Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dr Man Mohan Singh’s Predicament: The Boatman’s Logic and Contemporary Politics

Human mind can’t survive without answers.  It needs answers to all questions.  If it can’t find the answer from the immediate surroundings, it resorts to Babas, Religious texts, books, Google or any other source.  If and when even such attempts fail, then the mind imagines the answer.  What began as mere imaginations, to resolve questions with no obvious answers, have often ended up being gospel truths later- God being the best example! 

The contemporary Indian politics consist of many unanswered questions to the common people of this country.   People, true to their habit, had turned up to Babas and Annas for getting some answer.  Some of them have already lost it; and I things others will soon follow suit, as they surely do not have the answers either.

The persons at the helm of affairs, who were supposed to answer the questions of we, the people, remained silent for some reason.   For those who are not willing to follow Babas and Annas because they are convinced that the answers they provide can only cause larger questions and not clear answers, I am undertaking the task of imagination.

Let me imagine the answers to the foremost of question of our times- what went wrong with this Government and its Prime Minister?

Dr Man Mohan Singh was the perfect answer to all those who complained about the lack of quality and qualifications in politicians, to manage our affairs.  In terms of qualifications or experience we could not have got a better person to join politics, that too as a lateral entry at the very top.  He entered politics as the Finance Minister of India, at a very critical juncture. 

He became instrumental in opening up Indian economy and thereby waking up the sleeping elephant.  He had his critics, especially among the extreme right and the left. Left called him an agent of IMF and Right called him a destroyer of Swadeshi.   I still remember one really nasty cartoon that appeared in one of the Malayalam Newspapers, that outraged me at that time:  The cartoon was about one Khalistani terrorist telling another, “We are fools... what we couldn’t achieve with guns, Man Mohan Singh achieved with a mere pen!”   No need to explain what the cartoon meant- Man Mohan Singh had destroyed Indian economy through his liberalisation!

Whatever the criticisms, the positive results of his actions were there for all to see.  For the first time since independence, India and its people found a new sense of purpose and took on the world.  Ending of the infamous License-Quota Raj succeeded in awakening the entrepreneurial spirit of Indian people.  Rest is history.

When Congress came back to power in the form of UPA and Sonia Gandhi decided not to stake claim for the post of Prime Minister, there was no second choice- It was Man Mohan Singh all the way.   Under his stewardship, the UPA- I, as it came to be known subsequently, apart from carrying on the liberalisation agenda in a robust manner undertook various measures that ensured inclusion of the common man “Aam Admi” into India’s growth story.  It all culminated in his spirited fight with Left and the Right in a matter that he considered strategically important for India- the nuclear deal – and his eventual success.

The acceptance of Man Mohan Singh among people was by then complete, so much so that a verbal dual in which Mr LK Advani disparaged him personally, was considered as one of the reasons for UPA-II’s ascendance to power in spite of all odds.  UPA-II started out with great promise and expectations.  Man Mohan Singh was not a political light weight anymore- having won the election and having defeated his detractors including BJP and Left.

However, soon something went wrong. 

We all know corruption is an all pervasive aspect of life in India.  None of us fights corruption, except in blaming politicians for not doing so.  We will not give up even little comforts; instead just bribe our way through.  But, with couple of high profile spectacular corruption cases, the Nation and its media went into a belligerent mood.  Suddenly we all became very conscious of the menace called corruption (though we still do not agree to give up encouraging corruption, when it comes to our own personal needs- we call it compulsions!) and Babas and Annas started their fight against corruption.

The political scene really became hot.  There were challenges to the very core of Indian Constitutional systems from the members of Civil Society, in an unprecedented manner.  Government’s reactions vacillated between from appeasing and retaliating.  Government was blamed for both highhandedness and capitulation, before the motley groups claiming to be representatives of Civil Society.

All through this chaos, Man Mohan Singh kept his silence.  In the rare occasions when he chose to speak, it raised more questions than answering the existing ones.  Same was the position with two other most important leaders of his party, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.  All three of them continued with their majestic silence, while the people of the country were being confused further and further with no answers coming to assuage their feelings. 

All the (once) able fire fighters of Congress Party were also not up to the task, for a change.  The spokespersons were seen more as fixers than leaders, by the general public.  Government’s credibility eroded day by day; sometimes due to inaction and other times due to inappropriate actions. 

For the first time, people started raising fingers directly at Man Mohan Singh’s credibility.  Not only his personal integrity was being called to question but also the very standing of the Office of Prime Minister was being denigrated as never before.  The tone and tenor of the letter written by Anna Hazare to Prime Minister (on Delhi Police imposing certain conditions for his Fast unto Death) is an affront to the entire nation.  Yet surprisingly it was not this insult to the Office of Prime Minister of this great country that got media attention but the supposedly terse reply that Man Mohan Singh gave to Anna Hazare! 

Today, Man Mohan Singh’s value has eroded to such an extent that all and sundry can call him names, without even attracting any response from Government or Congress Party. Compare it with the response of Congress Party to any adverse statement on Rahul Gandhi and you will know the difference.

Why these things are happening?  Why Congress is letting to fritter away their biggest brand, outside the family name of Gandhi?  We do not get any answers from anyone- making us to indulge in imagining things.  

The Congress Party has the best resources in the country at their disposal and it will not be a big task for them to set things right, including the image of Man Mohan Singh. But somehow, there seems to be a reluctance to do this; only half hearted efforts, that reminds me of a story and an old saying from Malayalam.

The story is of a boatman.  This boatman used to take people across the river, throughout his life. He being a very bad tempered person, never used to take the boat closer to the bank, always forcing his passengers to get down in knee deep water.  People used to curse him for this. 

When the boatman was about to die, he called his son and told him, “My son, you know how people curse me for making them get down in knee deep water.  When you become the boatman after me, I want you to make them speak well of me, so that I will get admitted into heaven”.  His Son agreed and not much later, the boatman passed away.

Son took over as the boatman.  People were happy that the wily old man had passed away.  But to their shock, the son stopped the boat further away from the river bank.  They were forced to get down in water that was almost at their hip level.  They had no choice but to use the boat to cross the river.  They all cursed the son and said, “Oh... what a bad man... His father used to be such a nice man; he used to take us at least up to the knee deep water”. 

The young man heard these curses and felt very happy that he could keep his promise to father!

In the current case, it seems to be a reversal of the old story.  The new boatman seems to be asking the existing boatman to force the passengers to get down in neck deep water, so that when he takes charge as the new boatman people will be relieved, even if he can only take them to knee deep level. 

Now the old saying- this saying is about the trade tactics of brokers in cattle trade.  They will come and look at the cow and then start enumerating all the negatives, of the cow so that the owner will feel happy to just get rid of that useless cow, at whatever price on offer!  The literal translation of the saying is, “Make it bad, to make our own” i.e., run down something to make that thing one’s own at a much cheaper value.

I know my readers must have already understood what I am imagining here.  If not, look at the latest opinion polls conducted by multiple TV Channels, wherein most of the findings suggest a mood change in favour of Rahul Gandhi.  The level of acceptance for Man Mohan Singh seems to be very close to single digits, as per these surveys, though I would only attach as much credibility to these polls as I give to the so called referendums of Anna and his Group.    Read these survey results with Mr Digvijay Singh’s statement, of some days back, and you will see the old boatman is being forced to make it really difficult for people of India so that they will willingly and happily accept their new boatman!

The way things are going right now, 2014 election is anybody’s guess.  Except for the discredited opposition, nothing is going in favour of Congress and UPA-II.  The only chance for Congress is a complete overhaul- total disconnect with the present regime, before elections.  Till now, any talk of changing the PM would not have been received with much acceptance.  Man Mohan Singh would have become a martyr, which would not augur well for the new incumbent.  Little more discredit to Man Mohan Singh, little more Anna’rchy in nation’s affairs and some more opinion polls by the Media- then no one would cry for the fallen guy. 

The promise of future, the icon for youth, would give deliverance to the people of India from the discredited rule of Man Mohan Singh.  Dr Singh, who was gifted the position of PM in the first place, will oblige, like the son of the Boatman in the story, to make his successor look good.  Politics is well known for short memories.  The very people who received maximum benefits from Man Mohan Singh’s policy changes, the burgeoning middle class of India, will be the first ones to celebrate his removal and the coronation of the rightful owner of the throne.  


  1. Well written, well timed.
    the points which i liked d best is :-

    1.public memory is indeed short lived.

    2.the congress trying reverse psychology and the cattle trader mentality

    3.how the middle class is back stabbing.

    4. and somehow , everyone feels that rahul is the rightful owner of the throne, despite the fact that we hate monarchy!

    60 + years after independence we still have a long way to go!

  2. I appreciate this blog of yours on Dr.MMS our PM..Well written..
    I too have great respect and reverence for Shri Man Mohan Singh..the first time I read about his qualifications (It was a Long List) I was Spell bound and felt very Proud of having him as our PM..But as days and years passed by..things started becoming bad to worse,looking at the mindboggling number of scams being unearthed one after another..I and almost all citizens of our country started blaming our PM for keeping his mouth shut being a Lame duck and not acting tough.. Many called him a remote control of Soniaji..who acts and works according to her wish and commands..

    I must say.. I too felt very sad and dejected at the state of affairs in our Country..scams working into crores of rupees happening right under his nose..and yet he kept mum..The Supreme Court had to ask Our Respected PM to speak out and give an explanation for so many scams taking place under his regime..

    Agreed.. He is a great person, soft spoken but He definately needs to act tough on his erring ministers and cabinet members..He cannot just keep his mum forever..He promises everytime on getting tough and taking action on corrupt ppl.. He did say that yesterday too that drastic steps will be taken to eradicate Corruption..I am sure He wants to..but Somehow He is not delivering .. some things are pulling him back and he is not acting the way A Prime Minister of a Country should..

    I held him in high esteem and have lots of respect for him..also feel bad and sad when he is criticized to no extent..being called all sorts of names..yet as you said no one from Congress objects to it..

    Still there is a chance..Let Our Respectable PM act TOUGH..Let him speak out and Act on his words.. Whom is he Fearing ? He is top Most Leader of our Country..We want our Country to Progress and be an Example to all other Nations .We want to progresas under his Guidance and Administration..

    We are Still Hopeful and Counting on HIS LEADERSHIP

    Well Written !!!

  3. Very well written Jay. I just hope MMS comes out and silences his critics, his address is required big time to stop more Anna's getting hype and mileage which they do not deserve.

  4. Very well written. From a practical viewpoint I don't consider Rahul Gandhi ascending to the throne with Sonia around. She would certainly not want to create an alternate power center.

  5. :) I smiled and it broadened into a grin post the boatman story! The penny dropped!:) And how!:)

    Sigh! politics is all about usage and exploitation, no sacred cows here...

    A good man's integrity was used to advantge by the Dynasty, who find themselves (today) in equal s***creek...ironical?:)

    They say na, what you dish out, comes back with interest! And it is indeed coming to bite the CON in their ass! I am glad abt it. Becos u do not mess with a person with Integrity!!

    Loved reading this post:)