Rekha accompanied her husband to Delhi nine years back in search of job. Like many other Indians, the poor domestic worker from Bihar is not interested in politics, nor does she understand its nittygrities. During a casual conversation she said, “these days, all I hear about on radio and television is corruption, scam and fraud.” She recalled the name of former minister A.Raja. “I had heard that the ‘Sardarji’ running our country was a good man, but he has turned out to be the same old kind of politician” she adds. She says she had lots of hope from this ‘Sardarji’ known for his ‘honesty’, with an image quite unlike typical Indian politicians. “We hoped that the situation of people like us would improve. We thought we wouldn’t have to bribe government officials for getting our work done”. But nothing has changed, she complains.
This is by and large the public perception towards the man who was hailed a ‘hero’ when he won the office for the second time, being the only one after Jawaharlal Nehru to accomplish the achievement. Man Mohan Singh, the longest serving Prime Minister of the independent India, was always credited for the economic reforms he introduced as finance minister and later for the good governance after he first stepped in the prime minister’s shoe, in 2004. His economic reforms paved the way for the unprecedented flow of foreign investments in India and the country gained a nearly two digit economic growth. What garnered more appreciation was his squeaky clean image, his honesty and 'softness’ which many people doubted could work in politics then.
Seven years down the line, the doubts of those few people have turned into a reality. Singh has come under big criticism for incompetence and inability to handle issues. It all started last year when one by one, corruption cases against ministers in his cabinet and government officials started to surface. It all started with the failure to take any actions against A.Raja in the 2G spectrum case. It was reported that he was aware of the shady deals but still did not take any steps to stop them. Soon, an avalanche of scams followed; Common Wealth Games, Adarsh and Radiagate to name a few. From government officials and ministers to even court justices, many were found to be involved in one scam or the other. What made the PM a culprit in the eyes of many was his decision to appoint PJ Thomas, an official facing corruption case, as the Central Vigilance Commissioner. Many also blamed him for failing to tackle the escalating Maoist problem.
Last month, the Prime Minister decided to break his silence and speaking to a select journalists over live television at his residence 7, Race Course Road, blamed ‘coalition politics’ for the country’s current mess. He said that he personally condemned corruption but he was “helpless” in many matters. He assured that the government would bring the wrongdoers to book.
Few were satisfied with his TV live show. Many who had expected the PM to announce new plans and actions to tackle the country’s growing problems were disappointed. As a matter of fact, the conference turned out to be an act of self- defence. Since then, people have further started doubting whether Singh is really the right man to hold the top post. What is the use of his honesty and softness if it doesn’t lead to good governance, is the question people are asking now. Political observers feel that projecting himself as an utterly helpless politician does not behove the office he holds. The fact that Singh hardly interacts with media and has not done a single extensive interview in seven years has been his big disadvantage. The TV press show came too late to control the damage to his image. Senior BJP leader L.K Adjani has often referred to Singh as the most incompetent Prime Minister of all time. The Supreme Court’ censuring of some of Singh’s decisions including his failure to probe the 2G scam has added salt to the wounds. It had ordered that the PM-appointed Central Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas should quit.
Defenders of Singh argue that he just been a victim of politics of conspiracy and that he deserves chance to clean up the mess. Quipped a blogger, “if every politician starts resigning after every scandal, the country will be leaderless”. Another adds, “Singh is indeed the cleanest politician around and the opposition cannot put up a better replacement.”
‘The lonely man at the top’ as he is being famously referred to these days, has indeed a lot to prove in the coming days. His clean image, modesty and softness are not enough to guide India to the road of a super power to the right direction. He definitely needs to be more ruthless and commanding than what he is today. That is the only way to winning the hearts and the minds of the one billion people.