Manmohan Singh Has a Record-Presided Over the Most Corrupt Government in Indian History
The BJP won the election in 2019. It was an encore after winning the 2014 election. In both these elections, the Congress Party received the biggest drubbing in Indian history. The party failed to win 10% of the seats and thus the post of leader of the opposition was denied to it. After the 2019 election, a look back as to how the Congress Party ruled during its decade in power does invite comparison.
The BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was defeated in 2004. It was a victory for the Congress more by default as the BJP failed on almost all fronts and the manifesto of the BJP sounded like an empty promise. No Ram temple, No abrogation of Article 370, complete backsliding on Unified Civil Code and what not and he was thrown out.
Congress-led by its Italian born leader Ms. Sonia Gandhi searched around for a leader. She wanted to be prime minister herself, but at that time Dr. Kalam the president had other ideas. He was aware that if an Italian became PM of India, it could lead to a massive agitation. Indian masses as yet could not accept an Italian as PM. Dr. Kalam advised, against Ms. Sonia being sworn in as the Prime Minister. She wanted power and being unable to become prime minister did upset her.
She did the next best thing when she chose a weak-kneed man as PM. He was Manmohan Singh. Though highly qualified, he had no experience of being a mass leader. Congress Party nominated Dr. ManMohan Singh to be the PM. Man Mohan Singh had a dubious record. The noted writer Khushwant Singh had in a post commented that Man Mohan Singh could not even win a panchayat election ( local municipal election) and yet was thrust as the PM of India.
Manmohan Singh accepted the offer to be PM. His reasons have never been stated. Probably the lure of being Prime Minister of India was too much for him to say no. He was thus beholden to Sonia and agreed to send all files to her as well as decide on policy matters. He became the PM of India knowing very well that his leadership base was zero. He had to do as he was told. The sad part is, he belonged to a race that had been uncompromising in battle and life and yet he threw in the towel.
I remember meeting a close confidante of the central government and he informed me that every day at 6 PM Dr. Singh would discuss the government files with Ms. Sonia Gandhi and take her approval. If this is true it is a sad commentary on the man who was heading a nation of 1.2 billion people.
The Reign of Corruption
Manmohan Singh became prime minister but he did not have the prerogative to choose his cabinet, which is the hallmark of parliamentary democracy. The cabinet was chosen by Sonia Gandhi and the coterie who surrounded her. At one time he wanted to make Montek Singh Ahluwalia as the finance minister but Sonia put her foot down and Singh could do nothing. He became a powerless puppet and many have vouchsafed about this state of affairs.
His prerogative to take policy decisions' was almost zero. Cabinet ministers began to act as if they were responsible to Sonia Gandhi. The principle of accountability to the PM went for a toss. A single incident will show the caliber of Mr. Manmohan Singh as prime minister of India the Cabinet had issued an ordinance on criminals and the period to be debarred from elections and holding elected office. In a press conference the son of Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Rahul Gandhi tore the ordinance and threw it away stating that it had no value. Any man would have reacted and resigned at this insult but Dr. Singh held another meeting and decided to withdraw the ordinance.
Cabinet ministers also decided they were the authority as a systematic looting of the state exchequer commenced. It is difficult to estimate the exact amount of money siphoned off by these men but it could be in excess of billions of dollars.
Big scams took place right under the nose of the PM and he was powerless. In most cases, he willingly compromised himself as he could not stand up to Gandhi. The looting of the state treasury continued at a greater pace during the second term of the UPA government.
The trail of collect corruption in the Congress-led government reached the doors of the Prime Minister himself. Manmohan was the minister for coal as for some months nobody had been allotted the coal minister's portfolio. This was the time when another big scandal broke out on the allocation of coal blocks. At a conservative estimate, this scandal was close to a billion dollars. He failed to accept responsibility and took shelter behind inane statements.
The free for all had to end and Manmohan a Singh was shattered when his party could only win a handful of seats in the Indian parliament. Another casualty was an investigation by the CBI into various allegations in copter and aircraft deals. The trail pointed to top heads of the Congress party and Singh clamped down on CBI investigations.
With the BJP in power, the investigation gathered pace and even the chief of air staff was arrested. Anupam Kher the Bollywood actor also released a film on the life of Manmohan Singh titled The accidental Prime Minister, the film brought out the helplessness of the Prime Minister and concluded that as a man he was good but a failure as the PM of a nation of 1.2 billion people. Historians will have a field day in the years and decades to come to try and unravel the greatest historical mystery of all time, as to how a man with no political base and no following was catapulted as the leader of 1.2 billion people, only to let the nation down.
History cannot absolve Manmohan Singh. He will have to answer, as to why he played the harp, like Ñero, when India burned.