Too much is being written about the “image” of Dr. Manmohan Singh, outgoing prime minister of India, after the launch of Sanjaya Baru’s book “An Accidental Prime Minister”. TV shows and newspaper editorials are ruing the dent to the image of Dr. Singh, especially comparing as they saw it in 2009 and now in May 2014. I am a little amused at people concluding that Dr. Manmohan Singh’s image has been dented in any way. If anything, Dr. Manmohan Singh is the only one who has succeeded in keeping his image intact in the company of notoriously corrupt people. What people like Baru and writers of editorial pieces , TV anchors and debating Moguls, intelligentsia and civil society, captains of politics and industry, diplomats and foreign governments, economists and academics, bureaucrats and citizens are bemoaning is the damage to their own perception of the image of the man that Dr. Manmohan Singh appeared to them. Were they not expecting too much from him? Did they not know that he was no politician? Did they not know that he was simply an appointee, a stop gap arrangement, a nightwatchman whose job it was to keep the seat warm and secure for Rahul Gandhi? It would be quite naïve for any journalist or editor to imagine even in his wildest dreams any functional freedom for such a person to work like a real prime minister. The ruling alliance were conscious of their own poor image and gambled on a non political person of immaculate personal image. The image of one was sought to be exploited by the other as a mirror image only. Since the Indian masses have always a desire for honest person as PM and clean government, they were offered the best image which could be employed for the purpose at minimum risk. It was similar to getting the moon for her son by a mother by showing the image in a vessel filled with water on the full moon night! If someone stirred the water the image got distorted but the moon suffered no such damage. Dr. Singh must be complimented to have escaped unscathed in 10 long years of keeping company with some of the most wicked persons always prepared to prove every wrong as right. Is it a joke to survive in such a hostile environment and also keep your image intact? Dr. Manmohan Singh goes with the same personal image as he was cheered by those crying now. The misdeeds of the ten years of mal-governance of the UPA-I & II will not allow such an assessment to go unchallenged. But even his bitterest critics have not so far charged him with a single case of personal corruption. How could he achieve such a wonderful feat?
Dr. Manmohan Singh is deeply soaked in Indian thought and tradition. I refer to only two instances which mould a child’s psyche in India. One refers to the exercise of extra caution while wading through a room filled with black soot (Kaajal ki Kothari), for otherwise it is bound to taint even the cleverest person (Sayano). Was the UPA any different from such a room? See his council of ministers: Sonia Gandhi ( Chairperson, NAC with Cabinet rank), Lalu yadav, Sharad Pawar, Dayanidhi Maran, Kapil Sibbal, Manish Tiwari, Anand Sharma, Kamal Nath, A. Raja, P. Chidambaram and many more such stalwarts. Then he had to face persons like Digvijay Singh, Abhishekh Manu Singhvi, Rashid Alvi in the party. He had to accommodate the fiats of leaders of the alliance partners like Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, M. Karunanidhi, Prakash Karat and many more. Dr. Manmohan Singh has not antagonized any one of these persons. Is it not fabulous? He subdued all of them smilingly, unlike Mamata Banerjee who expresses her anger without provocation when she imagines hostility against her. Everybody thought him to be a weak prime minister and imagined the best time to indulge in loot of the wealth of the nation. Those who indulged in such freedom got jail or lost their job or reputation. So there was only one sayana or clever guy who could come out of the room filled with black soot untainted. Ten years is too long a period for any ordinary human being to fall. If he doesn’t do any wrong personally, his family, siblings and friends will do that for him. Dr. Singh belonging to a large family and friend circle did not suffer a bit because of anyone of them. Is it not awful? Even Sonia Gandhi has attracted flak for Robert Vadra’s (husband to her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) land deals. How could Dr. Manmohan Singh perform such a feat?
Credit for his success goes to one of the most enlightened thinker poet of India- Saint Kabir . I must quote his inspiring piece: yeh chadar sur, nar, muni odhi; odh ke maili keen chadariya; Das Kabir jatan se odhi; jyon ki tyon dhar dini chadariya. In these lines a simile has been used by the poet to describe how best to make use of a cotton sheet to cover oneself . The poet says that the sheet has been used by Gods, Saints and men of all kind. Many of them wrapped it around them and dirtied it. Talking about himself the poet says I was very cautious while using it and so made every effort to cover myself with it and was able to put it back as clean as it was originally. In the Gita it is prescribed for the emancipated human beings to do their duty with utmost devotion without expecting reward for it (Nishkam Karm). Without these inspiring guidelines, Manmohan Singh would have ended up as the most corrupt prime minister of a corrupt government. He floated above the water like a lotus in a pond filled with mud. A man’s character gets tested only in such slippery conditions. Dr. Singh demits office, taking with him his clean image but exposing umpteen practitioners of corruption from horrendous scams to mental perversion and fouled language to deeds. I only shudder at the idea of a government headed by any one of them! That way Dr. Manmohan Singh only saved the country from ruin in the hands of such evil persons.
Goodbye Dr. Manmohan Singh.