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Business News/ Politics / News/  Manmohan Singh retires from Rajya Sabha: A look at ex-PM's 33-year-long journey in 5 statements
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Manmohan Singh retires from Rajya Sabha: A look at ex-PM's 33-year-long journey in 5 statements

Singh, 91, is credited for opening the Indian economy to global competition and regarded as architect of India’s economic liberalisation as Finance Minister in 1991. Later, Singh went on to become Prime Minister serving two terms between 2004 and 2014.

Manmohan Singh retires from Rajya Sabha: A look at the 33-year-long journey of ex-PM through 5 statements (ANI)Premium
Manmohan Singh retires from Rajya Sabha: A look at the 33-year-long journey of ex-PM through 5 statements (ANI)

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh retired from the Rajya Sabha on April 3 after serving 33 years in the Indian Parliament.

Singh, 91, is credited for opening the Indian economy to global competition and often regarded as architect of India’s economic liberalisation as Finance Minister in 1991. Later, Singh went on to become Prime Minister of the Congress-led UPA government serving two terms between 2004 and 2014.

Singh has not been keeping well for quite some time and has stayed away from public appearances. His only public appearance in 2024 was at the book launch of his daughter at the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi, in January. 

The two UPA regimes led by Manmohan Singh are credited with the launch of social welfare initiatives such as guaranteed job schemes -Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA) - and right to education for every child. Reforms including Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and national identity number, Aadhaar were also launched during Manmohan Singh’s term as PM.

Also Read:  'An era comes to an end’ Mallikarjun Kharge writes as Manmohan Singh retires from Rajya Sabha. Full letter here

Yet his last years in office were marred with corruption scandals and inflation, with many in the opposition calling him a ‘weak’ PM. 

In 2014, Congress-led UPA government under PM Manmohan Singh was defeated, paving way for Narendra Modi to become Prime Minister of the Bhartiya Janata Party-led-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) dispensation.

PM Modi is seeking a record third term in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections 2024, beginning April 19.

Singh never won Lok Sabha elections. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for the first time by the Congress party in October 1991, four months after he became the Union Finance Minister. He represented Assam for five terms in the Rajya Sabha and shifted to Rajasthan in 2019, his last term that ended on Wednesday.

The law requires a Prime Minister or a Union Minister to be a member of either of the houses in the Parliament- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. In one of the Parliament Sessions in August last year, Manmohan Singh was hailed for attending the session on wheelchair despite his ill health.

Here are the five famous statements by the former PM.

A former academician and bureaucrat, Singh jumped into politics when he joined the Congress in June 1991. Singh was appointed Finance Minister by the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. During his term, Singh launched a series of radical measures to revive and reform the economy and is thus regarded as architect of India’s economic liberalisation.

July 24,1991: ‘India is now wide awake’

In his maiden speech as Finance Minister in the Parliament on July 24,1991, Singh famously quoted French writer and politician Victor Hugo, saying that "no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come".

"I do not minimise the difficulties that lie ahead on the long and arduous journey on which we have embarked. But as Victor Hugo once said, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come". I suggest to this august House that the emergence of India as a major economic power in the world happens to be one such idea. Let the whole world hear it loud and clear. India is now wide awake. We shall prevail. We shall overcome," Singh said.

Thirty years later, on the anniversary of economic liberalisation on July 23 2021, Singh recalled Robert Frost’s poem, “But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep".

August 25, 1999: ‘Politicians taking people for a ride’

In an interview with BCC in August 1999, Singh quoted former US President Abraham Lincoln saying that politicians in India have been taking people for a ride for last fifty years.

“I do believe we need a new type of politics. A politics of frankness, a politics that tells people things straight, things as they are. I think we cannot fool our people. As Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘you can fool some people for all time, all people for some time, but not all people for all time.’ And I do believe that in the last 50 years, politicians have been taking our people for a ride. And I feel there is a great danger if the gap between what politicians say, promise, and what they do, grows the way it has been growing," Singh told Karan Thapar in the interview.

January 3, 2014: ‘History will be kinder to me’

On January 3, 2014, the fag end of his second and last term as Prime Minister, Singh responded to the criticism that he was facing by defending his government’s record. 

Also Read: Who is alternative to PM Modi? Congress MP Shashi Tharoor responds

"I do not believe that I have been a weak Prime Minister. I honestly believe that history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media or for that matter the Opposition in Parliament.... Given the political compulsions, I have done the best I could do. I have done as well as I could do according to the circumstances. It is for history to judge what I have done or what I have not done," Singh said addressing a press conference, the third in his two terms.

January 3, 2014: ‘Disastrous to have Narendra Modi as PM’

On January 4, 2014, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Singh said at a press conference that he sincerely believes that it will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister." Modi was then the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

Also Read: Rahul Gandhi files nomination from Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, says 'will not rest until...'

Four years later, however, Singh regretted the comment. “I did say Modi will be a disaster as the PM. Now I recognise I used a harsh word I should not have used. I don’t want to repeat it," Singh said in Indore in November 2018 ahead of Madhya Pradesh assembly polls.

November 24, 2016:  ’Demonetisation a monumental mismanagement’

Manmohan Singh has been critical of his successor’s economic policies including demonetisation of all 500 and 1,000 banknotes announced by PM Modi on November 8, 2016. 

Speaking during a debate on demonetisation in Parliament in the same month, Singh said that the way “the scheme had been implemented was a monumental management failure." He also called it “a case of organised loot, legalised plunder of the common people". 

A year later, Singh called demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as “twin blow to the economy".

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Published: 03 Apr 2024, 05:14 PM IST
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