New Delhi: Is Manmohan Singh, the former prime minister, making a comeback in public life?
On Friday the otherwise reticent Singh has thrust himself in the middle of the contentious debate on monetisation by making an uncharacteristically harsh speech in the Rajya Sabha—with Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi looking on from the treasury benches.
And on Saturday he will be delivering the keynote address at the 111th annual session of the business lobby group, PHD Chamber of Commerce in New Delhi on Saturday.
Soon he will also resume his first love: teaching. Singh will return to his alma mater, Panjab University, to begin a teaching assignment. It may well just be a coincidence too.
As political analysts point out that having served as a prime minister, finance minister and governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), he is one person in the Congress with the desired domain knowledge.
“Singh must have realized that this was an appropriate time which involves an issue very familiar to him. I feel he must have genuinely, personally thought that the debate around demonetisation was becoming all about politics and that he could bring in the economic aspect as well. His speech was brief yet impressive and the best choice to put Congress’ point of view,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, a New Delhi based political analyst.
The impact of Singh’s intervention in the Rajya Sabha was visible on social media where a video of his speech, shared by Congress’ official YouTube channel, got over 2 lakh views in less than a day.
Singh, 84, was the first person to open Congress’ debate on the issue on Thursday and made a brief 7 minute speech laced with economic terms and political barbs.
Describing demonetization as an “organized loot, legalized plunder and monumental mismanagement”, Singh claimed that the scheme could cost the country as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will get cut by 2 percentage points.
The current tenure of the former prime minister in the Rajya Sabha began in June, 2013. According to data by New Delhi based PRS Legislative Research, Singh has had an impressive attendance record since May, 2014 and has had 100% attendance in eight Parliament sessions since then.
However, he has not been very active when it comes to debates and discussions. He has taken part in only one debate till now on the The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2015 earlier this August and has neither asked any questions in the House nor has he introduced any private member’s bill.
While the former prime minister has actively participated in party linked events including protest demonstrations where he has made speeches, he has been selective in his public appearance which analysts feel could continue for a while.
“Going by his past, Manmohan Singh is someone who speaks for the party. I do not think he is going to go all out after this like other politicians but he will selectively avail opportunities to put across his views as well as concerns,” Rao added.