon. Pranab Mukherjee, reminiscent of our own President George H.W. Bush’s unique length and breadth of government service, and the intellectual yet humble Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. India is poised for greatness the likes of which will leave many breathless, as it comes out of the maternity ward of internal conflict, similar to pressures from separation of powers, and better harness individual and national greatness.
Every country has growing pains, or worse, dealing with the world’s contractions thanks to financials wizards on Wall Street who continue to bet other people’s money on fantastical greedy schemes that are more outlaw than legal.
India’s growth rate today, over 6 percent, would be lusted after by most nations around the globe. Take a look at Greece, the birthplace of direct democracy. Indians learned at a DNA-level to adjust and survive over the centuries and with different forms of governance, but have unleashed their individual potentials with freedoms granted by a constitutional form of government created by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, heavily informed by the American core exceptionalism: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Supreme Court jurisprudence till 1950. The ballot box is now deeply Indian, as is democratic freedoms.
People the world over wish to do business with, or in, India. The fundamentals are strong and bright. Brightest is that the Indian Court is alive, vibrant, and trusted, and the Indian media worthy of being a Roman gladiator. The state of the Republic of India is strong, and its future even brighter.
On our recent trip to India, Ranju and I were honored to have an official one-on-one meeting with President Mukherjee in his Rectangular Office in Rashtrapati Bhavan for almost 45 minutes, and I discussed with him, given his unique presidency and India’s constitutional powers vested in the president, India’s re-tryst with destiny and achieving even more greatness for everyday Indian.
Two major reforms that ought to occur is for public financing of political campaigns, like in NYC, or regulating political contributions like the US does with unlimited and uncoordinated issue-speech a la Citizens United case, and registration and regulations of lobbyists. More sunshine is better in any democracy, given its disinfectant consequences.
India’s best days are clearly ahead and clearly visible, as she remains strong, free and independent much like her people.
Balanced critique of PM
Simon Denyer’s front-page story in the Washington Post’s Thursday on "India’s ‘silent’ Prime Minister…," is a balanced critique of Dr. Singh and the woes that his second term in office has witnessed. In particular Denyer has even-handedly catalogued aspects of Dr. Singh’s governance style that may have led to the slowdown in economic reforms and perhaps made him incapable of stemming high-visibility scams and grand corruption.
However, when Dr. Singh ultimately demits office history may remember him more as the architect of economic reforms in the early 1990s and as the man who braved the stormy seas of coalition politics to make the landmark India-US civil nuclear energy agreement a reality. We must also not forget that for all its faults, his government watched over an unprecedented period of rapid economic growth since 2004, during which time structural transformations have occurred that may have permanently changed the course of India’s development.
While Denyer hints at a possible future position for Rahul Gandhi in the PMO, and indeed some may wonder if the BJP and its allies may return to power, there is no indication at this time that any battle-ready political team is standing by to step into Dr. Singh’s large and well-worn shoes.
Washington correspondent of The Hindu
Conspiracy to replace Manmohan
I think this article is based on facts. Sonia Gandhi has fully used Dr Manmohan Singh’s meekness, ‘honesty’, economic expertise and loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty for her own advantage. This Prime Minister was used as a puppet to do everything she asked him to. Now he has outlived his utility for the dynasty. To divert public attention from the billion dollar scams, some cunning leaders close to the Gandhi family have planted these stories in Western media to save their skin and further undermine the PM’s credibility, and prepare the ground for Rahul Gandhi to take over from him.
President, Indian American Intellectuals Forum
He can still correct course
The scams and corruption cases cannot be overlooked, but Dr Manmohan Singh is a well respected leader in the world. His intentions to do the country right are genuine and well-intended. But the consequences may have led in a different direction unfortunately.
It is still not too late to change the course of the country which he is capable of doing. We want our motherland to prosper and do well and we need to support Dr Singh in dire times at this juncture.
–Dr Sampat Shivangi
National President, Indian American Forum for Political Education
Scams broke on Singh’s watch
For liberalizing Indian economy with his structural reforms and turning the country into an economic giant, Dr. Manmohan Singh could have gone down in history as a national hero; alas, the rampant corruption on his watch totally tarnished his image.
–Varinder K. Bhalla