No excuses left, Dr Singh

Can Manmohan Singh redeem himself?

Dr Manmohan Singh has an altogether more difficult job this time. When he become prime minister in 2004, it was after Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA government had begun the strategic tango with the United States, galvanised the ‘peace process’ with Pakistan and arrived at a positive bilateral relationship with China. The neighbourhood was also relatively stable. The external environment that Dr Manmohan Singh inherits from Dr Manmohan Singh is significantly worse in some places, and in crisis mode in many others.

The Obama administration is determined to be in the “not-Bush” mode as much out of ideological conviction as out of antipathy for George W Bush and his policies. The ‘peace process’ with Pakistan has proven to be a disaster and after 26/11, the UPA government has put its Pakistan strategy on auto-pilot mode. China is off the great power launchpad and is flexing its muscles. The neighbourhood is in crisis. Dr Manmohan Singh could not have left a worse legacy for Dr Manmohan Singh. (And we’re not even talking about the economy)

The good news is that the old millstones are gone: the new UPA government won’t have to depend on Prakash Karat and his comrades and might even be free of the Congress Party’s own albatrosses like Natwar Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar. So Dr Manmohan Singh will have greater freedom to—and fewer excuses not to—push the kind of foreign policy that India needs. The presence of the DMK in the UPA might complicate Sri Lanka policy, but otherwise, there’s little to constrain Dr Singh.

The Acorn does not subscribe to the Manmohan Singh fan club (okay, that’s an understatement) but it has strongly supported the UPA government on the India-US nuclear deal. We now challenge him to use the current crises and set right the course of Indian foreign policy right.

25 thoughts on “No excuses left, Dr Singh”

  1. What an impressive showing by the voters of India!

    Their rejection of BJP’s staleness and the Left’s silliness merits a huge applause

    Secular politics are not merely India’s mainstream, the secular space is now larger than ever

    For secular-right Indians, the task next is to create right-of-center politics within this space

    Today, though, we should revel in the wisdom of the Indian voter!!

  2. LTTE will probably be gone by the time things get settled in India, PLUS Sri Lanka also has support of Pakistan and China now, so yea Sri Lanka policy might not get a chance to get complicated.

  3. @primary

    Dude, isn’t this a victory for the centre-left?Without true liberalism how can there be secularism?

  4. What an impressive show of sycophancy and bootlicking by “Primary Red”, who wants to be seen loudly greeting his Congress masters. Next to that guy who waved the revolver and put it to his own head, threatening to kill himself if Sonia did not take leadership of the Personality Cult — excuse me, Congress Party — “Primary Red” is running a close second.

    What a triumph for Personality Cult politics. What a triumph for corruption as usual. What a triumph repeating lies over and over again, until they become the truth. What a triumph for Vote Banks, who behave and pursue sectarian interests with ruthless abandon, while innocently and virtuously proclaiming themselves to be victims of sectarianism.

    Well, well, it’s triumphs all around then, for the collusion of crooks. Ultimately, such triumphs of intellectual dishonesty are only going to do what they’ve done in the past, keep the ignorant poor and suffering. When you make your choices, you bear the consequences.

  5. Udayan: you are right, it is the center-left that’s won here. Since we don’t have a center-right in India, this is surely better than communal-right or extreme left, is it not?

    Sanjay: sorry you feel so bitter

  6. Well, he is still going to be an appointee of Memsahib and will be working for his masters, the dynasty, not the Indian voters.

    @Primary Red:
    Is it really a time to revel in? to celebrate what? the fact that a man who couldn’t win a single election is the one to rule?

  7. Nitin: Totally agree with the title..
    No more excuses left…for not going ahead on reforms..!! lets wait and see…

  8. @Primary Red,

    Wisdom of Indian voter? Where is it??

    And it is the ability of managing vote arithmetic that won.. that’s all!

    I know of instances in AP who received silverware and Rs. 1000 notes from congress (and other parties). People who couldn’t match this lost.. (that includes some of the ‘not so well-to-do’ Congis too..).

    I also know how the caste leaders send messages to their folk who to vote for etc.. (my own caste leaders too do it..).. In south there are these chappal garland (usually around Ambedkar statues) incidents

    Whoever won the election managed the vote arithmetic better..

  9. I think the overwhelming way in which every person in the comments section is picking up on Primary Red shows how disconnected most of the readers of this blog are with the “common man” who decides the govt (I am saying this solely on the basis of the fact that congress defeated BJP). It also shows how disconnected we “upper middle class” is from the needs of the majority of this country.

    Don’t get me wrong – I am no closet socialist. In fact as far as economic policy goes, I am center right. And in foreign policy, I am center right on some issues and center left on some others. But, I just couldn’t resist making this comment after reading the blog and all the readers’ opinion.

    Food for thought for all of us on how we desperately we need to redefine our message (or messenger, or the contents of the message itself) so that it strikes a chord with India’s electorate.

  10. @Primary Red:

    Since we don’t have a center-right in India…

    Depends on what you call ‘center-right’, and whether you’re talking about economic/social/foreign policies. The ‘left’ and ‘right’ scale is quite relative : for example a left-wing social policy in the US (eg. pro-choice, welfare state etc.) is considered centrist in Europe and India.

    I also see a basic problem with your proposition: Given the state of inner-party democracy in the Congress it’s difficult to see how one can bring about a ‘right-of-center’ grouping, when, as you say, the Congress is “left-of-center”.

    Of course, one respects the decision of the electorate. As Nitin says, Dr Singh has no excuses left.

  11. @sanjay

    I find it a little ironic that you accuse the Congress of being a personality cult and yet engage in personal attacks on Primary Red.


    Not sure if the path to the centre right will emerge from the ‘secular’ left. We might actually be doomed to live with socialism and reverse inequality. And this election might have destroyed our chances of having a genuine liberal centre right party for a generation.

  12. Looking at the results through a different lens, not the BJP:Congress one, but through the lens of pro-development policies, they seem to make a lot more sense to me, and restore my faith in Indian democracy. Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, and W. Bengal, suggest that the masses have a new awareness of the gains from governments that put economic growth as priority. It’s not who the incumbents are, but what they do that seem to matter more.

    Really, what if Narendra Modi, or even Nitish Kumar – a senior Railway Board member once told me how Lalu reaped the benefits of policies put in place by Nitish – had been projected as the PM by the BJP/NDA?

  13. It is heartening to see a clear verdict from the people. Let us admit, BJP never gave us a strong and stable alternative. It is good to see criminals lose, leftists lose, LTTE-sympathizers lose. UP, Tamil Nadu and Andhra gave a good verdict. Great to see Dr. JP of Loksatta win the assembly seat.

  14. @Primary Red
    Muslim-Christian antipathy is not a turn off for most Indian voters but negativism is. Funny thing is most of so-called ring-wing Hinduvta elements dont consider BJP as extreme at all..and see BJP as centralist and Congress-ised..Hindu mindset is by design secular. If people dont believe in confining spiritual believes into personal space like in Islamic amount of constitutional guarantees would work..After Partition based on religion, India is still a secular democratic country with no parallels in neighborhood or beyond..wondered why?..So that argument is a non-starter..
    This election was an issue-less election,so a variety of factors contributed to it. 1) Rajasthan Backlash for BJP 2)BJP’s complacency in UP and its overconfidence(as a coalition expert ) that they can maintain and win over allies.Congress’s go-it-alone in UP was seen as “greed and arrogance”.
    3)There is a fear among BJP allies like BJD,JDU that BJP follows an “embrace and extinguish” agenda(or replication of Gujarat Model) Orissa/Karnataka violence which is unfounded since provocation was from missionaries and christian maoists.
    The NRGES,70,000 crore Loan Waiver and Pay Commission (Railyway employees alone constitute 1.4million+families)would have certainly made the mark and it gives wrong orientation to national parties in terms of populism. DMK is also nicely awarded for its populism like free TV and other obscene explicitly populist schemes(not that AIADMK in anyway a saint). 4) BJP’s refusal to accept defeat in has got to accept its defeat to “cleanse itself” probably by abstaining in the house and not vote against UPA which people have given a mandate..possibly by giving UPA a 100-150 day head-start..until new issues of serious disagreements arises.
    5) BJP’s social conservatism,sexism and homophobias should be shed..otherwise it will look like Taliban-lookalike to liberal youth of India which looks to US as role-model.
    6) Congress’s excellent psychological warfare by using MNS and Ram Sena..
    have tarnished Sangh Parivar image..among urban youth..SO its high time BJP jettison thuggish allies like Shiv Sena..

  15. I would like BJP to transform into a more inclusive party..a party based on and for Indians instead of Hindus alone. BJP is a more democratic party than Congress but it needs to shed its RSS and Hinduita baggage.

    The msg from Indian massess is this – they like the centre and stable Congress and they know the alternatives are worse than congress. BJP can either listen to the msg and transform or continue to be in minority!

    BJP needs to kick out Advani and bring in more development oriented guys…I think Modi can transform himself into a good leader..he has a proven record but even he needs to drop his hinduvita baggage.

  16. Sanjay
    “Next to that guy who waved the revolver and put it to his own head, threatening to kill himself if Sonia did not take leadership of the Personality Cult — excuse me,…”

    —‘that guy’ fought these elections on a BSP ticket, you’re xcused…

  17. Hi,

    As best I can tell, India has done pretty well since 2004. Now my position as a foreigner is far from ideal for judging the state of India, but it is possible that the voters just thought the last few years were good and want more like them.


  18. Mr.Turner,

    1) You think that India has done well since 2004.
    2) Indian voters thought that last few years were good for them.

    Both of these are correct. And hence India is on a fast track to something really nasty.

  19. @raymond,

    You are right. But let’s just say many of us have higher expectations of India’s potential.


    Dude you need a cold drink.

  20. Primary Red,

    Even so, it is a defeat for accountability. The first UPA has severely damaged the foundations for economic growth. Those failings have been well documented on this blog and need not be repeated in this discussion. That would have merited some punishment by the electorate, if not a drubbing. The BJP rescued the Congress 🙂


    They could have been better. And they must be better: solid growth on solid foundations is an uncompromisable imperative. Each basis point of economic growth makes a huge difference to the fate of tens of million families. So I have no sympathy for anything less than the maximum sustainable possible.

  21. Hi,

    Look, I’m not saying that Congress deserved its victory, I’m just claiming that it is not that hard to understand. If you were an Indian uncommitted to a particular theory of economic development, and just compared the last 4 years to the rest of India’s history since independence, the Congress party’s results in the last 4 years wouldn’t look that bad.

    Frankly, the issue of whether the policies of the BJP or the Congress will contribute more to India’s development strikes me as debatable. You have to make sure the rich have enough capital to invest and the opportunity to invest it profitably. You have to make sure the middle class and the poor get enough to provide effective demand for the goods the factories the rich build. You need to make sure the rich invest and don’t just ship their capital to Switzerland. You need to spend money on the government to modernize schools, provide a judicial system that is capable of handling the increasing number of disputes modernization creates, etc.

    In short, it is a major balancing act, and I’m not sure whether in the long run the Congress or the BJP will end up being better at it. To my mind there is a good case that the strengths and weaknesses of the Congress and the BJP will turn out to be complimentary, and some rotation between them will be better than a monopolization of power by either party would be.

    As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m an egghead. My guess is that I would support either the Congress or the SP if I had a vote in India.

    Probably fortunately, I don’t have a vote in India. I’m a citizen of the US, and there are days when I’d take either Congress or the BJP as a replacement for the people in power over here. This may merely be evidence of my lack of familiarity with the Congress and BJP, of course.

    Of course, I’d rather meet Katrina Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, or Konkona Sen Sharma than anyone in politics in either the US or India. This seems unlikely, of course. I hope the dispute between the Bollywood producers and the multiplex owners gets settled soon and they go back to releasing new movies.


  22. The ideal situation would have been NDA winning this election with about 250+ seats. Not because I am a BJP supporter (at an ideological level, I hate congress the least!), but because the record during the last five years has been pathetic, even worse than the NDA, which is quite an achievement! From a long term perspective, we would do much better if we threw out non-performers thereby incetivizing good governance – a policy which is clearly leading to better governance at the state level.

    However, I should say i am absolutely delighted with the current set of results – this is probably the best possible result under the given cirucmstances, since NDA getting above 250+ was never a realistic outcome. The topmost priority right now given the dark economic and geopolitical clouds is a stable government. And the biggest positive is that our economic and strategic policies would not be hampered by the dogmatic left.

    Having said that, I constantly keep remining myself that keeping expectations low would be wise choice. Past experiences in 1999 and 2004, which started off with high levels of optimism on my part, ended with a deep sense of disappointment.

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