A zero for public leadership

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.

Update: Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Pratap Bhanu Mehta on Dr Singh and his government.

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.

28 thoughts on “A zero for public leadership”

  1. Forget that buffoon nitin. We don’t need any heroic speeches let alone deeds from any of our bloody politicos, let alone soniahh gendi’s pooch. The ordinary Mumbaikar’s selflessness and courage in this hour of tragedy has lifted our spirits and belief in our country many notches high.

    Now where is that rag called the Reader’s digest which said mumbai is the rudest city on Earth? Did they see the way ordinary mumbaites helped one another in this hour of need, when it was really needed rather than “holding doors open” for someone 😉

    I’am writing a strong letter to the Editor of that Rag right away.

  2. I am just surprised, why doesnt the army take over the administration. They are the one who have any courage left in India, why are they allowing themselves to be ruled by the limpdeeks. In last 50+ years it has quite apparent that we dont deserve democracy (remember good old emergency). We need heavy handed administration with a single voice, which the army can certainly provide for say next ten years, change the constitution to presidential system, then perhaps, handover the power to people again. Also, first thing they should do is blow up all the 60 MP’s from the communist party, along the known candle kissers. Also, I think we should actively encourage hindu youths, to get armed. The elimination (or conversion) of Muslims and Christains is the real solution to Indias problem.

    Also the Balochistan freedom struggle should be supported wholeheartedly.

  3. It just proves that though Prime Minister Singh is a great technorat, he doesn’t have the political chops to be a great leader.

  4. Being a Mumbaikar and having parents and dozens of relatives there, I know we will get past this. Dr Singh’s statement is a disappointment, but not unexpected. The little hope is that his bite is worse than his bark. Shivraj Patil should resign for his idiocy and his incompetence: “we knew it was going to happen. We did not know where and when”. Pathetic.

    Name (required): nice flame. Verbal equivalent of yesterday’s bombs.

  5. “It just proves that though Prime Minister Singh is a great technorat”

    Really, Niraj?

    To me, if anything the past two years proves that Manmohan is an incompetent and bumbling non-leader. But the myth continues.

    In any case, I had few questions for Manmohan.

  6. Nitin,

    The challenge we face is further made difficult by dishonest commentaters. I refer an article written by one of Indias most prominent bloggers.

    After every terror attack and the brutal murder of Indian citizens, we have a govt. which comes out with readymade responses and analysts {amit verma above} who come out with cliches. The persistence of this trend however makes it all very obscene. Trying to drag in 92-93 riots, Babri Masjid, Narendra Modi, Gujarat 2002 and countless other such incidents into a cocktail narrative obfuscates the issue even more. People unknowingly start giving an intellectual framework to acts of random murder of innocent citizens.

    I also think that all this “communal harmony” thing is pure bullshit. It is like stating “Heads, I win. Tails, You lose”.


  7. Nitin,

    You are gunning for the wrong person…that poor chap doesn’t know what he’s got to do every morning besides going to the loo…he is completely ineffectual and we all know that…the bigger challenge is Sonia and her cohorts…India is now paying a deadly price for voting left and congress..the monkeys are coming back to haunt the house…all these larger stupidities such as reservations, halting economic progress and basically indulging in massive corruption is now coming to haunt India..hence forth Indians be warned..vote BJP else risk many many more such problems…


  8. I find it ridiculous that bloggers such as Amit Varma should dismiss this saying ‘this is due to the rise of hindu fundamentalism in the 90’s’
    what exactly are we talking about here..so we should link all this to the rise of the BJP? but then you have nothing to say about the pseudo-secularism of the congress from times immemorial? you have nothing to say about the fact that rajeev gandhi himself started ayodhya by opening up the locks for shilanyas? And what exactly is the BJP’s fault if it used an emotive issue to come to power? atleast they delivered their promise for 5 years and would have given more had they not miscalculated their electoral alignments…hell Sonia should have met her end in these trains…we need a clean slate…wipe out the gandhis first and then start converting all muslims and christis to hinduism again….

  9. Womanmohini Singh is smarter than we think.
    His message cunningly appears spineless. The terrorists will all then be like, hey the prime minister is but a castrated eunuch, it doesn’t matter if we come out into the open. So, they’ll come out into the open, only to find themselves beseiged and surrounded. By Mulayam and the Congress who’d beseech them be a part of their “secular” alliance and would also offer them parliamentary seats.
    The Islamic terrorists would then be like, that’s no fun; whereupon Arjun Singh would say, ok, we’re gonna offer 30% reservations for Islamic terrorists in IITs; the terrorists would then be like ok, let’s go to IITs. There they’d be forced to sit through classes like Multivariate Calculus and Differential Geometry, whereupon they’d go mad and kill themselves.

    So you see, it is all a carefully constructed plan. Kautilya squared, is our Womanmohini Singh.

  10. 7X6,

    You missed out Maxwell’s equations. Those accelerate the onset of suicidal insanity.

  11. It is worrisome to find gutless reaction from the whole political establishment. Not a single leader whom we can look up to for leadership during such adversity for the nation. I wonder what would be the direction for a robust national security strategy in response to such potential attacks in the future. Spineless political establishment will hold the country open to more such acts and all we will be having is helping people who are victims and moving on. It is time for a revolution to wake up the establishment out of slumber and take back the national security.

  12. TK, it’s SOP for someone writing in Guardian – have present your secular credentials, especially browns.

    7×6, thanks for the humour. Now I really get the reason for Manmohan’s (non-)reaction within 24 hours after attacks. We do have a leader of 100 crore people here.

  13. @name required.

    This is a war of ideas and we are on the frontline. The Army cannot fight this war. it is for us to stand up, fight and WIN this war of ideas.

  14. we need to flame every liberal ass and challenge them on their own turf. Once this rickety “ideas” are challenged they will cutr and run those nuts lack the guts for a real fight.

  15. It is extremely aggravating to read the kind of empty — and in some cases obscenely bigoted — chest thumping in the responses to your post.

    Yes, India has been much too reluctant to act — but this is not a malaise limited to any one party, as anyone with a shred of historical understanding can point out.

    It’s much too easy and frankly quite disgusting to say things like “sonia should have met her end in these trains”. How such comments can remain unchallenged on this site is astounding.

    To paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault is not in our polity — but in ourselves.
    It is us Indians who have cheered on the so-called peace process, sought economic engagement with Pakistan, and watched India-Pakistan cricket matches in droves. We are basically confused over our position on that country and that shows.

    As for making this an issue about secularism, this aggressively secular writer (when he blogged) was among the most consistently hawkish bloggers around. Much of that perspective was far more sensible and articulate than the hateful gibberish some of the responses here represent.

    Best regards

  16. Primary Red,

    As for making this an issue about secularism, this aggressively secular writer (when he blogged) was among the most consistently hawkish bloggers around. Much of that perspective was far more sensible and articulate than the hateful gibberish some of the responses here represent.

    Do a Big B. Throw away your retirement. 🙂

  17. A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.

    George Bernard Shaw

  18. I think all of us should stop expecting anything from Manmohan Singh. He has proved time and again that he is a spineless #$%^. He has spent his entire life sucking up to the powers that be – starting from Indira Gaandi through PVNR (who seems to have been the real liberalizer) to Sonia. Unfortunately, the BJP seems hell bent on a self-destructive path – we need a new Swatantrata Party to challenge the Red Italian.

  19. Just saw this thread. Some brave anonymous gent remarked, “I find it ridiculous that bloggers such as Amit Varma should dismiss this saying ‘this is due to the rise of hindu fundamentalism in the 90’s’”

    I’ve never said anything so patently ridiculous. Don’t invent quotes, for fug’s sake.

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