His sincerity has outlived its utility

Dr Manmohan Singh is doing harm by hanging on to office

Both well-meaning sympathisers and die-hard apologists of the UPA government’s bid to do India’s future in hold forth about making reservations irrelevant by increasing the supply of school seats (and possibly, jobs too). And to address the deep existential worries that have brought hundreds of thousands of students and professionals to the streets, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the man who lends his sincerity, integrity and credentials of reform-mindedness to an otherwise depraved government has asked the agitating students to believe the sincerity of his intentions to set things right for they come from a man of his integrity. There’s a term for all this. It’s called cheap talk.

All the talk about making ‘reservations irrelevant’ (a turn of phrase with an unfortunate history of being used as a sop to Pakistan, where it was borders that were to be made irrelevant) would have been meaningful if the UPA government had first outlined policies on how this will actually be achieved. Considering that nothing short of a dramatic liberalisation of the education sector — on the lines of the 1990s dismantling of the licence-permit raj — is necessary to make it a reality, even weeks after the current controversy broke out, all the UPA government has done so far is to insinuate that existing schools will take in more students.

Rolling back those reservations is the best course of action — for knowledge economy or not, entitlements are no way for a free India to organise its society around. That’s an argument of principle. There is also a practical side to this — the countries that India is competing against for jobs, investment and markets — won’t handicap their teams in a similar way. But unless the nation goes into a massive convulsion, rolling back reservations is just about as likely as us accepting a lack of sincerity Manmohan Singh’s part.

Enter pragmatism — a convenient virtue for the middle class. This word gets thrown about when the people are tired of seeing the same headlines on television and the same protesters on the streets. It will not be surprising therefore, to see the reasonable, practical and the moderate among us to be smitten by Manmohan Singh’s sincerity and begin to accept that a grand compromise, after all, is inevitable. (For, isn’t it the way democracy works?). Didn’t we compromise on labour reforms by not having them. Didn’t we compromise with the Hurriyat by accepting perversions of our own constitution? Didn’t we compromise with Musharraf by forgetting that it is Pakistan that needed to win our confidence? Didn’t we compromise with the Taliban, the Iraqi insurgents, the Naxalites and the Nepalese Maoists by humbly accepting the terms they laid down to us? Didn’t we compromise with the Constitution and the Judiciary by continuing to keep convicted criminals in cabinet instead of in prison? Didn’t we, then? And during it all, didn’t we have man of sincerity and integrity at the helm?

It’s clear, to both him and the nation, that Dr Manmohan Singh can’t run a disciplined cabinet. Worse, he has allowed his sincerity and integrity to cover the cynical shenanigans of anachronistic Congress party politicians and their equally venal political allies. Perhaps the evil in their designs would have been seen much earlier, and combated with greater vigour if not for his benign facade. That’s got to be greatest confidence act in town.

Related Links: Atanu Dey’s series of posts on reservations.

7 thoughts on “His sincerity has outlived its utility”

  1. Nitin,

    I seriously doubt (considering how UPA government has blundered from one transgression to another)that intentions of gentle sardar were honourable in the first place.
    After all he comes from bureaucracy.


  2. I feel that Manmohan Singh is doing far greater harm to the country by being a dummy prime minister and hanging on to his position. If he has any integrity he should follow Pratap Bhanu Mehta and resign from his post. The longer he hangs on, the greater will his supposed integrity suffer. He has been hiding behind this image of a honest and helpless person for too long. The prime minister of India is the most powerful person in the Indian government. It is unpardonable that he should feel helpless when the country to going to the dogs. Please mister PM, for the sake of India, resign.

  3. It is dubious for Manmohan to talk about government’s sincerity when his government precipitated this crisis in the first.

    Nitin, I think you are giving too much credence to Mr. Singh as though he was and still is an outsider. Based on his responses and non-responses, it is pretty clear he has been part of this from the start. It is hard for politicians to resist vote bank politics. Not one MP has spoken against the policy in the parliament.

    Competitive politics of Indian democracy fails the middle class…again.

    We also don’t hear from all those hypocritical self-proclaimed fighters of justice – the likes of Ms. Roys.

  4. Manmohan singh plays the ‘Good cop’ and Arjun singh plays the ‘bad cop’ and the gullible indian public falls for it, the oldest trick in the book.

  5. Nitin, I just discovered your blog and I am most impressed by your analysis. I agree that Manmohan Singh decisions are beginning to do permanent damage to the nation’s interest. Amendment 104, the quotas, the coddling of the Naxalites, and the Hurriyet should be unacceptable to any nationalist. And we need a government that will liberate the education sector from its License Raj.

  6. Nitin, with apologies to you, your reverence for Manmohan Singh has sometimes bordered on the ludicrous. It’s obvious to everyone he’s just another politician. Just because he was apparently the ‘father of economic reform’ (when Narasimha Rao actually took all the tough decisions and heat), doesn’t mean we should treat him with kid gloves. As for his economic policies in the present term, the less said the better. It’s time to call his bluff and expose him for being a phony.

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