Necessary Illusions of the Indian Prime Minister

Originally published under Pattanayak’s personal column ‘My Undefined Track’ in, this article carries observations that seems similar to what majority of Indians certainly feel. Patriotic conscience speaks through this article. Hence I call upon all, who, despite desire to say, could not coin appropriate words to say what should they have said, to see how their feeling has come out correctly.–Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

By Saswat Pattanayak

I don’t have any problem with Manmohan Singh per se. What hurts is the expectation of people to expect any better from him.

Apparently only after the Indian PM shamelessly praised the “good governance” model of the British colonial rule, both the rightist and leftist parties have vehemently stood up against him.

True, Singh insulted the sentiments of all patriotic Indians who still find a reason to live with dignity, only in name of sacrifices of the indomitable freedom fighters who laid down their lives to drive the British out. They find a reason to live with dignity in a country whose prospects are marred by widespread poverty, corruption and unemployment. For nearly six decades now, people have been celebrating their existence in the ravaged land because they could not simply afford to disrespect the lives lost in pursuit for self-governance. Hope prevailed high that Indians shall one day reap the benefits of the freedom struggle, redeem faith in the belief that autonomy from foreign rule held the key.

And this abstract panacea in the form of self-aware third world nationalism for concrete afflictions characterizing the “developing” countries has finally been challenged. The people have been woefully represented by leaderships that have sung the praises of exploiters, homegrown and foreign.

And this time, since he was “emotional”, a capitalist leader has been just accidentally become more direct in his praises.

The centrist or even left of the center party, Congress has nothing to complain. They knew it was coming. Manmohan Singh indeed earlier during his tenure as finance minister had submitted an economic modernization plan that was a joy to the right wing parties. Instead of being rejected wholeheartedly, it was accepted for its reform values. And those reforms as we know served the capitalistic interests of foreign concerns. India was soon converted into the largest sweatshop in the world market. Pretending to be complaining the domestic capitalists (who had earlier funded rightists to power in 1977) easily gained stronghold of economy to vote right wing nationalists to power. They knew for example, any business with McDonald’s was only going to help the franchisee owners in India! They thus furthered the plan of domestic privatizations and indeed sold off more than half of public properties to any business house that could afford, in lieu of kickbacks. They worsened it such that people exercising their Hobson’s choice had to throw them out of power (even if the only difference was their colors as religious fanatics). But the rightist soon made Sonia Gandhi an issue. No way they were to accept that lady or anyone else from Congress, save for one man. And that man was the architect of liberalization in India: Manmohan Singh. Only after Singh was installed the right wingers kept silence. And since then, much to their expectation and merry, the privatization policies continued.

Between the bad and worse, Indians went on paying heavy prices as privatization went murkier. As privatization went on appeasing the foreign concerns and their domestic partner capitalists, Singh appeared everywhere, from Charlie Rose Show to Time Magazine. At one of these points of mutual adulations, Singh thought of expressing his gratitude to the ideology that had raised him to this level of shrewdness. Oxford University.

Singh said,

As the painstaking statistical work of the Cambridge historian Angus Maddison has shown, India’s share of world income collapsed from 22.6 per cent in 1700, almost equal to Europe’s share of 23.3 per cent at that time, to as low as 3.8 per cent in 1952. ..Indeed, at the beginning of the 20th Century, “the brightest jewel in the British Crown” was the poorest country in the world in terms of per capita income.

And yet unashamedly unruffled and praising the British for this downfall of Indian economy that resulted in profiting the super-rich sycophants of the Raj, and torturing the mass population of downtrodden, Singh philosophized almost to justify everything that had gone wrong. Indians must have been hungry dogs, as Churchill had said. And hence we were never meant to know how to govern good, Singh confessed, as though to speak for himself and absolve himself of his incompetencies:

‘Even at the height of our campaign for freedom from colonial rule, we did not entirely reject the British claim to good governance. We merely asserted our natural right to self-governance.’

Singh’s understanding that British had “good governance” and that people of Indian did not reject the British (a bunch of lunatics those freedom fighters at the gallows must have been, considering Singh’s beliefs) in India has to be sympathetically understood. Here is a man firmly committed to the idea of selling the hapless indigenous to the mighty foreign, in lieu of some recognitions (in this case a honorary degree or two). And his entire life has been dedicated to this cause. From Garibi Hatao (Eradicate poverty) to Garibko Hatao (Eradicate the poor), the motto of capitalism is well ingrained in this man. What else did the Center expect from the PM?

As for the Left, they should have nothing to complain either. They are out of wits. Why else would they have ever lent any support to a government led by an avowed pro-market economist? Why are they objecting to Singh as anti-nationalist, when they could not attack him ever for being a staunch capitalist? Moreover, should the Left pledge allegiance to the cause of narrow nationalistic politics or to the international mobilizations against capitalistic expansions?

Finally, amidst the mud, the pigs enjoy the most. The rightist parties are clear winner in this case. Just when Advani and Joshi and the team of vandals were about to face charges for inciting communal violence, nothing would have come as a better relief. Such a ruckus was after all created by their own man. Singh, if anything, is the dream of the right-wingers in India. They needed someone who would be smart enough to fool the masses by slogans of development, sabotage the communists by policies, promote the financiers of right-wing politics by disinvestments, represent the profit interests by privatization, sophisticatedly draft market economy mantras that won’t sound offensive, kill Sonia Gandhi as a leader, represent the rightist interests outside the country, and finally praise the British rule (considering the long standing support of the right wingers towards British rule for which they were infamous during the freedom struggle, and for which they were infamous after they killed Gandhi and were banned for anti-national activities in the newly independent India).

In ways as should not appear surprising at all, Manmohan Singh is the man from the extreme Right of the political spectrum. Under him the private business will flourish, private rules of law will dictate the land (the recent Gurgaon incident where hundreds of workers were brutalized by police force commissioned by Honda), private multinationals will spread their wings and benefit the commercial interests of domestic partners, disinvestments will continue at full pace and the British Raj will be praised.

Those of us who are surprised are fools. For us who are shocked, we must realize that the people deserve the kind of government they elect. Only in a so-called ballot-driven democracies, do politicians like Manmohan Singh stay in power even after all that has been said and done.

And the right-wingers want the system to flourish, so that they can rule the country without the participation of the people (how many consciously vote anyone?), so that they can manufacture consents with use of their media (Advani on Zee TV claiming that millions want Ram Mandir!), and finally can sing the praises of their colonial masters!

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