• Tuesday, October 21, 2014

End of Manmohan era

Architect of India's economic reform leaving after 10yrs

Pallab Bhattacharya, New Delhi
Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh

The ten-year tenure of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government comes to an end today when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls on President Pranab Mukherjee and submits resignation.
"The prime minister sought time and the president has given time for 12:45pm tomorrow," Rashtrapati Bhaban Press Secretary Venu Rajamony said yesterday.
Ahead of the meeting, official sources said 81-year-old Singh will hold a customary meeting of his cabinet.
Manmohan Singh, the architect of India's economic reforms in early 1990s, today steps down as India's 13th prime minister after a decade in the top post leaving a mixed legacy of achievements and failures.
If the Indo-US civil nuclear deal was the high point in India's foreign policy during his tenure from May 2004 when he became the PM for the first time, the failure to deliver on getting the India-Bangladesh land boundary accord ratified in parliament and signing the Teesta water-sharing agreement are the failures.
On the economic front, Manmohan, a leading economist, delivered an 8.5 percent economic growth for much of his tenure as PM.
However, mounting inflation averaging almost ten percent for almost a decade, halving of economic growth from nine to 4.5 percent, rising food and fuel prices and a string of scams in the last four years took the sheen out of Singh's performance as a prime minister.  
Scams in allocation of telecom spectrum and coal mines allocation and holding of Commonwealth Games here in 2010 and a policy paralysis of his government stymied 81-year-old Singh's performance as PM.
It is ironic that a man whose personal integrity has never been questioned came to preside over a government that was hit by a series of scams.
However, he has achieved the distinction of serving two continuous full five-year terms as prime minister, becoming the longest-serving PM outside the Nehru-Gandhi family. India's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru had occupied the post for 17 years.
Manmohan entered politics at the peak of India's balance of payment crisis in 1991 when late prime minister PV Narasimha Rao inducted him into the government as finance minister.
Together they lifted the economy out of the crisis and then paved the way for the economic reforms on which no successive government has looked back.
A technocrat who had occupied various positions, including as Reserve Bank governor and secretary general of South-South Commission, he had earned a name for probity and integrity that made him the automatic choice for Sonia Gandhi when she decided not to stake her claim to the post of Prime Minister in May, 2004.
Notwithstanding pulls and pressures of coalition politics, especially of Left parties, Manmohan displayed considerable determination to go ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal and to end the sanctions regime against India even at the risk of survival of his government.
One wished if he could display the same firmness when it came to land boundary agreement and Teesta deal.
The perceived dual power centre in Congress in the form of power vesting with party chief Sonia Gandhi also came to haunt him with critics attacking him as the weakest prime minister India has had, a PM who was looking the other way when the scams were taking place and doing precious little to stem the rot.
A tell-all book by Manmohan's former media adviser Sanjaya Baru only helped reinforce such a perception. However, he himself maintained history will be kinder to him than the contemporary media.

 

Published: 12:02 am Saturday, May 17, 2014

Last modified: 7:44 pm Saturday, May 17, 2014

TAGS: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh President Pranab Mukherjee Congress-led United Progressive Alliance India's economic

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