Well, the Prime Minister has said at the G-20 summit in Mexico that his government is determined to take tough decisions, including on controlling subsidies. These words are certainly welcome, but we’ll have to wait and see whether this is just empty rhetoric or will be followed up by action. Surely enough time has already been lost?
Will the cat really be belled?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talking with French President Francois Hollande in Los Cabos, Mexico. Photo / AFP
The next few months should be interesting. We shall have a new Finance Minister, and there has been zero indication from the government or the Congress about who that could be. Could it be possible that Manmohan Singh will keep the finance portfolio with himself? He will remain Prime Minister for a maximum of two years now, and can one perhaps hope that he will break free of all the shackles that he has bound himself in over the last few years, and do the right thing? He has nothing to lose, and more importantly, he has a chance to reclaim what he has lost, in terms of image and contribution. If he wants to, he can, over the next two years, make sure of how future historians will regard him.
We know very well that when he wants to, Manmohan Singh can be steely in resolve. We know that he has it in him to take big risks. Both qualities were amply on display some years ago over the US nuclear deal. The task at hand today is far more important than that deal, and certainly far more immediate and urgent. He knows what needs to be done for the country. But even if he does it only for himself, with an eye on posterity and history books, that should also be fine. The undeniable truth is that if he does not act, he will be remembered only as someone who was very good at carrying out orders, first from P.V. Narasimha Rao, and then from Sonia Gandhi. That he lacked a core sense of what is right, and preferred to go with the flow. Surely Manmohan Singh would not like to remembered in that manner?
Two years is not a very long period of time, but it is long enough, especially when one knows what needs to be done, and can look rogue allies in the eye and go ahead and do it. It’s time the Prime Minister called the bluffs of all those around him, from cabinet colleagues to party members, from the ally parties to the Opposition, and put India back on that growth track he keeps talking about.
He has spent the last few years assiduously making certain that our faith in his abilities, and our estimation of the strength of his spine is eroded. It’s time to undo the process. He deserves a better place in history. Just do it for that, do it for yourself, Dr Singh.