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Why PM Narendra Modi’s fierce counter will make Manmohan Singh hesitate to debate even economics

8 February, 2017 8:19 PM
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Wit, style and above all a non-aggressive body language - Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have mastered the art of addressing the Parliament.

Wit, style and above all a non-aggressive body language – Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have mastered the art of addressing the Parliament. It’s an art that seems to leave the Opposition clueless in a way that it decides to walk away – literally – from the issue at hand! Such was the case when PM Modi, in his Motion of Thanks on the President’s address, attacked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Addressing the Rajya Sabha, in his usual subtle yet authoritative style, PM Modi ‘praised’ Dr Manmohan Singh for knowing the ‘art of taking a shower in the bathroom, even while wearing a raincoat!’.

How did PM Modi draw this parallel, you wonder? Here’s the context in which the ‘praise’ (read: jibe) came: “For the past 30 to 35 years, Dr Manmohan Singh has been directly involved in India’s economic policies, that too in a position of decision making. In 70 years of Independence, I doubt if there is any person who would have had the power to influence the economy for as many as 35 years, as he did…the news of so many scams emerged – all of us politicians have something to learn from Doctor saheb – so many scams, and yet there was no blot on him. To take a shower in the bathroom, while wearing a raincoat, is an art that only Doctor saheb knows,” PM Modi joked, hitting home a point that seemed to pierce Congress right where it hurts most.

PM Modi had earlier this week attacked Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in his Lok Sabha address, but it appears from the party’s reaction that the dig at Manmohan Singh was unbearable! And why shouldn’t it? In all these years, even while Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, Congress always banked on the leader’s clean image. Indeed, Manmohan Singh, despite heading a government that lost spectacularly because of multiple scam accusations, was able to project that he was not involved in any act of corruption.

Of late, Congress had been banking on Manmohan Singh’s sound knowledge of economics to target the Modi government on various issues, the most recent being demonetisation. Manmohan Singh had in Parliament called the government’s demonetisation move ‘organised loot and legalised plunder’.

However, with today’s open attack on Singh, Modi has tried to put an end to Congress attempts of showcasing Manmohan as the economist whose word and wisdom cannot be doubted. Modi has tactfully questioned, yet again, Manmohan Singh’s ‘ability’ to head a government that was riddled in scams after scams. He has refreshed in the minds of people the very reason for which Congress was voted out of power in the 2014 elections – Manmohan Singh’s inability to check corruption. Modi has driven home a hard-hitting point – no matter how qualified Manmohan Singh may be in the field of economics, hard facts show he left office with an economy in shambles.

Manmohan Singh declined to comment on PM Modi’s speech. “I do not want to speak,” was all that Singh said in his characteristic style of keeping silent. Silence, they say is golden. But in Congress’s case, it has cost it a lot, as past experience shows. One would recall the famous words of Manmohan Singh, when in 2012 he had as PM said “Hazaaron jawabon se acchi hai meri khamoshi…”. The silence didn’t pay off for the Congress then, and it is doubtful that it will be of any help now. Golden silence doesn’t always shine!

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