Disclaimer: Whatever you are going to read below is one grand conspiracy theory by me. So believe at you own peril !
Now that the disclaimer is out-of-the-way, let us ask the fundamental question bugging each of us every hour – and the question which I attempt to answer in this blog.
“Why the hell is Dr. Man Mohan Singh ( MMS) continuing in office even for one more second?”
This is not just a rhetorical question, although it has gained some urgency after the latest slap on the face of the economic dream team ( Dr. MMS himself + Montek + Chidambaram + Pranab Mukherjee ) by Standard & Poor ( S&P). This question has existed in the minds of most politically aware people, especially those who voted for Congress, since early 2011. Why would MMS want to suffer such opprobrium and for what?
With each passing week (now days actually) comes bad news after bad news – from being branded (and rightly so) the most corrupt government in modern Indian history to messing up all the vitals of the economy to destroying the education sector by putting Kapil Sibal incharge to straining the social fabric by unbridled communalism to destroying all institutions – Congress has left not one strand of the nation-state untouched from its destructive streak in the last 8 years of its rule. Yet, Dr. MMS happily, or so it would seem, continues to carry on, oblivious of the fires raging around him. The question is – why?
The three legacies of MMS
Dr. MMS has had three stints in power. First as Finance Minister in Narashimha Rao government between 1991-96, then twice as Prime Minister of India: in UPA-I from 2004-09 and then in UPA-II from 2009 and continuing as we speak ( the question again – why? ).
His previous two stints – as FM between 1991-96 and as PM between 2004-09 have come to be recognised for two big defining policy ideas and in the process each time dismantling a regime and heralding a new one. As FM he dismantled the license permit raj and heralded the economic boom of the next 15 years. (although critics now give more credit to PVNR). As PM in UPA-I he gave a definitive push to the NDA policy of dismantling the non aligned foreign policy and heralding a defining partnership with the US, the hallmark of which was the Nuclear Deal. So what is his big defining policy idea in UPA-II, which almost certainly is his last executive political office? What will he dismantle and what will he herald?
This question has animated political thinkers to no end. In a recent piece ( here ) , Barkha Dutt of NDTV agonised over the same question – why is it that MMS, who had such a visible one point agenda as FM and an identifiable big idea as PM in UPA-I, seems to be so clueless in UPA-II? Everyone now accepts that push for Nuclear Deal was flawed since it has yielded zilch in 4 years after risking a government over it. Yet at least he had an idea and he pushed for it? What is his one big idea for UPA-II? Why will a person who had one in each of his previous two stints not have one in his third term?
For a long time people thought peace with Pakistan would be his big idea for UPA-II. He seemed to give early indications too with the Sharm el-Sheikh surrender. But consider this – MMS has been Prime Minister since 2004. Since then he has not visited Pakistan even once? Top Pakistani leaders have come to India thrice since then – Musharraf in 2005 , Gilani in 2011 and Zardari in 2012. Had MMS really been serious about peace with Pak, would he not have visited even once? Vajpayee visited Pakistan twice in just 6 years of his stint to pursue his genuine dream. In which other bilateral relationship does it happen that top leadership of a country visits India thrice and there is not even one reciprocal visit? Also consider that even on the three occasions that Pak leaders have come here, none have been state visits – for it would have bound MMS to negotiate under some commitment. They have all been couched as personal visits allowing for state discussions – thus giving leeway to MMS to not commit himself to anything formal. It is not my argument that MMS is not desirous of peace with Pak, if achievable. But is the agenda of peace with Pak, especially in UPA-II, a smokescreen behind which he is pursuing his third grand idea for India. His final defining legacy?
Defining Legacy of MMS?
As we get one depressing news after the other each day, think of the emotions that Congress and its governance evokes today – of anger, of derision, of caricature, of frustration, or of even compelling hate.
Nominally, MMS is responsible for all this as the head of the government and the decent man that he is claimed to be, should have resigned and gone by now for clearly his government is so paralysed that it can do nothing to retrieve the situation. But MMS has not resigned.
Is it possible then that MMS is continuing in office because he is actually achieving what he set out to achieve in UPA – II? Of reducing the Congress to the state that it is in today and of building up the emotions for Congress that we listed above?
Could the big grand idea of MMS in UPA-II have been the destruction of Congress as we know it today?
Nehruvian consensus that defined independent India had three basic structures – economic structure, foreign policy structure, and domestic social & political structure. MMS dismantled the Nehruvian economic structure as FM. As PM in UPA-I he dismantled the Nehruvian foreign policy by firmly aligning with the US. As he got his unexpected third term he set about dismantling the social & political structure – represented in all its gory form by the Congress party !
Here is the theory
The unbridled loot in 2G and the proceeds used to win 2009 LS elections actually set in motion the plan of MMS for his third grand idea – that the Congress party and the dynasty must be destroyed root and branch if India had to get out of this vicious cycle of corruption perpetuating the dynasty . Being forced to accept Raja again in his UPA-II cabinet only firmed up his resolve for single mindedly following his third big idea.
MMS made one smart calculation early on – he knew that new leader of the dynasty, Rahul Gandhi, was a such a nincompoop that he could not come up with any counter moves ( as in say gathering mass political support and thus having the confidence to replace him) to thwart his plans. Sonia Gandhi’s illness (which he could have had an inkling much earlier conisdering all intelligence agencies report to him) only further insured his plans against any challenge.
To start with, a smokescreen of a peace process with Pak was created – it was a believable idea behind which he could pursue his real agenda.
Then he set about the task through a two-pronged strategy . First, freezing all new government decisions and second, locking down Congress in one scam expose after the other.
Consider the following: each embarrassing leak / expose about the Congress party has in some way or the other come from the PMO. From the persistent word that Dr. Swamy got all his papers on 2G from PMO ( and thus his refusal to ever directly target the PM) to the leaks on CWG to the leaked CAG report on 2G to the leaked Devas papers to as recently as the leaking of COAS letter to the PM. The letter written by Pranab Mukherjee accusing Chidambarm of spying on his office also likely leaked by PMO. Think about this – not one media has done any serious expose on this government. All exposes trace back their source to the PMO because of which this government finds itself in such a mess. Why would the head of government orchestrate every damning leak about his own government unless he has a plan?
With such a flurry of leaks, the only possible effective ministers who could drive some policy such as Chidambaram and Pranab have been neutralised in a turf war. They spend their days looking over their shoulders rather than addressing policy. For other sectors MMS put such people as Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh incharge who happily went about their destruction job.
MMS also diligently implemented his other plan – of freezing all decision-making, especially in the economic sphere. The results are there for all to see – GDP growth plummeting to lowest in a decade, food inflation touching 20%, general inflation in high double digits, unemployment rising, the markets stagnating, infrastructure sector coming to a grinding halt, global sentiment about India tanking, one agency after the other downgrading India – the list is endless.
Being the smart man that he is, MMS obviously knew when to create effective diversionary tactics. The FDI in retail was one such. Would a person who regularly gets clean bowled first ball batting at No 11 suddenly one day decide to open the innings in a test match on a seaming pitch? MMS knew the FDI in retail push will fail – he ensured as much by announcing it when Parliament was in session. Yet, it allows him the smokescreen that he took a decision but allies stalled !
So why should MMS still continue in office after bringing the Congress to the state it is today? To understand this think about whether Congress elicited the same derision a year back as it does today? Or even 6 months ago? Is not the compelling hate for Congress rising each day, each hour? Now if MMS had resigned say 3 months ago, or even resigns today and general elections are forced, sure Congress would likely lose. But that would be like the loss of any government facing anti incumbency ( like say Mayawati lost in UP recently).
But what if MMS stretches this till 2014? With each passing day will come a bout of bad news – every fundamental of India economy under attack, the spectre of our future being destroyed in front of our own eyes, India missing a historic opportunity, rising agrarian distress, frustration and anger build up in the vocal middle class – the anger and hate for Congress will rise with each passing day. Is it not likely that the monumental patience of Indians will one day give over? They will come out in the streets demanding the head of the government ( like say in Egypt) ? Anna movement has already demonstrated that it is possible at a smaller level. But as the bad news multiplies, is it not likely that at some point in near future the proverbial dam of public restraint will break and the tide of public anger will drown everything in its wake? MMS is waiting for that day to quit and call elections – to call elections when Congress will not just lose but be wiped and with it take down the new generation dynast. The final nail in the coffin of the dynasty – the last remaining piece of the discredited Nehruvian structure.
To quit before that level is achieved – and MMS would lose all he has worked so hard for. He is waiting for that deliverance – he delivered India economically in first stint, in world affairs in second. His third and final stint would be the grandest – he will dismantle the dynasty and herald India socially and politically. By destroying the present form of Congress and giving us a genuine party and not a loot machine.
This is his one defining big idea of this third term – to destroy the Congress dynasty. Will history judge him kindly for his stellar contribution? That I leave to the historians !
Update : Dr. Man Mohan Singh has suffered a personal tragedy ( link here ) too at the hands of the dynasty. His wife’s brother was butchered in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms – a massacre of Sikhs under the eyes of one dynast who was out to revenge the death of another dynast !