They say public memory is short. And in the times of 24×7 news and likes of Twitter, our memory is becoming shorter. This presents an opportune moment for “influencers” to manipulate history. That Manmohan Singh “led” the most corrupt Government in Indian History is a fact. But there are some, who believe history might be unfair to him. Sample these two tweets, from 2 of India’s “renowned” journalists, having virtually the same content, within a span of a few hours:
It’s becoming clear @narendramodi isn’t MMS: won’t ask any minister to resign because the media or oppn says they must!
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) June 19, 2015
Modis dilemma:does he follow MMS,sack every min accused of corruption & be seen as heading a corrupt govt?Or does he hold firm&ignore media?
— vir sanghvi (@virsanghvi) June 20, 2015
Lo and Behold, within 1 year of Manmohan’s departure, he has become the benchmark which must be met while dealing with cases of corruption. Not only that, but both these eminent journalists try to create a false equivalence between scams of UPA which ranged in lakhs of crores, to matters of alleged impropriety (in Sushma Swaraj’s case) and a matter of an 11-odd crore investment (in Raje’s son’s case).
Rajdeep is the official “Coming of Age” announcer of Rahul Gandhi, having promoted him with the same caption twice in years, so it isn’t a surprise when such things come from him. Without going into too much detail about Rajdeep’s Moral Compass, lets see a few of his thoughts on Manmohan Singh over the years:
May 2010: In an open letter to Manmohan Singh:
” you can no longer be a Dhritirashtra-like figure who turns a blind eye to ministerial corruption”
December 2010: In his second open letter to Manmohan Singh:
“instead of dismissing him (A Raja) from the union cabinet for challenging prime ministerial authority, he was ‘rewarded’ in May 2009 with the same portfolio…”
“Had you acted against Mr Raja three years ago, you might have been able to rise above the stench of corruption that now envelops your government.”
“A bank manager may well be of ‘impeccable’ personal integrity at home, but if he allows his clerks to loot the bank, then he clearly is failing in his primary responsibility at the workplace. Sadly, that’s exactly what seems to have happened in the UPA cabinet, and your continual hand-wringing is now becoming a sign of impotence.”
So for Rajdeep, a Prime Minister who was a “Dhritirashtra-like figure”, turning a “blind eye to corruption”, “rewarding” corrupt ministers, with “hand-wringing” which was a “sign of impotence”, is now suddenly the Adarsh Prime Minister who would instantly sack corrupt Ministers!
Lets move to the other eminent personality now: Vir Sanghvi. Did Vir Sanghvi always hold Manmohan Singh in such high regard? Or did he too do a Rajdeep-turn? We have to rewind a little.
In May 2013, Sanghvi wrote a blog titled: Manmohan Singh’s fall from grace. He mainly talks about then UPA Minister Ashwani Kumar, who was in a controversy for vetting a CBI report on Coalgate. Here are a few excerpts from the same:
“why was the prime minister so reluctant to take any action against him (Ashwani Kumar)?”
“So, why didn’t the prime minister act? Well, because he could hardly punish Ashwani Kumar for trying to save him, could he?”
“Eventually, after the Congress president made an issue out of Kumar’s continuance in office, and the Supreme Court was critical of his role, Manmohan Singh had no choice but to sack Kumar”
So in 2013, Vir Sanghvi felt Manmohan Singh had “fallen from grace”, was reluctant to act against a minister who had done wrong, because the minister was “saving Manmohan Singh” himself. And the minister eventually was sacked, because Sonia Gandhi said so and Manmohan “had no choice”. And now in 2015, he sees Manmohan as someone who “sacked every minister accused of corruption”. How the times change!
(On a side note, although Ashwani Kumar was made to resign, he was immediately accommodated in the Public Accounts Committee, the Standing Committee of Parliament on Defense and within months was appointed as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Japan in the rank of a cabinet minister. So we can understand how harsh the punishment of “sacking” him was)
Here are some more views of Sanghvi on Manmohan Singh:
From: The PM who doesn’t talk (July 1, 2011):
“It astonishes me that Manmohan Singh should talk so little and be so barely visible that we might be forgiven for thinking that India has an imaginary Prime Minister.”
From: How the govt lost its way, and its face (November 4 2011)
“It is now almost an article of faith within the media that a) this is a very corrupt government and that b) its leaders lack the will or the inclination to fight corruption”
“Manmohan Singh, on the other hand, looks like a befuddled passenger on a suburban train who is not sure if he has boarded the right connection. He never once gives the impression that he is in control or in charge. And so, nobody ever associates him with the government’s anti-corruption initiatives. Frankly, it is hard to associate him with any of the government’s initiatives.”
“The Prime Minister has made the mistake of sitting back and watching while his allies have made money. And now, while he should be associating himself with the clean-up, he cowers silently at Race Course Road.”
From a post in July 2013:
“….we don’t question his integrity either. And yet, he (Manmohan Singh) has presided over corruption scandal after scandal”
So once again, it is very clear, while in power, Vir Sanghvi felt very poorly of Manmohan Singh. Yet, somehow now, he is the Gold Standard, when it comes to dealing with corruption. One wonders if Sanghvi’s phones were tapped were once again, would similar tape recordings emerge, as they did in the Radia tapes, where he asked “What kind of story do you want?” and was prepared to do a fully “scripted” interview with Mukesh Ambani, to show him in particular light.
Today, there are just a few odd tweets from eminent journalists. Next week we will have editorials, then TV debates on Super-Primetime: “Can Modi ever be as good a PM as Manmohan Singh?”, and thus, opinions will be framed. With arguments pulled out of thin air.