Monday, September 20, 2010

Statesman v/s the pretender

In continuation with my last blog and the state that we find ourselves in today, I decided to do a flashback and see how did the NDA regime do and what's the biggest difference between then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and current PM Manmohan Singh. While comparing their actions or even inaction on various issues, one thing becomes very clear - Manmohan Singh can go down as a great economist but can never be called a statesman. At the best he can be called a pretender. Whereas Vajpayee had statesmanship written all over him even before he became the PM. Remember how he put his hand up and led Indian delegation to UN on a crucial Kashmir debate inspite of being in the opposition. A statesman has to be judged on various counts as below

Authority in the government - We live in a strong democracy and there is always room for dissent. On an issue once all the opinions are heard, it boils down to the person in the hotseat to raise his hand and make the right decision. It's always his or her duty to defend that decision, whatever his personal opinion be. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a master of this art. He ensured that every issue was debated well and then a decision taken. One a decision was taken, there was no looking back. That's why you never saw the squabbling between cabinet members like you see in Manmohan Singh's time (Even on Kandahar, no dissent was heard at the time of the crisis or the decision). This ensured that government never fell prey to inaction and also the cabinet decisions were respected by the bureaucracy. This is seriously missing in Manmohan Singh.

Pressure from external forces - If Manmohan Singh had Left, Laloo, Karunanidhi, Mamata etc to contend with in his 2 tenures, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had George, Mamata, Karunanidhi, Patnaik and others to deal with. But one can hardly see any decision that was taken then under pressure from the allies (except a couple of fuel price rollbacks). No major policy decision was cancelled or postponed because of allies. Manmohan Singh during his first tenure stopped the economic liberisation process under pressure from the Left. And today due to that we can see the slackening economy. Inspite of socialists in his cabinet and as allies, Atal Bihari Vajpayee allowed Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie to do what was needed for economy. Similarily the frictions with the party or Sangh Parivar were kept under control and never allowed to become a hinderance to governance. Inspite of Sangh pressure, Atal Bihari Vajpayee entertained no adventurism on Ramjanmabhoomi and continued his effort at out of court settlement. Whereas Manmohan Singh has always buckled under pressure from Congress party or the Gandhis. That's why today inspite of a well experienced cabinet, the policy decisions are taken by the Gandhis and the National Advisory Council.

First amongst equal - Manmohan Singh though the PM is not the tallest leader within the allies, the parliamentary board and the party. This means everytime he has to demand respect rather than commanding it. Compared to this, Atal Bihari Vajpayee though in company of stalwarts like L K Advani, George Fernandes, Jaswant Singh etc, was still the tallest leader and everyone knew the buck stopped there. This helped when it came to complex issue. Take for instance Kashmir. Atal Bihari Vajpayee used his famous lines of talks within the ambit of insaaniyat and allowed talks with moderate seperatists. He allowed them to go to Pakistan. This bore fruits when Kashmir saw a heavy turnout in 2002 state elections. Many Kashmir analaysts also laud it as the fairest elections Kashmir ever saw. Even today he is loved for his moves on Kashmir. Compare this to Manmohan Singh. He and his cabinet and his party and his high command can not agree on the solution. To start with they stopped the talks started by NDA. Then they allowed situation to go out of control during 2008 Amarnath crisis and now their mishandling of the situation has given Kashmir another long bout of struggle. Why has Manmohan Singh failed to take a decision? Why can't he overule everyone else and do what is needed as the PM? Answer is that he does not have the political stature of a statesman that one needs for such a complex issue.

Country first, party later - One of the aftermath of NDA rule was that BJP lost a lot of its traditional constituency. This to me was not the failure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee but his victory as a statesman. Nowhere did he allow party considerations to rule his actions. He did what was important for the country be it Indo Pak thaw or the N bomb testing or the economic policies or tightening of tax rules. He did what was needed at that time for the country and did not let political gains govern his decisions. Compare this with Manmohan Singh. For years they did not do anything about farmer suicide and suddenly before elections they decided to announce a package , The UPA fuel prices change is dictated by the state assembly elections calendar. The export or import controls over sugar have been changed based on elections in Maharashtra or UP. Even projects like dam, mining, roads etc been held hostage to considerations like opposition ruled state or Congress and allies ruled states. While the Vedanta project which has been dealt a body blow in Orissa, the Povaralam dam project in AP has been allowed to go ahead inspite of similar conditions and impact on tribes and environment. Political bias does not befit a statesman. Manmohan Singh fares extemely poor on this when compared to Atal Bihari Vakpayee.

Sense of fairplay- One of the biggest strength of a statesman is how he or she behaves with an opponent. In entire NDA rule, there was no case of any opposition leader being targetted. Also tainted ministers like Muthaiah, Buta Singh were asked to quit (NDA 1 lost power due to this). Compare this with the phone tapping actions of UPA or their misuse of CBI in Gujarat. Corruption tainted ministers like Raja, Kanimozhi, Pawar etc are all still in the government. The sense of justice is clearly missing with Manmohan Singh as the PM. Party is allowed to go ahead with it's vendetta politics when it comes to opposition leaders and opposition ruled states.

Vision for future - What is the PM's vision for future? How does he intend to build the infrastructure which has been left neglected so far in his regime? What is the long term economic policy? In his years as PM, Manmohan Singh has concentrated so much on keeping all his allies, party and high command happy that he seems to have lost his touch which endeared him to the country in 90s as the FM. All one hears from him are lofty words or predictions like inflation will come down at _______. Atal Bihari Vajpayee with his years of experience in the villages and small towns of the country knew what was needed in India. That's why he unveiled his vision where infrastructure was to drive the development of India and fuel the economy. Roads, Power, Railway, Telecom and other sectores were given a boost to enable a good platform for the economy to take off. His vision on interlinking of rivers has to be fulfilled to solve woes fo agricultural sector.

Respected outside - While nobody doubts that PM Manmohan Singh has endeared himself to the world leaders, one does not certainly know if it is just appreciation or genuine respect for him. Can he take a decision which is good for India but which US does not like and still get away with it? Like Atal Bihari Vajpayee did when he went ahead with the Nuclear plan. Atal Bihari Vajpayee took bold foreign policy initiatives and at the same time did not blink when national interest was at stake. He allowed Jaswant Singh to mend post-sanctions relations with US and other superpowers but not at the cost of national respect. India sailed through the sanctions and other countries had to acknowledge India as a growing power.

One can go on long about how Atal Bihari Vajpayee as PM was the statesman while Manmohan Singh is the pretender, I will end with just one point. NDA regime will be remembered for N Testing, Road Infrastructure, Education for all programme, Port development, Power reforms, Kashmir peace process and subsequent elections, peace initiatives with Pakistan and Kargil war when needed, corruption free governance, midday meal scheme, relations with other countries, economic progress and many more. Will UPA be able to better this?


  1. good one, reality of the UPA is coming out...

  2. Nice article..
    I still think it would have been better if BJP could come in majority at that time.

  3. I mostly agree with you sir - but somehow I am fail to find a good learder any more in BJP too. Cann't really find anyone which even pretend to think for the company... everyone is ready for dance on a chance but noone really shown a leadership yet.

  4. sir, no offence but it rather seemed your views were rather biased in favor of BJP.
    Though you are leading a free and independent life 'respectfully', but instead it feels like your views still need some freedom from the bindings of BJP. Was bit difficult for me to accept this blog as an independent comparison between the two.
    warm regards.