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Is Manmohan Singh an enigma?

Soutik Biswas | 10:50 UK time, Monday, 31 May 2010

Manmohan Singh at the press conferenceIs Manmohan Singh a riddle? A large section of India's media appears to think so. Mr Singh, who once described himself as an 'accidental politician' has been the country's prime minister for the past six years. Yet, the media seems to be still struggling to form a rounded opinion on the dour and unsmiling technocrat-turned politician. They all agree he is possibly the country's cleanest politician, and a reasonably capable administrator. Beyond that, they seem to find him a bit of an enigma.

So when Mr Singh made a rare appearance at a press conference last week, the papers and networks whinged loudly. One newspaper complained that the 90-minute, 55-question press conference was "neither heady or headline worthy." Mr Singh, the paper despaired, "is also not good at repartee. His straight answers don't make for exciting sound bites". Networks regretted that Mr Singh was incapable of serving up red hot headlines. "Why doesn't he at least be humorous, crack a few jokes?" an exasperated newsreader wondered.

The media still loves to describe Mr Singh as an "outsider" of sorts - this after he has spent decades with the Congress party - who treads warily and, almost always, acquiesces entirely to the Congress party president Sonia Gandhi. In the Delhi diarchy, journalists say, Ms Gandhi wields real power.

Yet, at the press conference, Mr Singh deftly negotiated awkward posers about squabbling cabinet colleagues and a controversial minister who is fighting corruption charges. He unequivocally squashed rumours of a mid-term retirement to pave the way for heir apparent Rahul Gandhi, and of reported differences with Ms Gandhi. At the same time, he said he would welcome Rahul Gandhi if he accepted a cabinet berth.

Indians have traditionally loved performing politicians - high on rhetoric and oozing earthy charisma - and Mr Singh is anything but. Still, he continues to enjoy high approval ratings despite a mixed performance. Does it mean that Indians have begun tiring of rhetoric-spewing, populist leaders and actually begun preferring a quiet, understated leader who possibly demonstrates a serious intent to perform? Is it a changing India which the networks haven't been able to come to terms with? Why do they appear to be looking for a prime minister who is a combination of a stand up comedian and a peddler of rhetoric and also adept at making major policy announcements at press conferences?

Mr Singh, most analysts agree, isn't a particularly inspiring leader. There was enough evidence of this at the press conference. His anodyne reactions to questions about, say, the rising threat from Maoists ('it is not correct to say we have underestimated the problem'), rising inflation ('containing inflation is the topmost priority') or allowing prosecution of Indian soldiers accused of killing villagers in Kashmir ('I will look into it') did not impress many. At the same time, Mr Singh was fairly eloquent when it came to issues close to his heart - his efforts to revive the India-Pakistan peace process, for example.Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh

All this leads his critics to say he lacks conviction, and remains a bureaucrat at heart. His low key, understated mien doesn't find favour with many who believe that Mr Singh could open up a little more, and share his vision for India with more clarity. As analyst Siddharth Varadarajan says, "Political parties cannot serve as vehicles for enlightened decision making, for raising the level of society's consciousness, if their leaders are going to shy away from taking a stand."

But isn't that a problem with India's Grand Old Party, the Congress itself? A year into its second term with a firmer majority, the party, most believe, is unable to chart out a vision for India. The government is a reflection of the party. So it has shied away from big ticket economic reforms - pension, insurance, labour laws, banking and retail - and concentrated on ploughing billions of dollars into a jobs-for-work programme in the countryside. It has pushed quotas for women in the parliament and state assemblies and is believed to be ready with some much-needed judicial reforms. But there is little "vision and energy", as a perceptive analyst wrote.

The analyst has found that Mr Singh's government made 25 promises to the people to be met in the first 100 days of the government. (One of them was making 20km of roads a day, and nothing even close to that is happening.) Over a year later, he found, only four had been met. All over the world governments make promises which they don't keep. But expectations have never been higher in India. And Mr Singh, with his bipartisan, moderating influence on governance and politics, will not be happy to be found wanting.


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  • 1. At 12:44pm on 31 May 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    Is Manmohan Singh an enigma?
    The BJP say he is weak, but he got another decisive election victory, a "massive mandate".
    Manmohan Singh: "It is nice to be a statesman, but in order to be a statesman, you first have to win elections."
    Manmoham Singh field of expertise is economics; in fact, Mr Singh rose to political prominence as India's finance minister in 1991, taking over as the country was literally circling the financial drain.
    Mr Singh slashed red-tape, simplified the system and removed meaningless, outdated controls creating an environment conducive to industry & business. The economy picked. Inflation deflated.
    Manmoham Singh took his Masters Degree at Cambridge University and his doctorate at Oxford. He was the Head of India's central bank and was a governor with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank. A consensus builder, he has found himself presiding over a coalition of sometimes bickering, potentially unruly regional coalitions.
    (Maybe The UK Coalition Government should have a sit down with Manmoham Singh who will not glib-talk, but who will seriously give a great gift: his heart-felt opinion.)
    Down to the 90-minute press conference – a rare event. Manmoham Singh is nots pontaneous; copies of the press statement have already been distributed. Thus Q & A is immedaite.
    His answers are straight-forward, like his political career.
    Tell me why journalists, having this excellent politician before them, would not be satisfied with Manmohan Singh?
    Why would they be seeking the "juicy one-liner from Singh”.
    Are politicians entertainers, comedians...or leaders? The United States has answered this last question in one way, India in another.
    Manmoham Singh will not opt for retirement soon; he knows there are tasks that he must carry out, such as an improved relationship with Pakistan. He speaks of this relationship, as he speaks of most topics - economically, financially. Singh states that he must establish mutual trust deficit. He must bridge the deficit.
    Singh: "India cannot realise its full development potential unless we have the best possible relations with our neighbours, and Pakistan happens to be the largest neighbour of ours.”.
    I know there is pressure for Rahul Gandhi (Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty) to take charge, bit he will not. He will b ide the right time.
    So is Manmohan Singh an enigma?
    Look at him. Listen to him. And you will find the man is transparent. His heart is pure. Manmohan Singh is an enigma only to those who prefer western-style entertainment, disguises, acting, pretense...

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  • 2. At 1:25pm on 31 May 2010, U14366952 wrote:

    Leader ,where is the Charisma?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Whatever be the opinion we have as Indians on our Prime Minister,no one can question his integrity.Our Prime Minister may not be an eloquent speaker,but we certainly see terse views from him,that make a huge impression.I respect him for his erudition.Party politics may not be his forte,yet he seems to have brought honesty and sincerity to his office.He certainly deserves credit for opening up India to the world with the reforms in early 90's.

    But is being highly educated,mild mannered and being affable sufficient for tackling the galactic problems,this country faces? Don't we deserve a leader who has a vision for the world's largest democracy? And even if he has a vision,can he make us buy it? Does he have the charisma?

    Leader, did you finally decide?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    It is not uncommon to get flummoxed by vagaries of the political landscape.It is not uncommon to commit a public gaffe.It is not uncommon to err sometimes and be the object of ridicule by other political adversaries, but it is common to be ASSERTIVE and FIRM on decisions.If being decisive and bold was innate at vanguard of leadership, probably this nation would have done better in the last 6 years under our Prime Minister.But sadly,The Government headed by our Prime Minister lacks the teeth to deal with any security/development issue in this country.I will focus on security issues:

    It staggers with every problem to defer the decision.It tries to placate China ,than creating a huge and well deserved diplomatic issue for the incursions by Chinese soldiers in Ladakh or Sikkim.As citizens,we are unsure if we have lost land to China in the last one year.

    It has not implemented police reforms after the Mumbai attacks.It has not raised the issue of attacks on Indian consulates in Afghanistan at International level to counter the smear campaign from Pakistan of Indian interference in Afghanistan.

    It has put the strategic cooperation with Israel under the umbra ,not seeing how much we could gain from counter terror coopertion.It deferred hanging terrorists like Afzal Guru due to minority votes which does not act as a deterrent a person from any religion,that commiting an act of terror will beget a condign penalty.

    And very importantly,It has no limpid strategy or view to fight the Maoists.We know how much usage of Airforce and the Army was debated, still NO FIRM DECISION reached.

    We don't see the Prime Minister talking about the Maoist train sabotage in Bengal to the people.At least it would reveal the gravity of failure in subduing the Maoists..Or may be,the party told him,it may wise to keep blaming state govt,for the collective failure,than engage in a slugfest over the credit of success.The latter approach is harder and requires decision making and execution.

    On other decisions,the PM has not proceeded swiftly on disinvestment.His Government has not implemented other promised economic reforms with pace.His government has not tackled inflation,neither does it have a holistic policy to tackle declining food production.Instead it seems to court public sector enterprises like Air India and its unions to pump in relief to squander public money.We have not seen huge infrastructure projects as per promises.We indeed saw the dealy in commonwealth games projects.

    His Government has not suceeded in resolving other political issues haunting the country.It has buried the issue of Telengana to avoid upheaval.It has ignored the plight of Tamils in Srilanka and the uproar from Indian Tamil expat community for earnest help question the human rights violations.It has not told Srilanka curtly that Srilankan administration by governance is not secular and evenhanded for equal opportunity to the Srilankan tamil people(who are indian in a way).May be Congress felt it was canny enough to send one minister to Srilanka during election time and defer the issue for good.It put off decision on Caste census(be it Yes or No) to avoid repercussions in the political landscape.It has no clear stand/strategy on the North eastern insurrections or Gorkhaland or Vidharbha.

    Critically,PM defers taking a stand on Kashmir.His government has not unequivocally told Pakistan that borders are forever non negotiable.And why does'nt the PM act tough on the hurriat and seperatist political factions in Kashmir to evince idea that KASHMIR is inseparable from India.He could have used a bait,that any talks on Kashmir will begin after L-e-T planners of Mumbai attacks are brought to justice.
    After tangential references to Maoism before,I come back to it..

    Leader,could you approve a Blitz on the Maoists?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    We do not see the Prime minister,unite the political fraternity to fight the maoists.There is no all party rendezvous to reach a unianimous decision to overwhelm the maoits in a blitz.Or probably a rendezvous would be more a opportune moment for platitudinous sermons from parties.

    Or do we really need a concensus? The Congress knows it does not have a good chance to gain full power in Bengal with 2 major regional rivals.Thus even by political slyness,the Center can prepare for a DO OR DIE assault on the Maoists.Army can cordon off the maoists districts and launch a coordinated assaut on all Maoist positions so that Maoists are not able to sustain and help each of their factions.It would help decimate the maoist canker from landscape of Bengal.

    Leader,Can you reign over Ministers
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    We have seen how telecom ministry is shackled by controversy in 2D spectrum.Is it not possible to replace the tainted minister from the same coalition partner,if its coalition dharma,than have controversy and the questions linger.

    Leader,Can we count on you?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    It's galling indeed to discern the promotion of sycophancy towards Congress leadership as every minister seems to meet and convince it and not the Prime Minister for any policy decision.In the advent of a military conflict with Pakistan,can we count on the leadership the Government? Can we see the PM approve of a tough military action on tha maoists?

    With a comfortable majority,PM can easily act firm.He is not goaded by the communists on every policy decision.For any political party in power,the views of its Government and the Prime Minister should be known and articulated to the public than the party,but ironically more emphasis is given to the party views than the views of the Government,thereby creating an Administration that acts more as a facade for a monarchy.

    The only achievement of the Prime Minister and his Government is the Nuclear deal and social schemes like NREGA ,that worked well in some states.I would not call implementation of reservations as an achievement, it created more dissonance than nurture the 'Idea of India'.

    On conclusion,though not fully irreproachable due to Gujarat riots,the previous BJP government was known for its assertiveness.It did bring forth a face of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee in the Government,who we knew ran this country.We knew that the leader of the country had the charisma to hold us spellbound in his terse views on issues facing the country.He was known to act,than procrastinate.

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  • 3. At 2:23pm on 31 May 2010, Jay wrote:

    Manmohan Singh is a follower, not a leader.

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  • 4. At 3:06pm on 31 May 2010, U14366952 wrote:

    'Leader' is the word used for a person who runs the country.Be it Prime Minister or President.I meant it thus,not used elliptical satire here.

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  • 5. At 3:51pm on 31 May 2010, KS001 wrote:

    Surely an accidental politician is the best kind? Anyone actively seeking to become one deserves nothing but contempt - and India's politics is awash with self-serving politicians spending untold billions either on white elephants or on lining their own pockets (or both in the case of a certain Uttar Pradesh MP...)

    If it's entertainment you're looking for, then look to Bollywood - not the Prime Minister. India should consider itself lucky to have a leader with the integrity, the intelligence and the quiet dignity of Manmohan Singh to lead it in the 21st Century,

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  • 6. At 3:59pm on 31 May 2010, Ananya78 wrote:

    @Jay: I agree - Singh is more of a follower than a leader. Too much of a consensus man. But he has a stubborn streak too - remember how he pushed ahead with the nuclear deal with the US despite resistance from within the party and his Left allies. Time will tell whether it was a historic blunder or achievement. India is too big a country to sell out to the US, but was the nuclear deal worth it to risk his government? Singh's true evaluation will come in the years ahead.
    @EternalIndia - While some of your evaluation of Singh's performance is correct, to say that the BJP was much assertive etc is a bit over the top. In Lal Krishna Advani - supposedly called the Iron Man of India! - we had one of the weakest home ministers. Some of the departments - like power in the early days, and roads under Khanduri- worked excellently, but everybody knows that its ministers were also highly corrupt, and the government was so arrogant and cocksure about its prospects and lost the elections. Charisma alone doesnt work. Otherwise BJP would not have been in the wilderness for so long, rudderless and without a single leader of any charisma or national standing.

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  • 7. At 4:50pm on 31 May 2010, Jay wrote:

    So far I have observed, Manmohan Singh still retain his exceptional ability to become a good bureaucrat and academician (economist), at best. He has failed several times in electoral politics. Even now he is a MP from rajya Sabha. If you take away Sonia Gandi’s support from Dr Singh, it will be almost impossible for him to head UPA ministry and retain whatever political power he enjoys now. In fact, Pranab Mukhherjee (2nd in command in UPA ministry) is having more political maturity and power, although he is also a failure in electoral politics. Pranab’s recent success in Lok Sabha election from West Bengal was possible by one mighty Congress politician; Adhir Chowdhuri (allegedly a mafia from Murshidabad in Bengal) In that sense Indian electoral politics does not favor qualified, less corrupt politicians. It also implies that our basic democratic institutions are failing/deteriorating. For the same reason, it is almost impossible for a new person with true leadership quality to come forward and attain a position of power in our electoral politics. We have a almost no chance to get an “outsider” like Obama to become a PM or president of India with real political and administrative power. Our only hope is to get a Prahlad among demons.

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  • 8. At 5:51pm on 31 May 2010, a_ban22 wrote:

    I reserve my comments on certain politicians being clean. Our own illustrious principal trouble shooter is reputed to be enjoying the patronage of the rival political establishment for donkey's years.
    Good economist ? Is anyone listening ? Has any economic manager of the government anywhere in the world been able to achieve any long term solutions to people's problems ? I wonder.
    India is the hunting ground of mediocrity. The plus is that you can get away with anything provided you are discrete. Dr. Singh's premiership bolsters my belief that the meek shall inherit the earth and others her resources.

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  • 9. At 10:00pm on 31 May 2010, Manoj wrote:

    I (may be every one) prefer a leader who works for a country instead making inane 'Red hot headlines' for newspaper.

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  • 10. At 03:14am on 01 Jun 2010, acenavigator wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 11. At 09:51am on 01 Jun 2010, samrao wrote:

    I believe that a person like Manmohan Singh is a gift to this world and India in particular. In UK I have observed the so-called "personalities" that have wielded power for the past 13 years. We had up to 3 UNELECTED self-serving individuals with "personalities" and "sound-bites" driving the country to a terrible deficit.

    Support your prime-ministar and let him, in his way, guide the country towards peace with Pakistan and laying strong foundations to the coming growth in prosperity for India.

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  • 12. At 10:53am on 01 Jun 2010, Anami Gour wrote:

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is no doubt a boring character, completely devoid of charisma, people like Laloo or Mayavati has more entertaining value but when it comes to national interest, people know what is right and what is wrong. People with charm and wit always attracts press and votes. Manmohan Singh can’t feed headlines and press is doomed to starve for news. The downside of not being newsworthy or charming is that you cannot inspire people.

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  • 13. At 12:27pm on 01 Jun 2010, ProMal wrote:

    Just one question, Soutik. Why do you and the BBC continue to insist referring to Manmohan Singh as Mr. Singh, when you should be referring to him as Dr. Singh?? Is this BBC policy, is it indifference to educational qualifications or is it a deliberate ploy to place Dr. Singh on the same playing field as other less qualified world leaders like Mr. Cameron and Mr. Obama?

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  • 14. At 2:55pm on 01 Jun 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    A political promise is just that and is more of something along the lines of "what I would like to do." More political promises lay in the trash heap of India than there are people on the planet. Why hold someone to a promise and not all. The diverse peoples and regions, languages, idologies, religions and resources makes India difficult to govern. The rapid growth and the natural social disruption that causes is another factor to be considered. India thinks it is in a race with China, although I don't know why. India is India, that is what it is and should be. To my knowledge no one has figured out the art of governance..except, of course, those in the media.

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  • 15. At 5:39pm on 01 Jun 2010, Rajiv wrote:

    BluesBerry wrote: “Manmohan Singh is an enigma only to those who prefer western-style entertainment, disguises, acting, pretense...”.
    Why do you say this sort of politics is “western style”? How are most politicians in India? Are they much better than illiterate clowns and crooks?
    It is easy to blame others for everything that is wrong with us, isn’t it? And also to make sweeping generalisations, and then apply such generalisations to every individual in the group?
    I agree with Mr. Biswas. I think Mr. Singh is a good and accomplished man, and perhaps a capable administrator. But I think the leader of a country should be more than that. He/she should be a visionary, an inspiring figure who has the courage and persuasiveness to see implement tough solutions.

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  • 16. At 7:15pm on 01 Jun 2010, banshan k wrote:

    Hey I don't need a flashy showman, I need someone who can actually perform. And it seems that after a long hiatus, we're finally getting a person who can do what is required, where it is required.

    We the younger generation certainly have the greatest admiration and respect for Manmohan Singhji. Are we finally getting the leader that we deserve? You bet! That's what we think and to those who are dismissive of such youthful aspirations, well, we will shortly make up a bulk of the electorate so it doesn't matter what the detractors think. As long as God grants him good health, I personally will vote Congress if it means that Manmohan Singh will be around to take charge of things.

    Manmohan Singh is clean, honest and simple. I believe that it shows in his demeanour and his speech. Maybe the older/traditional type politicians cannot bear to see that someone can be honest and succesful? He certainly is an enigma to the media.

    Simple reason is that he performs.

    I work in a rural area in the Northeast of India and I can testify to the amazing difference the NREGS has brought about to the lives of rural people. So many young boys and girls who would have dropped out of school to look for work in the towns are now staying at home, studying in school when they can, helping their parents and generally having a better hope for their future.

    That's just one thing. Of course, he may not have done anything about pension, or insurance or banking or retail Mr. Biswas. But those things do not affect the common man with as much immediacy as the need for nutrition! What he's been able to do is put meals on the table for almost everyone in the villages. That's something people don't forget easily and when those very people make up the mass of the country's voting population, it surely can't be bad politics.

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  • 17. At 11:17pm on 01 Jun 2010, Boir Wahyd wrote:

    He is just a prime minister. The Super Prime Minister is undoubtedly Mahatma Sonia Gandhi.

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  • 18. At 05:05am on 02 Jun 2010, Ananya78 wrote:

    @BanShan: I agree that NREGA is making a lot of difference to lives. But we also need to remember that the money for such laudable welfare schemes can be raised by only increasing/speeding up economic reforms which will lead to more revenues for the government. You cant have one without the other.
    @Boir Wahyd: You think Sonia G is still the super PM. Even after Manmohan Singh had his way in the nuclear deal with the US.
    @Samrao: India is a protected economy, so it got saved from recession. But do remember that we have a deficit close to 6% of the GDP too - that under Singh!

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  • 19. At 09:16am on 02 Jun 2010, Vino wrote:

    It is true that Manmohan Singh doesnt ooze charm or make sensational statements...But he is doing what needs to be done to make the present feasible for as many people as he can... Sometimes visionaries are not the only people who are needed, we need people who can see the present and work from it...solve the present issues and then think about what needs to be done.. There is no point in talking about what you want to do and forgetting what needs to be done RIGHTNOW!!

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  • 20. At 10:23am on 02 Jun 2010, Lincy wrote:

    I also agree that the PM lacks the attribute what Max Weber called a "charismatic leader". These kind of personality are shaped by personal struggle during which they follow a vision they fight and would die for. I believe one should move away from the term "leader". The head of state in any democratic country is not a leader but a bureaucrat a rhethor and a diplomat - he is a representative! We are not living in the past where the head of state had the power to rule the gov. instutution. And who of the present world politicians has the quality of a charismatic personality? Just very very less!!!
    Rhetorically the PM lacks, no doubt but he has doing his duty in a very good way. As well I dont believe that India needs someone right now who gives its ppl visions and promises which anyways wont come true!!!

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  • 21. At 10:44am on 02 Jun 2010, sarath wrote:

    If the media has been complaining about how dull our prime-minister is, they should also give him a chance to express how mundane and dishonest our media is. That the questions were longer than the answers is a testimony to this. They needed fodder for their mindless chatterati who occupy screen space in the name of analysts and think-tanks.
    If the PM wanted to "create" news i'm sure he could have had A.Raja ,Sharad Pawar etc to share the stage with him.
    The real reason the media is upset is because they now can't spin anything around the press conference for days together in the name of "exclusive" reporting. They have to work hard, just like the PM.

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  • 22. At 11:08am on 02 Jun 2010, U14366952 wrote:

    Ananya78: " to say that the BJP was much assertive etc is a bit over the top"

    No its not a hasty conclusion to say that the BJP leadership under Mr Vajpayee did better in decision making and progress.

    I will illustrate why..

    It did not put up with non-performing behemothed public sector institutions with their unions,which were infamously known as "burden on the state".When Kendriya Vidyalaya central schools were doing very badly in results,it brought in accountability.It transferred teachers if they did not achieve good result to north east.It eliminated permanent teachers in Sports,Drawing and SUPW (Socially useful productive work, a misnomer as this role has been ravaged by incompetence) roles as these posts were misused with no adequate accountability and no vocational training,sports training to students from recruited teachers.It instead brought in temporary staff and based renewal of employment on performance.Soon,in about 3 years KV's became competitive with private schools.

    When Govt realized that Post offices were becoming obsolete as people were using telephone and internet more ,it leveraged the institution by making it a "Bank" many ways providing Non-postal services like post office account.Today post office account is used across the country and the infrastructure is already reused from postal dept

    In our PSU banks like SBI/Canara bank,known to strike at every whim,it brought in accountability.There was a time in SBI when even a janitor/snetinel will not respect or salute the Bank Manager.In the BJP regime these banks were scrutinized for performance.A system of Performance points from superiors was brought in for growth and hence productivity improved. It reduced the cost of senior employees who were more in cost to the company (ie SBI,Canara Bank) by offering VRS schemes and did not fill their roles with permanent seats,instead It started contracting process which was giving richer dividends in terms of tractability and riddance from frequent strikes.Before all the mobile banking and bill payment hoopla,the banks were used to pay telephone and other bills.

    It assertively privatized BALCO,with stiff opposition from Ajit Jogi who was the then Congress CM of Chattisgarh .It gave the needed impetus to disinvestment.

    It started the Golden quadrilateral project.It improved the frozen relation with US in a thaw with Clinton administration.Kindly read this link and the passage..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atal_Bihari_Vajpayee

    "In late 2002 and 2003 the government pushed economic reforms, and the country's GDP growth accelerated at record levels, exceeding 6-7%. Increasing foreign investment, modernization of public and industrial infrastructure, the creation of jobs, a rising high-tech and IT industry and urban modernization and expansion improved the nation's national image. Good crop harvests and strong industrial expansion also helped the economy. The Government reformed the tax system, increased the pace of reforms and pro-business initiatives, major irrigation and housing schemes and so on. The political energies of the BJP shifted to the rising urban middle-class and young people, who were positive and enthusiastic about the major economic expansion and future of the country."

    We know the Vajpayee govt acted firmly in KARGIL.You could say it was it was intelligence failure,but the govt acted.It was not war mongering,but it got the message across clear to Pakistan that India will not be soft towards roguery and terror.

    We know how it handled the face-off with Bangladeshi migrants.It conveyed to Bangladesh that India cannot continue to perpetually accept refugees.

    Mr Vajpayee was expected widely to win the next term but it was discombobulating to see his performing government lose ,as we know the people of this country do not necessarily vote on national issues,they stick to local issues and are carried away by petty religion, caste, regional propaganda.

    It embarked on a major strategic partnership with Israel.We know Israel
    is our number one arms supplier.It also improved the face of the government let by a prime minister who had a vision for this country.Who did not foster obsequiousness or sycophancy in his party towards the party leadership unlike the congress.Also it seems by painting a picture of pseudo secularism to the public,many parties have mastered the art ofo masking corruption.

    The BJP government should not be repudiated completely for Gujarat riots as It has done welfare for this country.The guilty party to those riots be it the ravagers of the Godhra train or the rioters who followed this incident,irrespective of their religion should be brought to justice.We seem to forget the Godhra train carnage strangely,that incited this riot.

    If we lambaste the BJP at center,Congress too deserves such a treatment for Anti Sikh riots and people responsible have not been brought to justice.The BJP government should not be ostracized for being right wing as there are lot of flaws with Left wing and the Congress that placates minorities,which instead harms the social fabric of this country in the long run as it creates a sense of difference than unity,irrespective of religion

    The BJP government made the people of India realize their confidence.BJP headed by Mr Vajpayee was known to be the favorite party of the educated Middle class.It was unexpected to see a tilt for the Congress suddenly as Rajasthan,MP chattisgarh elections were won by the BJP or maybe it was destiny.

    Mr Vajpayee deserves credit for his statesmanship and let's give him his due.

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  • 23. At 12:50pm on 02 Jun 2010, Lincy wrote:

    @EternalIndia: Next time u refer to some source, please dont use Wikipedia! One of the top academic mistakes one can do and we r not discussion some trivial issues, neither on a trivial site where the source doesnt matter. At least we should expect this grade of knowledge from the educated Middle class.

    Iam not saying that Vajpayee was a bad statesman or didnt take good actions but I still believe that the present PM has taken steps into new directions, the environmental issues and IR, aspects where highly appreciated visions dont show any results, as seen with Kyoto Protocoll. The Indo-Egyptian relation has been welcomed in Egypt itself. India has achieved a recognition value over the last 6 years which not anymore only based on Yogis, Yoga, Movies and Music, but on its quality as nation which can make a mark in intl politics.

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  • 24. At 4:00pm on 02 Jun 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 25. At 4:35pm on 02 Jun 2010, Boir Wahyd wrote:

    @Ananya:
    (What a beautiful name)I believe it was all a make believe drama. The decision was that of Mrs.'Mahatma'Gandhi. NREGA is the brain child of CPM.

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  • 26. At 6:20pm on 02 Jun 2010, U14366952 wrote:

    @ Lincy : You just showcased your barefaced impertinence when you said :

    "Next time u refer to some source, please dont use Wikipedia! One of the top academic mistakes one can do and we r not discussion some trivial issues"

    So have you created your own LINCYPEDIA!, which we all can use,to refrain from using Wikipedia ? Avoid personal remarks and use euphemisms and I will reciprocate accordingly.

    Wikipedia is vouched for its neutrality.Even if an article is disputed, it is clearly cited so in Wikipedia.The wiki article on Mr AB Vajpayee is not disputed and Wiki takes special care in crediting/discrediting a famous personality as it could be a libel or a false acclaim if there is an error.

    If you do not believe in Wiki, I urge you to create "LincyPedia" and make it the touchstone of veracity in encyclopedia,before you advice me to change my reference point.

    What you have called as trivial issues is "unclear".May be you thought ruddering ailing PSU's on the right direction and making the bureaucracy efficient is a facile task in which the Congress failed in the last 60 years.You are hence,not correct here.

    Also when you say

    "India has achieved a recognition value over the last 6 years which not anymore only based on Yogis, Yoga, Movies and Music, but on its quality as nation which can make a mark in intl politics."

    What a digression..so if you don't believe India's culture is making it a soft superpower ,its your perception.Also Previous govt brought acclaim to this nation WITHOUT yoga,music or dance.At least the educated middle class stood firmly behind a leader.I illustrated that with cogent arguments.I AGREE TO DISAGREE WITH YOU.

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  • 27. At 7:24pm on 02 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 28. At 7:27pm on 02 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 29. At 7:49pm on 02 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    How possible for Congress/UPA (mainly as MM Singh as PM) to conduct a nuclear explosion and declare India as a nuclear weapon state (officially)?
    The nuclear treaty with US (THE most successful foreign policy for UPA govt so far) was possible for that. India lost a huge strategic advantage after successfully conducting nuclear explosion in 1974 and then could not build on that and also could not stop Pakistan from acquiring it (Israel is doing for Iran).
    I also have my doubts if India could ever introduce economic liberalization of 1991 if situation were not so grave (our national gold reserve had to be deposited in Bank of England). That game changing shift in our economic policy was more like a compulsion than a well planned policy decision.
    There are many global (mostly of Indian origin) and Indian strategic think tanks belive that general Indians were "more optimistic" about future during Bajpayee era. We have seen many Kargill type incursions by Pakistan and China before and after NDA/Bajpayee rule; but we never experienced an appropriate response from India (both diplomatically and militarily).
    The problem of BJP started when RSS started taking more control of BJP (as a political party). More logical and politically matured people like Arun Shourie, Jaswant Singh, Jaswant Sinha, (to some extent) Arun Jetli type leaders are pushed back once Bajpayee and Advani was/is planning to retire.

    Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi do not have almost any idea about real India. Neither they were groomed to have that. Rahul hinself admitted that several times. They always depend on other people both for understanding and analysis of any issue. That weaken any true leader, particularly when "gut feelings" plays a major role in policy decision. That comes with experience and grooming.
    I think, Rahul Gandhi enjoys more administrative and political power as compared to PM Dr Singh. That must be a major problem for Dr Singh as well, to govern. that's why he is not always forthcoming in major issues. He needs time and take consent of Sonia (and probably of Rahul too) to react.

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  • 30. At 10:25pm on 02 Jun 2010, Lincy wrote:

    @EternalIndia: I cant help myself not to respond. Wikipedia as a serious source. Wow it would have made millions of students academic life easier. Btw if were talkin of encyclopedia, what abt britannica.com? its just a suggestion. Nothin else! Oh and abt the "middle class academic" i was referring to what you have written in ur previous comment. I mean all those who did not vote for BJP were not middle class and uneducated or non-academics???
    India's soft power is absolutly based on culture, but when u travel across places and one keeps on answering to the same questions abt india again and again u fell sick of it. But in the last 4 years India has become more interesting not only as a country of cultural heritage which lives in the past. After the software boom it was a welcome challenge to see India growing on the IR/IP level. I believe in soft power and the cultural advantage with which India can charme a lot of ppl. But being real I know, that is not enough to make india a global player.

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  • 31. At 01:56am on 03 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    An Interesting article by Dr PB Mehta in IE: "The backbencher" :http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-backbencher/628713/

    It says, "It is more a government that is riding on past achievements, some good luck and insipid opposition, than on creativity, sense of purpose and administrative authority". And no one can deny PM's responsibility in that matter.

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  • 32. At 02:23am on 03 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 33. At 06:29am on 03 Jun 2010, Point_Is wrote:

    u have bllywood for all the tamashas and mirch masala, let the good man do his work....

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  • 34. At 1:43pm on 03 Jun 2010, U14366952 wrote:

    @Lincy : I tried to use britannica as you suggested, and got the link for the political personality as :

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/621705/Atal-Bihari-Vajpayee

    britannica also mandates a credit card to even register for a free trial.In the page I provided as link,I did not find any views on the political legacy of Mr Vajpayee.Hence I went back to wiki.But I am open to try britannica in future.

    Wiki is not infallible,but as users across the world contribute to its content.It has a wider source/base and in such a large cornucopia of knowledge,there is absolutely a chance of error.But wiki ensures that any mistake in the description of a personality is quickly fixed.

    You have written : "I mean all those who did not vote for BJP were not middle class and uneducated or non-academics??? "

    No,But the Vajpayee government derived public support from the educated middle class.Not every middle class might have voted for his government,but majority did from educated middle class(who have the habit to go and vote).

    Sadly in India,middle class complains about the system,but never ensures the usage of suffrage/franchise by registering name in the polling booth at any cost and vote.But,the poor man/ "aam aadmi" knows that his vote is counted.Whatever be his problems he will go and vote,as he responds to the system if there is lack of power, ration, other public amenities.Similarly a person from the minority community will go and vote for sure.

    Middle class is indifferent towards voting and its importance.Thats why political parties know,Middle class is not a formidable vote bank and government does not wanna bring in E-VOTING or ensure permanent compulsory voting ids.

    I ask: "IF WE CAN TRUST OUR MONEY IN THE BANK WITH ONLINE TRANSACTIONS,WHY CAN'T WE TRUST OUR "ONE VOTE" THROUGH THE INTERNET"

    India has to think ahead of other nations as the worlds largest democracy.For which we need a visionary leader,who can bring in "out of the box" ideas and execute them.We cannot have a leadership facade and the reins at the hands of someone else.Such a system undermines the authority of the Prime Minister,who by the way is a good man.

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  • 35. At 1:46pm on 03 Jun 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 36. At 3:23pm on 03 Jun 2010, Blogger wrote:

    First of all Manmohan is not a leader is a bureaucrat. He is a follower of Sonia Gandhi and takes her orders, can not take decision on his own. Eben some of his speeches are influenced by the Gandhi family. He is a naive looking face of the power hungry Gandhi family.
    Secondly people of India are not suited for democracy. In democracy the people need to vote on issues. In India people vote based on religion, caste, language etc. Especially Muslim community has their 20% vote bank and decided who will win. While others are divided on multiple issues. So democracy in India is a paradise for corrupt, vision-less people like Laloo and Gandhi who 'divide and rule'.
    People like PV Narsivha rao and AB Vajpeyee are the leaders rejected by Indian votes despite of their excellent performance. This happens only in India!

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  • 37. At 9:34pm on 03 Jun 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 38. At 10:57pm on 03 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 39. At 02:37am on 04 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 40. At 02:56am on 04 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 41. At 03:21am on 04 Jun 2010, Blogger wrote:

    TO 37 ghostofsichuan ,

    Thanks for your comments.
    The leadership is as good as the people in general. If people choose to vote on lies and ignore real issues then it is really their fault. For an example - after watergate scandal Nixon was out of power, in india Laloo after convicted by court could be a central minister ! Just because he has strong vote bank and they dont look at his deeds but at his support for Muslim fanatics and his caste.
    I think India needs some thing like China where the leadership has shown excellent results.

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  • 42. At 03:25am on 04 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 43. At 1:28pm on 04 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

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  • 44. At 5:41pm on 04 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 45. At 5:59pm on 04 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This trend is evident in every aspect of life in India now. Can anyone tell me why Mrs Pratibha Patil was selected as our president, the highest constitutional authority for Government of India? At which filed of life (including politics) did she excel and/or showed any significant indication of her talent in governance? Was she the best women (if gender was an issue) candidate India had to offer the post? In fact her political and personal life is marred with many corruption and criminal allegations. We all know the answers but none will be very supportive to the leadership quality of our (then and current) PM, Dr Singh and UPA chairperson (Mrs Sonia Gandhi).
    It becomes more contrasting as she got the position after Dr APJ Kalam.

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  • 46. At 8:57pm on 04 Jun 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 47. At 00:52am on 05 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    Will BBC let me know why my comments are sent for moderation and how long that will take to resolve? Can anyone refer any comment they do not like for moderation (which will help them to block, at least for sometime) the comments they do not like? Or is that the "rule" for this BBC blog site not to allow any adverse comment against few specific political party or its leaders? In that case, I will not post any further comment in this forum any more.

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  • 48. At 01:01am on 05 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    Is it possible for a forum member like me to delete ALL the posts I have contributed in this forum of Sautik Biswas and cancel my membership?

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  • 49. At 1:48pm on 05 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 50. At 2:26pm on 05 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

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  • 51. At 3:57pm on 05 Jun 2010, Ankiet wrote:

    I m agrees with you...
    If you only looking what Indian Hindi and English media said about Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi…then you surely find MR PM is enigma kind of personality…
    But when you talk about Indian media then one important thing you miss out here that. People of India watch this popular news channels as a story not as news…if you had doubt then doing survey on this topic. And there you made mistakes...
    Personally I think that PM Manmohan Singh is over rated Prime minister of India. He is failed in all aspect of Governing India...

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  • 52. At 4:12pm on 05 Jun 2010, lokabandhu wrote:

    As a prime minister without much political standing of his own,Mr.Manmohan Singh is more like the late Mr.P.V.Narasimha Rao ,who too lacked such standing and held the job during the pleasure of Ms.Sonia Gandhi.Mr.Rao was a philosophical scholar from the Brahmin caste.Drawing from his deep knowledge of the Hindu scriptures,he once declared " Inaction was also action sometimes ".Mr.Manmohan Singh seems to be an embodiment of that Vadantic principle.

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  • 53. At 10:13pm on 05 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    Indian political leadership is unable to tame its huge, inefficient and highly corrupt bureaucracy. Almost all our political leaders do not have the leadership quality to do that. They depend too much on the bureaucrats in policy taking decision. In reality, it’s the bureaucrats that run the country, not the democratically elected political leadership. There is a great danger in that model, as expressed by many experts. Our current political leadership maintains a very cozy relationship with bureaucrats. Politicians are happy so long the bureaucrats are not opposing to cater their whims (even if that is illegal or unethical and against the interest of the country or its people) and bureaucrats are happy so long politicians are not making any ruckus for them to earn huge financial benefits (legal and illegal, who cares about salary!), plush apartments/bungalow in prime locations in a metro city, routine foreign tours, availability of seats in best schools and foreign bound fellowship/scholarships for their children and grandchildren.
    Almost all the fellowship and scholarships to go abroad (e.g Nehru-Cambridge, Commonwealth, Rhodes, Felix etc) is controlled by few specific people with specific political connections. Appointments of VCs and directors of Government Universities and institutes are all political these days, with scanty respect for their academic and research ability and integrity. All these have consequences, in form of- lack of trust for any democratic institutions (police, judiciary, general new media, education etc), tendency to take laws into own hands, rise in extremist violence, deterioration of quality of our scientific and research output, rise in pollution and deterioration of environment etc. In short, quality of life of average Indian is going down.
    One can also see Sautik’s blog, “India's rights revolution”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/04/indias_rights_revolution.html

    There I wrote, “India has laws but no justice. There is a huge difference to pass a law in parliament and implementing it true to its spirit. General people are not much bothered about what is written in a book called “constitution” they are more affected by how they experience it in their day-to-day lives.
    Our current PM does not seem to have the required ability (or leadership quality?) to break that nexus and introduce transparency in the system. His success in electoral politics depends on backing of Gandhi family. The moment Sonia or Rahul expresses their desire to become the official PM, no force on the earth can help Dr Singh to retain his position. This is more true for a dynastic party like Congress. Other political parties also started showing that symptom (barring the communists and BJP, to some extent). . A PM is a political person first. If he is unable to gather the political support and mastery the art of politics by himself, s/he can never become strong enough to take important decisions, even if /she thinks so. It does not matter how great he is in theory or academic matters or as a person. If leaders always have to depend on someone else to promote or save him from the consequences of his/her actions, then it is not good for any democracy. Sonia Gandhi never faces the consequences as head of Indian government while it is open secret that she is the main person who takes/imposes decision. Foreign delegates are more interested to meet her more (to get their work done) as compared to any other person, including PM or president. That not only weakens the person who is officially in-charge (Dr Singh in this case) but also weaken the democracy as a whole.
    Our media does not help to introduce transparency and building informed public opinion much in that regard. There too few news analysts and columnists that do objective evaluation and reporting. It is very easy for political parties and corporate houses to get favorable news reporting if s/he has proper connections and can offer crispy tandoori chicken and Johnnie Walker whiskey in a decent restaurant.

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  • 54. At 10:26pm on 05 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    Selection of recent president is just another example how our current UPA govt wanted someone like Mrs Pratibha Patil who will toe to their party line, than someone who will force the government to do the “right” thing, like Dr Kalam. There is no reason to believe that Mrs Patil was the best available candidate, even within Congress party to become the constitutional head of Government of India. It seems that they wanted someone whom they can use as rubber stamp more, than a person with decision making ability, with the ability to think of his/her own. This trend was going on since independence (barring few instances) and applicable to many constitutionally important positions like chief election commissioners etc. Before TN Shesan, general Indians had no idea that there is such a position and it has so much constitutional power to reform so much in a democracy. If our political leadership deliberately undermine such constitutional powers, then it is surely not great for the future of the country and democracy as a whole. As a head of UPA ministry, Dr Singh cannot avoid his responsibility in this saga.

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  • 55. At 4:42pm on 06 Jun 2010, Pancha Chandra wrote:

    Mr Singh in his quiet, efficient way has crossed so many hurdles and has managed to ensure that India's stupendous growth is on track.He is an astute economist and has looked after the economy exceedingly well. It is easy to be an armchair critic but one should realise that India is such a huge country with a multitude of problems!

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  • 56. At 03:40am on 07 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    She is the most powerful politician in India but is not held accountable for anything. If things go well, she gets the credit and if they go badly, the Prime Minister takes the blame.

    A nice article by Tavleen SIngh in IE, (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/public-lives-are-public-property/630023/) where she says, "She is the most powerful politician in India but is not held accountable for anything. Lesser politicians are hounded if there is the smallest whiff of corruption in their vicinity, but not Soniaji. She helped her ex-best friend, Ottavio Quattrocchi, get access to sealed bank accounts and the mighty Indian media smiled and looked the other way. The Prime Minister admitted at his recent press conference that he consults Soniaji every week and takes important decisions only after consulting her".
    I fully support this view and that does not go well with Dr Singh as our PM, as a true "leader".

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  • 57. At 2:44pm on 07 Jun 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    I broke no rules yet my posts were moderated. My suggesting that intellectual freedom in India being an advantage was premature.
    Will never post here again.

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  • 58. At 01:48am on 09 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    I think I should mention here that even I do not consider Dr Singh as a “leader” and a success in electoral politics, but we probably do not have any better alternative at this moment. None of the congress “leaders” (or probably the party itself) can survive without active involvement of Sonia Gandhi. Rahul is only good as poster boy, not a politician or administrator, not yet. He has lot to learn and need lot of mentoring by able, honest personalities to become a true leader for India in future. Leadership of BJP is in total disarray and hell bent to destroy themselves; third front is as good as gone. At least Sonia was not born and brought up in India and have a much better idea of “justice” and development than majority of our political leaders who is either good in text book knowledge or in dividing and looting the country in the name of religion, caste, region, gender, (even) cricket etc. We have seen many of them in different states, in controversies like IPL, elephant-statue scam, fodder scam etc.

    The reality is Indian socio-political situation does NOT allow any honest person and true leader to prosper, in congress or in any other party or (national) organization. Our social elites (including majority media personalities, academics, scientists, bureaucrats, business executives etc) are as corrupt as majority of us. After all they are coming from the same pool of people, groomed in the same society. An average citizen of a civilized country does have a better sense of justice and governance than majority of our politicians, even compared the most successful ones. In that sense, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh (even if he is an "enigma" and not a true leader) combination is a better option as compared to other practical alternatives we can think of, at least in near term future.

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  • 59. At 10:05am on 09 Jun 2010, bbcmani wrote:

    Only one way to describe the media is blood sucking vermon. If i compare the British media to Indian media, the indian media is absoloutely terrible at covering issues, over-hyped coverage over meaningless events. Dr Manmohan Singh is a class MP who is a gift to India (when comparing to its previous MP's) and one that people should learn to cherrish. He is a bit quiet but he is doing the job of running the country and not a hindu facist leader who decides his son should get his post becuase he is the son of a MP. Only issue i would like the MP to address is the Hindu facist RSS right wing group who are destroying the Sikh religion by supporting fake saints in punjab, trying to mix Hindu ideology into Sikhism and for the complete Sikh Reference Library to be handed back to the Golden Temple, which was taken away during Operation Blue Star. I just hope that Rahul Ghandi is better than his previous Ghandi leaders, learns from their mistakes, otherwise he'll end up in the same state they ended up.

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  • 60. At 2:59pm on 09 Jun 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    A leader does not always have to be an arrogant self-pulicising loud mouth.

    Some of the best leader's in history have been quiet, unassuming, willing to take advice from the right people and act in the best interests of the whole.

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  • 61. At 01:38am on 10 Jun 2010, krish govind wrote:

    -"Indians have traditionally loved performing politicians - high on rhetoric and oozing earthy charisma"

    It would have more apt to say Indians have traditionally loved politicians not necessarily performing but high on rhetoric and charisma. Look at history of post independent India, cruelly let down by charismatic political leaders with politically expedient myopic decisions, retarding ascent of India to it rightful place. It required a non charismatic non verbose "light weight" Narasimha Rao to apply brake and reverse the course of the country head long descent in to economic chaos and anarchy exactly caused by politicians " high on rhetoric and oozing earthy charisma". It is good fortune for the country to be lead by uncharismatic and not exactly "oozing earthy charisma"

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  • 62. At 11:26am on 13 Jun 2010, arbj wrote:

    LincyPedia !!!

    Ha Ha

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  • 63. At 11:47pm on 24 Jun 2010, Winnie wrote:

    According to an online source, "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was once asked by a journalist as to what he thought of the new law in Canada to allow Gay marriages, to which he said, "There would not be much appreciation for a law like that in India.”" If this is true, then it is a shame that being a minority himself, the current PM does not support another minority group.

    According to a Wikipedia source, "...Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for greater social tolerance towards homosexuals at an AIDS event."

    I am confused as to what his standpoint is on LGBTQI rights in India. Being the world's largest democracy, shouldn't India have been the first nation to legalize and/or recognize same sex marriages and/or civil unions? What's saddening is that it is still a far-fetched dream to make the above a reality. And what about honor killings, corruption, racism, and child marriages? What is he doing to really make a difference? I expect a lot from him since he is educated and should understand the need for globalization of India in all senses. And I do, agree that being an economist, he is doing a far better job in politics than others would have done, but I do hope that he brings human (and even animal) rights into the picture more. I wonder what Sonia Gandhi, being a woman, would have done in regards to women's and minority rights if she were to be the PM. And at the same time, I am wondering why is our woman President not to be seen much in news and media in comparison to the PM? Is she really doing something to make India more cosmopolitan?

    I might have gone a little over the edge in commenting on this article, but I just want you all to consider (and perhaps, positively influence) where India is really headed...

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