Manmohan Singh : End Of An Era

He epitomised politeness and humbleness. Too gentle to be in politics, Dr Manmohan Singh, the 13th Prime Minister of India took a bow from his political career spanning 33 years. Singh’s exit coincides with the former party chief Sonia Gandhi making her debut in the Rajya Sabha. She will fill the vacant Rajya Sabha seat after the tenure completion of the former PM.

Known for his bold economic reforms, the 91-year-old former Prime Minister first became a member of the Upper House in October 1991. He first served as the finance minister in the Narasimha Rao government (1991-1996) and then as India’s prime minister (2004-2014). On this occasion, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge penned an emotional letter to the former Prime Minister of India. In his letter, Kharge said that an era comes to an end with Singh’s retirement. He said, “As you retire today from the Rajya Sabha after having served for more than three decades, an era comes to an end. Very few people can say they have served our nation with more dedication and more devotion than you. Very few people have accomplished as much as you for the nation and its people.

Personally, it has been a privilege for me to have been a part of your cabinet. Over the last 10 years, while I have been the leader of the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, you have always been a source of wisdom and someone whose advise I valued. Over the last few years, you have made it a point to be available for the Congress party despite personal inconveniences. For this, the party and I will always remain grateful.”

Earlier in February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi bid farewell to Singh while praising the Congress stalwart for his contribution to the democracy. He also hailed Dr Manmohan Singh for coming to the Parliament in a wheelchair to cast his vote, saying that he set an example for other MPs to perform their duties. He said, “I remember in the other House, during the voting, it was known that the treasury bench would win but Dr Manmohan Singh came in his wheelchair and cast his vote. This an example of a member being alert of his duties.”

The two UPA regimes led by 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 his leadership.

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

Hopeful that the history will be kinder to him than the media, at 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. “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.”

Besides the huge list of achievements attributed to the former Prime Minister, he will always be remembered as suave and sombre leader with a vision who could think ahead of time. As a result, decades down the line, Singh’s contributions as the first finance minister and later as prime minister, saw India’s economy rise to heights like never seen before ever since the independence.


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