PM's Teflon Coating Wearing Off

Unlike many of his Ministerial colleagues, Dr. Singh has no nephews, sons and sons-in-law, feeding like vultures off rotten flesh. What gives him public standing also are his innate civility and a deceptive air of humility that hides a calculating brain. The abiding mystery is why a natural instinct to preserve his place in India’s economic history has not prevented him from bringing the economy to its knees, with about the worst set of macroeconomic indicators for any major economy. 


pms-teflon-coating-wearing-Fingers are starting to point at the PM. The difference this time is that the Teflon coating has worn off  not wholly, but very substantially. Back in 2004, Manmohan Singh was this spotless “father of economic reform” who by a twist of fate had become Prime Minister and offered the country new hope. Along the way, as he lost ministerial colleagues to scandal at the rate of about one a year, Dr. Singh could plead helplessness in the face of “coalition dharma”, or “arm’s length” ignorance even after Andimuthu Raja kept sending him letters.
He could be silent when the country’s aviation rights were gifted to the Arabs, and do a neat side-step by seeking to pin the blame on the Finance Minister for spectrum mispricing though he himself had called a crucial meeting on the subject. Now, in 2013, he protected a Minister of Law who seemed immune to any sense of propriety, though it was plain that the Minister (of Law, mind you) tried to derail the inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the coal-mine allocation scandal, and then lied about it.
There will be even less Teflon left if the court asks the Joint Secretary concerned in the Prime Minister’s Office to testify who instructed him to vet the CBI’s report to the court. Greek tragedy has the concept of a fatal flaw. Manmohan Singh’s is malleability when deciding what is right and wrong. It isn’t easy to spot the flaw because he masks it with his ability to argue either side with a display of equal conviction. And he uses it to great effect to ensure the survival of his Government and himself.
So, despite obvious differences with his party chief on economic policy, he has mostly suppressed his instincts and gone with hers despite the damage it has caused. On allowing coalition partners to run amok, he said something like, “I am not in the business of losing my Government’s majority” (though, ironically, that is exactly what he has done, after losing coalition partners at the rate of one every two years).
As for protecting the public interest, when the Petroleum Minister warned of the fiscal consequences of awarding a big jump in gas prices to a private party, the Minister was packed off to earth sciences. When the Sports Minister warned him two years before the Commonwealth Games that a financial scandal was building up, that Minister too got changed. The Coal Secretary wrote to him as Coal Minister, warning of a scam and asking for a mine auctioning policy. The old one, garnished with the usual favouritism to favourites, continued. The Opposition likes to attribute all this to weakness in the Prime Minister, but that cannot explain the reluctance to take action, even when prodded, as a response to misdemeanour by a political nonentity like Ashwani Kumar, or by a lightweight like Pawan Bansal from single-Lok Sabha-seat Chandigarh.
Nor can he plead the compulsions of coalition politics. Could it be “non-policy paralysis”?
Let’s face it, the more likely explanation in at least some cases is complicity. A micron-thin Teflon coating remains despite repeated acquiescence in the face of wrongdoing because, unlike many of his Ministerial colleagues, Dr, Singh has no nephews, sons and sons-in-law, feeding like vultures off rotten flesh.
What gives him public standing also are his innate civility and a deceptive air of humility that hides a calculating brain. The abiding mystery is why a natural instinct to preserve his place in India’s economic history has not prevented him from bringing the economy to its knees, with about the worst set of macroeconomic indicators for any major economy.
Nor, while he makes his robot-like speeches, has he uttered a word of regret about the mismanagement. Does he think that he is not complicit in that too?
– Business Standard

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