How was Manmohan’s rule far better than Modi?

Tridivesh Singh Maini

Tridivesh Singh Maini

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Ever since its drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when it was reduced to a paltry 44 seats, the Indian National Congress (INC) has been beset with numerous challenges.

The party has faced a string of defeats in elections. There was a brief interlude in December 2018 — when the party triumphed in three state elections – Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. In the 2019 LS elections, the Congress could improve its tally of 2014 by only 8 seats and failed to secure the leader of opposition slot in the Lok Sabha yet again.

The end of 2019 was not bad electorally, though it is the allies of the grand old party which actually deserve credit.

Manmohan Rahul
Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi

The INC was able to stitch up a coalition with the Shiv Sena and the National Congress Party (NCP) in October 2019 (largely due to NCP Supremo and old war horse Sharad Pawar), and in December 2019, the Congress and it’s ally the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) was able to wrest Jharkhand from the BJP.

It is not the Congress Party’s losses, but the scale of defeat, ideological confusion with the party, the lack of leadership and the clash between the ‘old guard’ and ‘young Turks’ within the party (while one government, in MP has already fallen due to this clash, the Congress government in Rajasthan is still on the tenterhooks) which has begun to disappoint the party’s fervent supporters.

If the above problems were not enough, a Rajya Sabha MP, Rajiv Satav, considered close to Rahul Gandhi, held the Dr Manmohan Singh led UPA 2 responsible for the party’s current predicament. These views were put forward by Satav, during a meeting of the party took take stock of the current situation.

Former Ministers like Manish Tewari (currently a Lok Sabha MP), Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor stood up in defense of UPA 2 and also lashed out at those criticizing the performance of UPA2.

Said Manish Tewari:

BJP was out of Power for 10 yrs 2004-14. Not once did they ever blame Vajpayee or his Govt for their then predicaments In @INCIndia unfortunatly some ill-informed ‘s would rather take swipes at Dr. Manmohan Singh led UPA govt than fight NDA/BJP. When unity reqd they divide.

While on the one hand, there have been serious differences between what is considered as the ‘old guard’ and Rahul Gandhi, there have been those who try to find fault with Dr Manmohan Singh’s administration.

There is no doubt, that the 2nd term of UPA was marred by allegations of corruption and policy paralysis, what is forgotten is the overall record of Dr. Manmohan Singh led UPA in terms of economic growth and a focus on inclusion – social and economic.

The party’s thumping victory in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009 was clearly on account of Dr. Singh’s personal image, UPA 1’s management of the economy, effective welfare schemes, and his firm stance on the Indo-US Nuclear deal — though Dr. Singh himself and many members of the party, attributed the victory to Sonia Gandhi .

For a person without any mass base, Dr. Singh managed not just to deal with factionalism within his party, but also managed to develop a rapport with CM’s of states ruled by Non-Congress parties – Dr. Manmohan Singh’s cordial ties with former Panjab CM, Parkash Singh Badal are one such example.

Manmohan Modi
PM Modi with Dr Manmohan Singh and Gursharan Kaur

While PM Narendra Modi had spoken about ‘Cooperative Federalism’, Dr Manmohan Singh tried to put this into practice.

If one were to look at the realm of foreign policy, coalition pressures were cited as reason for deterioration of ties with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, ties with neighbouring countries were stable, if not perfect, and the neighborhood policy was in a far better shape than it is currently.

While towards the end of Dr Manmohan Singh’s tenure, ties with the US did deteriorate, Dr Singh played a stellar role in bolstering economic and strategic ties with the US, much to the chagrin of not just allies of the UPA, but also a section of the Congress Party. He developed a strong rapport with both George W Bush and Barack Obama.

The current government, led by Narendra Modi, while publicly mocking him has sought his counsel with regard to ties with the neighborhood and the economy (it is a different think, that they have not sought to implement his sagacious advice)

Whenever he has made an intervention, it has always been bang on – a perfect instance being the impact of demonetization on the economy.

The former PM should have asserted himself vis-a-vis some of his cabinet colleagues, as well as certain lobbies within the INC which were trying to undermine his authority and not underplayed his role in the party’s re-election in 2009. Yet, given all the political constraints he faced, Dr Manmohan Singh certainly was amongst India’s most successful PM’s.

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Tridivesh Singh Maini

Tridivesh Singh Maini

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based policy analyst currently associated with the Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat.

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