India Uncut

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

This duck may not be lame

Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar writes in the Times of India:
Journalists galore are pontificating over the first year of Manmohan Singh’s rule. But the issue itself is wrongly phrased. It assumes that Manmohan Singh is the ruler. That is not and cannot be the case in the Congress party. Only members of the Gandhi family may rule. Others act at their pleasure.

This is a common meme, about how Manmohan is only acting as a caretaker for the Gandhi family, sitting out five years until Rahul Gandhi receives his inheritance. Aiyar elaborates:
When he [Manmohan] was made PM, he knew what the dynasty needed from him. Sonia, never keen on politics, had taken over simply to keep the dynastic business intact for her children to inherit. The dynasty most certainly did not need an aggressive newcomer asserting himself as boss. It needed a number two to hold the fort, one who had no ambition of becoming number one.

Viewed in this light, Manmohan Singh is less a PM than a regent, keeping the dynastic seat warm till the new generation takes over.

Aiyar goes on to state, as per the title of the piece, the Seven Commandments of Mr Singh, of which the first is "Thou shalt not displease Sonia." But is he really such a lame duck? Or is he a practical man who is adapting to the situation to give himself the best chance at putting his policies into practice, knowing that even with the constraints placed on him by Sonia and the left, he can get far more done than if he was out of power?

Arun Shourie, I thought, showed a similar pragmatism when he was minister for disinvestment in the last cabinet, soldiering on in the post despite opposition from the Swadeshi elements of his own government. Yes, liberalisation is progressing at a painfully slow pace, but Manmohan's government has made progress in other areas, as Coomi Kapoor wrote in an article I'd linked to here. How will it all end up? We'll know in hindsight.
amit varma, 12:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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