Simplicity, erudition, humility, grace and dignity.
The Congress on Tuesday showered glowing praise on Manmohan Singh on his 91st birthday, reminding the nation that the position of Prime Minister doesn’t necessarily signify brute power, nor does he have to arouse fear and suspicion.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said: “On his birthday, I extend my best wishes to former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh ji. He is a rare example of simplicity, dignity and grace in politics. A true statesman Prime Minister, whose actions spoke more than his words, we are forever grateful for his tremendous contribution to the nation.”
In a country that tried to build itself on the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, a significant section has come to believe that politics isn’t about simplicity and grace. Kharge’s message underscored that tragic metamorphosis.
Public figures are now issuing calls for genocide.
With ministers making incendiary speeches and parliamentarians idolising Gandhi’s assassin and hurling toxic communal slurs, the dominant view among citizens about a politician is perceived to have turned negative.
Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh also obliquely referred to the diminishing decency in politics. “Today Manmohan Singh turns 91. He has always been an outstanding symbol of erudition and learning. But much more than that he has always epitomised grace, sobriety, humility and dignity in whichever position he has held. These are extremely rare qualities in our public life, even more so now,” Ramesh said.
He added: “I have heard Presidents and Prime Ministers refer to him as a guru. He does not need self-advertisement.”
US President Barack Obama had called Singh his guru and described him as “a man of uncommon wisdom and decency” in his memoir. Obama wrote: “For the duration of his tenure as Prime Minister, I would find Singh to be wise, thoughtful, and scrupulously honest.”
Singh’s personal integrity remained beyond reproach; he exited from the corridors of power without any taint on his persona despite holding so many key posts like that of the Planning Commission chief, Reserve Bank governor, finance minister and Prime Minister.
Rahul Gandhi said: “Former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh ji’s integrity, unwavering commitment to nation-building and economic uplift of the masses will always be an inspiration to me.”
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said: “As a leader, he showed us the value of patience and humility in politics. As a Prime Minister, his honesty, courage, vision and wisdom paved the way for our country to forge ahead into the 21st century with self-assurance and pride.”
Singh demonstrated prime ministerial dignity in his conduct and speech, protecting himself from the usual vices like arrogance of power and conspiracies against rivals. Even in election campaigns, he avoided vilification of opponents and false propaganda. He was denigrated by the BJP without any evidence of wrongdoing, he was maligned by the Anna Hazare-Arvind Kejriwal movement, but he never responded with vile language or vendetta.
Though his tenure was defamed with allegations of “policy paralysis”, it witnessed such revolutionary initiatives like the Land Acquisition Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Information Act, Right to Education and the Food Security Act. He turned a year older at a time when the bulldozer, not the healing touch, has become the symbol of good governance.
Singh’s prophetic words — that history will judge him kindly — appear to be coming true.