International News 2925 Views by K.B. Kapur

India's Prime Minister gets bad US press

Notwithstanding the harsh criticism from within, Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has come under scathing attack from two leading US journals — Time magazine and Foreign Policy, a strategic affairs journal published by the Washington Post group. The criticism has come almost simultaneously thus giving added ammunition to the opposition, particularly the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which says that its stand and criticism of the PM has now been vindicated by the neutral observers like the reputed Time magazine. 

The Time, on the cover of its latest Asian issue, described Manmohan Singh as an “underachiever”, who is “unwilling to stick out his neck” about the economic reforms. In a separate article, almost simultaneously, Foreign Policy described Singh to be “wildly overrated” Prime Minister of the country. Both the magazines have criticised Singh for being underperformer, lacking the decision-making and leadership qualities, a charge continuously being levelled against him by India’s opposition..

An ironyIt is an irony that Singh despite being scrupulously honest is heading a government which is faced with several charges of corruption, including the 2G spectrum scam, claimed to be worth thousands of crores of rupees; Loan Bribery Scam, under which top officials of Indian banks, lenders and financial firms are accused of taking bribes to grant corporate loans; Commonwealth Games scam, the $6 billion sporting extravaganza but dogged by several cases of alleged corruption, including contracts issuing and purchase of equipment; and last but not the least the Housing Scam, involving big-wigs of Maharashtra politicians and bureaucrats. His government has continuously been put on defensive by an aggressive opposition and stalling working of Parliament in the process.

The PM has come under attack primarily for holding back the second generation of economic reforms in the country. Supposed to be the architect of the economic liberalization in the country in 1991 when the then PM Narsimha Rao appointed him as the Finance Minister, Singh failed to deliver when he became PM himself. Needless to say, Manmohan Singh had a better say as PM than as the FM in Rao Government.

Singh failed despite reportedly enjoying full-fledged support from the Congress Party and its president Sonia Gandhi, who, in fact, picked him for the job of the PM. However, as a matter of fact, it was not only the Congress he had to bank upon, he had several other political parties whose support was crucial for the survival of his government.

Several roadblocksIn other words, despite having all the intelligence and will to perform, the renowned economist PM is not in a position to rule independently apparently because of several roadblocks in the form of coalition allies.

In the UPA-I (between 2004 and 2009), his government was held to ransom by the Communists, who are ideologically opposed to economic reforms and liberalization. However, in 2009 general elections when UPA returned to power, it had severed ties with the Communists and was relatively in a better position to continue with the reforms. But again it was prevented from doing so by the coalition partners like Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress thus making it that nothing changed despite being no longer dependent on the Left support.

It must be a rare occasion when a democratically-elected Prime Minister of world’s largest democratic country is facing such a harsh criticism both at home and abroad at the same time.

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