Monday, 30th October 2017

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 2.11.07

The people of India should be grateful to Prakash Karat, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), for telling them, through an interview to The Telegraph, that the prime minister’s “integrity is unquestioned”. This is something that most people knew, but coming from Mr Karat, the prime minister’s ideological opponent in every possible way, it is rich praise indeed. It is significant that on the very day that Mr Karat’s interview appeared, the chief minister of West Bengal and Mr Karat’s comrade, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, described the prime minister as the “only leader who can take India to the 21st century”. This seems to be Manmohan Singh’s season for getting unalloyed encomia from communists, and that too at a time when there has been serious difference of opinion between the prime minister and the leftists. The difference of opinion is not over a trivial matter, but regarding a policy issue of critical importance. Given that the CPI(M) is a disciplined party whose leaders are not prone to loose talk and articulation of personal opinions, it is difficult to accept the timing of the two statements by Messrs Karat and Bhattacharjee as coincidence. There is always a design in the affairs of communists.

The discovery of Mr Singh’s virtues could very well be driven by political calculations. Mr Singh is not the typical political prime minister — scheming, manipulative and vindictive. His background is different. It is this quality — Mr Singh’s academic and technocratic background — that makes him the best prime minister from the Left’s point of view. Mr Singh is unlikely to look upon projects and policies through an ideological prism. He would rather view them from the vantage point of governance and efficiency. It has perhaps taken the Left some time to realize and acknowledge this. Hence the somewhat suspect hand of friendship. It could very well be a velvet fist in a velvet glove since it will serve no one’s interest, least of all the Left’s, to have this government not do its full term. It is entirely possible, of course, that the comrades have left their gesture of friendship a bit too late. Waters have already been muddied, and Mr Singh may well think that he is being damned with faint praise. Deliberately well-chosen and well-placed words of praise may not be adequate to influence a prime minister whose principal asset is his integrity.