They may have crossed swords on several occasions over a variety of issues, but senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley yesterday praised Manmohan Singh, saying the prime minister's personal integrity was always above board.
He also termed him as a “wise man”, saying with an element of scholarship, he was always be well read and well prepared on any subject that he dealt with.
While Manmohan is the leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley is the leader of the opposition in the Upper House. He said as curtains draw to a close after a ten-year-long period of providing leadership to the government, the prime minister "goes out with dignity and grace".
"He will remain an elder statesman and a man of credibility to guide the nation. Only if he had stood up at the right time and disagreed he would have been regarded with still a greater honour," Jaitley wrote on his blog.
He said Manmohan became a prime minister on account of certain circumstances which compelled Congress president Sonia Gandhi to withdraw her name from the reckoning.
"He was literally a prime minister announced by Sonia ji. He had to function within that limitation.”
He said the outgoing PM has two strong qualities. "Firstly, whenever you discussed a serious subject with the Prime Minister he came out as a man of scholarship."
Manmohan's words, Jaitley said, were measured and he would reflect before making a comment. "Secondly, his personal integrity was always above board. With an element of scholarship he was always be well read and well prepared on any subject that he dealt with."
"Unquestionably Dr Manmohan Singh was a very good finance minister. He got a lot of support from his prime minister, PV Narasimha Rao, for initiating the economic reforms in 1991," the BJP leader wrote.
Jaitley said he had recently suggested to the prime minister that he would be interested in reading his memoirs, particularly those relating to the period 1991-96.
"The footprints he left behind as a finance minister during this period will be remembered for a long time," he said.
Meanwhile, Manmohan Singh yesterday personally bid goodbye to his personal staff in his New Delhi South Block office while thanking them for their assistance.
He met 110 personal staff members and expressed his gratitude towards them, sources said.
Manmohan, who became the prime minister in 2004, met them in the PMO where he was also greeted by 400 peripheral staff members who gave him a thunderous applause in the corridors of the South Block, they said.
The outgoing prime minister will hold his last Cabinet meeting on May 17, the day he resigns.
He is expected to address the nation on the same day, the sources said.