The passing of a generation: Manmohan Singh's time as Indian Prime Minister is nearly up

Rahul Gandhi is running India from the sidelines

Share
Related Topics

If Manmohan Singh looked nothing less than exhausted as he addressed the media on his official flight home from the US it was hardly surprising.

His five-day visit, designed to cement closer relations between Delhi and Washington and to enable him to make progress in talks with Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif, had turned out to be a damp squib.

The damage had been done not so much by his unremarkable meeting with Barack Obama, or by his encounter with Mr Sharif being undermined by a militant attack in Kashmir and a controversy about whether or not his Pakistani counterpart had called him a “village hag”. (He had not, apparently.)

Rather, the 81-year-old had been grievously damaged by an outburst back in India by no-one less than Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and the man who could succeed Mr Singh as Prime Minister.

Last Friday afternoon, before Mr Singh had even woken up in Washington, Mr Gandhi walked into a Delhi press conference that had been organised by his Congress party. Among other items discussed was a controversial piece of legislation the government was seeking to introduce by the back door that would allow convicted politicians to retain their place in parliament.

Asked about this so-called ordinance, Mr Gandhi responded: “This is complete nonsense and it should be torn up and thrown out. It is my personal opinion...All parties do this because of political considerations and we must stop making compromises.”

In an instant, sycophantic senior Congress ministers found themselves in the unenviable position of having to now back Mr Gandhi’s statement, having moments earlier defended the ordinance the 43-year-old had so vigorously denounced. Mr Singh, still waking up, let it be known that he would deal with the matter when he returned to Delhi.

On his flight back, during the traditional meeting with the media, he claimed such outbursts were part of the round of political life. But he said he would find out why Mr Gandhi had raised the matter in the manner that he had.

“I am not the master of what people say,” he said, looking tired. “It has happened and, as I said, when I go back I will try to find out the reasons why it had to be done that way and how to handle it.”

Mr Singh has now arrived back in the capital and the tree-lined streets of Lutyens’ Delhi were on Wednesday busy with a series of official motorcades making their way around town.

Firstly, Rahul Gandhi paid a visit to Manmohan Singh’s official residence at Race Course Road where he reportedly expressed his regret for the language and timing (but not the content) of his comment. Secondly, Mr Singh travelled to see President Pranab Mukherjee, the man who would have to sign the ordinance into law. (He had always been reluctant to do so.)

The cabinet met later on Wednesday and it was reported that the government had asked for the ordinance, which had previously been agreed upon by the cabinet, to be withdrawn. Rahul Gandhi got his way.

The “nonsense” outburst has transfixed political observers in Delhi, highlighting as it has the dangerous fault-line between the official seat of power in the government (Manmohan Singh) and the seat of genuine political power (Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul). Many have argued that this disconnect has repeatedly damaged Mr Singh’s second term as prime minister and his ability to get things done.

It has also thrown up questions about what Mr Gandhi’s real intentions may have been. Was he trying to set himself apart from the Congress for tactical reasons ahead of the upcoming election. And what about the relationship between Rahul and his mother; did she approve of his outburst?

Yet what it also did, perhaps more than anything else, was signify the effective end of Mr Singh’s premiership, the passing of a generation. Many have suggested he should have resigned in the aftermath of Mr Gandhi’s comments in order preserve the dignity of the office.

But that is by the by. An election is due to be held by next May. The charismatic Narendra Modi, of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, is already racing his way around the country and holding rallies as he seeks to dislodge the Congress from power.

A way to draw a line under this matter would be for the Congress to now meet the challenges it faces and announce a date for that election.

Mr Gandhi should finally either announce that he wants to be the Prime Minister and will be the party’s official candidate, or else stop trying to run things from the sidelines. Power without responsibility does not befit the world’s largest democracy.

And Mr Singh could at least have a rest.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

John Noakes was everyone’s favourite presenter in the 1970s. It’s a shock to realise the eternal boy scout is now an octogenarian suffering from dementia  

How remarkable that John Noakes still has the power to affect me so

Matthew Norman
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy