No message. No delivery. No inspiration. No clue.
It took more than one full day for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to appear on television and address a wounded nation. And when he finally did so at 8pm today, the old man in the blue turban spoke for a few minutes, reading out his speech, in halting Hindi, pausing at, all, the wrong, places. His message included, among other boilerplate platitudes, one sentence on how national unity will help defeat terrorism and another cautioning the public not to believe in rumours.
It is, of course, unreasonable to expect him to morph into a great orator overnight. But his speech was remarkable for the total absence of any meaningful content. His home minister, Shivraj Patil, sounded merely incoherent. In comparison Dr Singh didn’t make any sound at all. In leading the nation through a crisis, public leadership is as important as determined decision-making. Dr Singh has already scored a zero on the former.
It is hard, terribly hard, to shake off the impression that this government’s cluelessness on national security starts all the way at the top.
Another Update (14th July): Gaurav Sabnis reported:
8:30 p.m. – The footage being shown now has him looking straight. Seems like they got the teleprompter working and recorded his speech again.