Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi | File photo | Kamal Kishore | PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi | File photo | Kamal Kishore | PTI
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s six years in office has been marked by what the Congress sees as consistent attempts to appropriate its icons and stalwarts — from M.K. Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri to P.V. Narasimha Rao and Pranab Mukherjee. How much of this is because of the opposition party’s refusal to promote anyone outside the Nehru-Gandhi family is another story. At a time when the coronavirus crisis threatens to imperil the India growth story, Modi may want to appropriate one more Congress figure — Manmohan Singh.

The Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hold Jawaharlal Nehru responsible for everything that ails India today. But, for once, Modi could take a leaf out of Nehru’s book on national reconstruction.

Nehru’s first Cabinet had three political adversaries — R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, the minister of finance; Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the minister of industries; and B.R. Ambedkar, the minister of law. The idea was to put aside political differences for the larger national goal. Does Modi have it in him to send out a similar nation-over-politics message?

Also read: Modi’s BJP has found a way to beat coronavirus—by creating a make-believe India

The missing ally

PM Modi’s Mann ki Baat on Sunday had all the familiar elements — morale-lifting stories of inspiration and hope, listing of his government’s achievements, invocation of participatory governance by making people owners of their political leadership’s successes and failures, and categorisation of individual miseries (of migrant workers, in this case) as a sacrifice for the larger national cause.

If someone had tuned in to the programme expecting to get a sense of Modi’s assessment of the magnitude of the impending economic crisis and his plans to deal with it, all she got was the rather philosophical slogan of atmanirbharta or self-reliance, essentially the 2020 version of the 2014 Make in India.

It is BJP politicians, not so much the economists, who are excited about Rs 20 lakh crore economic stimulus ‘packaging’. But it is difficult to share their optimism easily, especially because these same NDA policymakers were dismissing anybody talking of economic downturn pre-Covid, condemning them as ‘prophets of doom’. That is why it would go a long way to reassure millions of laymen and economic ignoramus like this writer if PM Modi seeks out Manmohan Singh, who has a proven track record of steering India out of many economic cesspools — first in the early 1990s as Narasimha Rao’s finance minister and then during the 2007-08 global financial crisis as India’s Prime Minister.

Also read: India’s coronavirus fight depends on whether Modi’s strengths overshadow his weaknesses

No one in Modi’s trust cabinet

As it is, Modi’s finance ministers haven’t been known to inspire his confidence. Or so it seems from the nature of their involvement in policy-making, post facto or after the decision is taken. Not many were, therefore, surprised by the absence of finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman from the PM’s pre-budget consultations with economists last January. We don’t know if the Prime Minister had discussed the economic repercussions of the nationwide lockdown with her before he announced it on March 24. But we do know about his announcement to set up an economic recovery task force under the finance minister; the government is yet to notify its contours.

Not that Sitharaman’s predecessor, late Arun Jaitley, knew it all. His involvement as the finance minister in the 2016 demonetisation decision, for instance, remains a mystery. A few weeks after PM Modi had addressed the nation to declare invalid 86 per cent of high-value currency notes in circulation, I happened to find Jaitley all alone in the Central Hall of Parliament. I thanked my luck. It was rare to find him alone, not surrounded by my fraternity. “Sir, completely off-the-record, when exactly did the PM discuss demonetisation with you?” I whispered. He responded with his familiar disarming smile: “Shobhana kaisi hai (How is Shobhana Bhartia — chairperson and editorial director of HT Media, the publication I was working with then)?” I was taken aback. I remember muttering something vague as he watched me, smiling. For a change, I was relieved to see fellow journalists rushing towards us. I had got my answer.

There have been many names floating at different points of time as Prime Minister Modi’s sounding board in matters of finance and economy but not one is known to enjoy his complete trust.

Also read: Modi faces no political costs for suffering he causes. He’s just like Iran’s Ali Khamenei

What if, and Modi’s benefits

Suppose for a moment Modi invites his predecessor to take up some advisory role to help his government steer India out of the looming economic crisis. What a message that would send! Can Manmohan Singh say no when the nation needs his knowledge and expertise? Unlikely. After all, like the many Congress icons mentioned at the beginning of this article, Manmohan Singh, too, has been reduced to a decorative piece on the walls in the Congress office and, at times, in press conferences.

How often do you hear Rahul Gandhi, the former-and-would-be Congress president, talk about Singh’s achievements? Gandhi would rather have economists Thomas Piketty or Abhijit Banerjee guide him in drafting the NYAY scheme. The former Prime Minister must be perplexed to see Gandhi video-interview economists Banerjee and Raghuram Rajan sitting abroad on the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the economy.

As for PM Modi, he would be killing at least three birds in one stone if he were to involve Manmohan Singh in preparing India’s economic roadmap.

First, nobody comes close to Singh in terms of expertise and experience in such times. Second, it would blunt the Congress’ campaign about the Modi government’s economic mismanagement, once and for all. The principal opposition party would, at best, seek to claim credit for helping the government out but it wouldn’t worry the BJP much; nobody can beat Modi in this game.

Third, it would make Modi a statesman, someone who could put aside his political differences and seek even his rival’s help for the larger national cause. It wouldn’t undermine his image as a strong and decisive leader; it would rather impart that much-needed element of humility to his public persona.

Having said all this, what if Manmohan Singh refuses to work with the Modi government, even in an advisory capacity? Well, Modi can then always blame the Congress for only criticising and running away from taking any responsibility towards national reconstruction. Modi would come out looking like a statesman either way.

Views are personal.

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  1. If anyone have noticed Shri Modi always wanted yes-man closer to him since he assumed charge as CM Gujarat while Nehru ji didn’t have this habit and on occasions he even bowed to the proposals from his cabinet colleagues even he didn’t agreed.
    Today, other than Shri Rajnath Singh ji and Shri Nitin Gadkari no one is capable of the positions allocated to them and practically such ministries are operated from PMO. Shri Amit Shah was Home Minister with Modiji in Gujarat and he is considered to be the most trusted person of Shri Modi but he is pushing a set agenda through his Ministry.
    Wish like Jay Shankar, some more capable bureaucrats are taken in cabinet particularly for Finance Ministry, Human Resources and Environment Ministry.

  2. You forget the speech of PM Modi where he mentioned his economic agenda as akin to a “change of track” (patri badal raha hain). When you undertake something that fundamental, you don’t want people who have led, and maybe succeeded partially, on a different track. It does not go well with either.

  3. Congress is the most corrupt party in India. WE ARE FIGHTING FOR OUR KASHMIR BECAUSE OF NEHRU ONLY.
    NEHRU WAS JUST LIKE TODAY’S KEJRIWAL . more than 50 yrs they ruled… and what we got —-kashmir issue , lost war with 1962 war because of nehru only. we have to ashamed ourselves for that jawahar lal nehru was the first PM of india.

  4. “…Manmohan Singh, who has a proven track record of steering India out of many economic cesspools — first in the early 1990s …”

    It was not Manmohan Singh who was responsible for those reforms. Reforms in 1991 were carried out at the behest of IMF and were decided upon much before P V Narasimha Rao government even came to power. Manmohan Singh being FM during that era was just incidental.

  5. Are you Completely demented !? Nehru was half the reason the country was partitioned. You dynastic sycophants will do Anything to suck up to the family. Sick lot of idiots All. It’s our misfortune that the rest of us have to suffer you retards

  6. How can he be a greatest economist? When so much of scandals and swindling of huge money right under his administration, whether with or without his knowledge but definitely with tacit approval – why people pamper the greatest puppet instead of shying in shame.

  7. Why we have poor administrators? Her are the reasons:
    1. Top brains go abroad to the USA, UK, etc.
    2. Next level, go for medical, engineering, IT, Finance, Law, etc.
    3. The leftovers take training in roadside academies and mug up 20 answers each in each subject and compete in the central services.
    4. The still leftovers join politics and hold top positions and rule over the entire lot mentioned above!!
    5. This is a peculiar behaviour found only in India, where the competent and the knowledgable in various streams are shunned and we settle to get ruled by incompetent people! In my childhood, I used to think becoming an engineer was the greatest thing on Earth. But the poor service conditions given to engineers was an eye opener. Who will develop the country if technocrats leave and go abroad?
    Look at the poor condition of roads, and worse, the waste management system in India. And the poor are still carrying night soil on their heads.Mera Bharat mahan?
    The change can come only from the grassroots level. Proper educated, honest people must be elected, irrespective of caste, region , colour, religion. This is the only way to save our downslide.

    • Sir I understand ur concern for our nation..
      Im guessing that u r an Engineer.

      Anyway I would say understanding archetypes ‘Leader’ and ‘manager’ is important…
      Yes Our country doesn’t lack leaders(politicians n such)…

      But we need a way ppl who allocate resources,prepare policies, coordinate other ppl. …

      In some sense Engineers r good managers 2 thats y we even have seperate management classes…

      So Only when we have nice smooth dynamic blend of Leadership n management…
      will we move Forward…

      Ps:ur comment was great.ty

    • U missed reservation system ..coRONA reformers of 21st century think if donkeys are put in the same enclosures as race horses we will double the race horses . what we get double the donkeys doubled govern the diverse sectors and u have this chaos

  8. Shame on you for quoting an off the record interaction with a person who is no longer with us to either acknowledge or deny your deductions. If you hate Modi and BJP so much, why not vote for Congress so that Mentally retarded RG or incompetence glorified PG can become next Prime Minister of India.

  9. Team India mission for peace and love one India one world 125 crs plus wish in fight for self reliant India as world fight corona hope government rises above each and every policy to protocol to humanity and make a deal with self that to really make India we need to take everyone from top to bottom right and left to the festival season of life and prosperity. Let look only inward in every problem to solutions and make sure every problem has a solution and we are the speed breaker to solution. Only two things good or bad think for every thing and take every person ministry to department to private or public we have made the mess. Think how❓ example RBI/Bank, Aviation to communication to each? Simple merger in one branch and work for one India. As PM is boss so RBI than SBI than Air India rest to BSNL rest but the shame of India are too many don’t ask you know better than me as you make sure we don’t progress so we don’t care As we know “who’s father’s what goes” But we are here we should have not been we learn but late but damage is done and some time irreversible so our systems and people follow top we have always good in mind but end up think six years to 70 yrs sab ka saath sab ka Vikas sab ka viswas but we understand your world no compromise to what not but end up where because we forget the basic in words and deeds that latest lockdown to unlockdown good turn bad when ever thought was good and every thing for Miragant labour was too easy in lockdown bus to train to system but mess in politics and every one for pounds. Every thing is possible in this government and no proof is required as per party manifesto and public demand till you want to make scapegoat or set example of now the manifesto should be public and when it’s 125crs plus thought should be same one India one policy one India one card lucky now maximum people are going home and will be home for think local and permanent policy to end monopoly of each and every system to work as duty and end make INDEGIOUS make in India to start up India to skills India 70 yrs infrastructure is ready in tit and bit picture is large hope to see the sun in joy. Okay

  10. My only objection is this claim that Congress owns all our Pre-Independence Stalwarts. Somehow nobody else can claim them as their own. I cannot believe how many times I have read journalists and opinion makers say this. You ought to be kidding me….. Instead of taking the STICK to the Congress party, you take the stick to everyone else. What is wrong with you folks? No wonder India is where it is today.

  11. Did you ask this question to the Italian family who ruled for 10 years with a Indian proxy prime minister as a front who was prostrating before the family despite his best qualifications as a world renowned economist? Is it not a insult to Indian democracy? You cannot find any Indian qualified and you need to import leaders from Italy and that too losers and not well qualified ones. Ask this question of representation of opposition fairly to both sides including the Khangress which gifted the UN seat to China. Don’t suddenly wake up with your losing left positions and electoral frustrations when the right is elected that too with a overwhelming majority. Remember in any democracy elections have consequences and people voice have to be heard. It is time to shut up and put up until your turn comes if it comes. Then you run your riots as you like because then too elections have consequences although not a good one as we the patriots of India would prefer.

  12. I agree with the author. In times of crisis, the country needs the best brains irrespective of the parties they belong to. And Mr. Singh will swim in economy like a duck in water.

  13. Modi’s cabinet and today’s BJP is filled with political and organisational talent but very low in administrative talent.

    • Don’t be naive . This govt took major decision that Manmohan never couldn’t when he could .This govt basically inherited a ailing (both short term and long term )economy . This coupled with trade war , global recession and bust cycle of India business cycle is making temporary bad .Any serious and with no political inclination knows how badly khangress and leftists left economy . Beside that states like Kerala and WB running states on freebies because they are so unpopular . Never forget Kejriwala shew mohalla clinic as his prime achievement . When corona struck the nation and the so called ‘perfect health system’ of delhi were put to the test kejriwala buckled and approved Ayushman bharat in delhi . He also gave the riot that was started by his party members that killed so many ‘real Indians’ . Those who seek vote in the name of secularism gives nothing but lies, fraus, corruption , rape and genocide . Bringing Manmohan is like bringing snake into your own house .

  14. Looks very good on paper, assuming Mr. Manmohan Singh agrees, where is the guarantee that he doesn’t play spoilsport, after being with congress for such a long time, not sure if he can be trusted. Lot of people may not like what I have written, but I have serious doubts. I definitely like the idea as even I like fantasizing.

  15. Modi will never admit the opposition party into his cabinet. He never makes mistakes and this would show how mistaken he has been. The Modi government does not know how to run a country or economy. God help India because Modi will never seek help!

    • Dude his ministry consists of
      Subramanian swamy,nirmala sitharaman(though both want the finance seat
      Swamy is well capable of doing the latter has it dont know y😂(hint:coz he is bit of a loose cannon)),S jaishankaran,nitin gadkari,ravi shankar prasad etc all of whom r talented n believe me they r actually working

      Now Amit Shah is a different story,he sorta plays the role as sonia in case of upa,,(done few good things though lk fucking up 370)

      Rajnath is similar bt he mostly concerns himself 2 his own department…

      N modi himself…the man 2 serve as the face of the grand scheme

      Now the last 3 (n few others outside of this list)
      Are closely they form a impenetrable shell…

      So wn they don’t trust their own party members how do u think they wl let any1 outside that 2 a puppet man like Mr singh
      2 in on the state affairs???

      Now BJP is neither right nor wrong for doing this depending upon the context…

      Anyway would u suggest any other politician who atleast do this work lk modi..surely not rahul gandhi…

      So with patience n working by concentrating on our own personal life who should lead our life now?hope fully tides wl turn ….n something great comes outta of post covid india n world

  16. How much La La Land these reporters live in. Rahul Gandhi did not have magnanimity to even consider his alliance govt in Maharashtra as his own, this report is asking Manmohan in BJP cabinet.For that to happen first Manmohan should first announce he can live without gandhi family.Secondly he should quit congress.All this things never going to happen.

    Even so if PM Modi accepts and ask Manmohan to help what these reporters will spin is “PM Modi said he is in capable so only he asked Manmohan to help”.We have seen all these radical left notorious honey words to trap opponents.PM Modi have seen it all.He will not fall into trap of this.

  17. To start with the choises avaialble to Panditji were not perceived crooks or people on bail.
    When BJP’s own above 75 are in Margdarshak Mandal, the question of inducting people from outside does not arise.
    What is the choise ??

  18. Being a newly formed democracy & the simmering differences within the party at the time of independence, JN had limited choice to leave out such strong adversaries. The same JN didn’t accommodate any adversary in his next cabinets is to be noted please. Thus the column Content is biased.

  19. According to the historian Ramchandra Guha, who states in his book, “India After Gandhi”, the credit for inclusion of non-Congress ministers in 1947 should go to the Mahatma and not to Nehru. Gandhiji reminded Nehru and his Congress colleagues that ‘ freedom comes to India not to the Congress’, urging formation of a cabinet that included the ablest men regardless of party affiliation.

  20. To a layman like me., there is a dearth of talent in the present government, barring a few ministers. As a result decisions which require reasoned and radical approaches may be left to the bureaucracy . Mr Midi has to carry the cross for the consequences
    The Government must now make a start in institution building and draw talent from the states, subject them to professional training and make them accountable for their function.
    If commenced now, we could see positive results by 2022.

  21. Seriously DK is trying his best to induce Modi to accept that he has messed up big time by talking about 3 birds in one stone and being statesmanlike.. but this is Modi government.. no one accepts that they messed up.. then only the option of seeking advice..

  22. I completely agree to you and you thought. Mr Modi seems like one man army which is not good for the nation. As an organisation you would prepare leaders for future as well which is not visible in his case as well except Mr Amit Shah. Mr Shah will not be good choice for future PM.
    Mr Modi should hire the best brain available in the country to help us improve the economy. He should leave his difference aside and rise above politics for the nation.

  23. Pray God Modiji’s efforts to streamline indian economy bear positive results . His tireless devotion to the nation will not go futile and would end up successfully

  24. Dear Shekar, It is a damn good strategy and idea with sure shot success. I am definitely going to hate you for writing this. Because, it is told openly in the public, something drastically opposite will be done. In future, if you really mean something good for all of as citizens, whisper these kind of ideas in the ears of PM directly. After all, he wants to sound original always and you help us by helping him. Thank you

  25. The print is part of the tukde tukde gang and no one reads the trash of the print,wire,outlook.Indians are intelligent enough to identify fake news.
    Jai Hind Bande Mataram

  26. Writting a story wraped in self illusions will not yield anything, you people dont understand the need of the time and stop canvasing for an obsolate and out of order party, people of India are strong enough to expell the betrayers, no matter in what ever situation they are. They dont need any help from pappu allies .

    Why recommending Manmohan for Modi, why he was removed by Your Madam ???

  27. In continuation of my previous comment…

    If Modi turns to Maanmohan for consultation / advice or whatever…the mainstream media will Scream…”A desperate Modi turns to Manmohan for redemption”..(NOt good for PR) ;that is how the media has shaped up….could that be the reason why Governments do not “consult” with opposition? worth a reflection.

  28. Though the time of J Nehru were different, in principle good lessons can be learnt from any circumstance. Here is where The Print is different.
    No Government functions 100% right or 100% wrong. The media has to project the positives as such and criticise the negatives with an eye for improvement.
    Along with a lot of mistake the Nehru Government has done good too…so has all subsequent Governments including this one.
    Positivity in reporting will help build the Nation

  29. Nehru can teach how to be a womaniser and do corruption, how to shield corrupts and ensure continuity of family rule and how to gift Indian territory to China to PM Modi

  30. I think,it will be absolutely proper to take help from Manomohun Singh n Pranab Mukherjee to tide over the crisis,he should not be biased n our country demand it.

  31. For a sustancial growth in all fields be it the country’s economy, political, defence, education, …. Our leaders should put aside all party differences. A coin with only a head on both sides is not a coin.

  32. Modi ji govt not wants to learn anything from corrupted Congress ex- PM’s.

    Sorry to say.. Modi ji govt is moving step by step perfectly not make any interpretation and not show media power to citizens of India.

  33. P. M. Modi, even hypothetically let us assume tries to induct Manmohan Singh in his ministry, you have to remember one thing, that there is a huge difference in Nehru’s Congress and today’s Congress. Even if he tries to appropriate Manmohan Singh, you know how Congress will react.

  34. I said long ago that modi should at least consult manmohan sing on economic situation as he is one of the greatest economist in the world and never demean India at any cost and aspire for a booker or Nobel leave alone a slumdog……

  35. Article by D.K.S . is type of articles one finds which are written to please their sponcers and without any research done by the author. It starts with praising JLN but is misleading on facts prevailing at the time of JLN and what followed after him. JLN invitation to opposition leaders to join his cabinet were nothing but attempt to “POACH LEADERS “ from opposition ranks to strengthen his position in party as he wanted to get rid of some old “Dead wood “ of Congress party who may pose threat to his ambitions to install his daughter as his born successor. Can any one answer — why he made Indira Gandhi, his daughter , as Congress president in 1958? Had party run out talented stalwart leaders to head party s President so early in fifties ? No , No. He wanted to establish family rule in India and subsequent events suggest – “HE SUCCEEDED “.
    DKS suggestion to Modi ji to take MMS as economic adviser is also flawed. MMS is over-rated in congress supporting journalist community. For 1991-96 credit or debit for economic reforms should be given to PVN Rao. The voters of India has given verdict on those reforms in 1996, .1998 and 1999 elections.Congress was expelled from PMO—seat of power for ten good years. For the period 2004 to 2014 MMS who was made PM of India . But mostly he worked as a “BACK ROOM BOY “ OF some controlling “HAND “, every knows who it was. Again voters of India pronounced their judgment in Election-2014. This period between 2004-14 is known for unmitigated corruption, appeasement of minorities, high inflation and lowest period in internal and external security environment. Then Why MMS? Will any selector will bat for inclusion of Sachin Tendulkar in Team India in 2020, notwithstanding the fact the Man — Sachin carried the flag of Indian cricket for two and half decades ? The problems of 2020 s are different. Need different perspective to comprehend and solve. Had any on guessed even three months earlier ,Covid 19 pandamic will play havoc with the economies of the world and India ? Now on-wards for a considerable period of time , we need to manage Government affairs in a PROJECT MODE and for that requires to establish and empower the teams of professional drawn from different disciplines deliberating and working together on emerging problems. No need to glorify any one leader. The people are watching the actions , problems, and results of actions. There is no scope for leniency by the Governing party and so-called loyal opposition .

  36. Good Idea, Mr. Modiji. Good luck. Really you are very good game planner, no doubt. Your VALUABLE services are required for our country for long long years. Sure under your great leadership our country will shine like anything. Ofcourse already we are observing. Let Almighty give Good Health to you Sir.

  37. If undoing six decades in six years is claimed as an achievement, little chance of the phone ringing in Dr Singh’s residence any time soon.

  38. Wish what you said above could be done by the Modi government. It is hard to see them however making this overture. And it says something about the kind of leadership Narendra Modi believes in. For him this may be a sign of weakness. BJP has put tremendous effort into delegitimising whatever congress stood for. I would never fathom Narendra Modi ever taking a step back and accepting failure or lack of expertise to steer our country in time of such crisis.

  39. Why would MMS agree to be Modi’s economic advisor? There have been eminent economic advisors to this govt in the past as well, all of them have gone back to their previous jobs because Modi did not particularly value their advice. MMS is old – he can easily claim that he will be unable to devote time to such a gigantic exercise as doctoring the Indian economy back to health.
    Infact you inadvertently mentioned the difference between Modi and the previous govt. Sonia Gandhi trusted MMS sarkar – Modi trusts no one. Ironically, people’s trust in Modi sarkar also seems to be eroding.

  40. Yes, it is expert advice. But where do you find now the calibre of that of B R Ambedkar, Chettiar, Shyam Prasad Ji, A few good advisers or at least who have managed their portfolios very well, unfortunately, passed away, Likes of Arun Ji, Sushma Ji? etc., which is a great setback to Modi. We have. Ministers like Rajnath, Dr Harsh Vardhan. who are cool & efficient in handling their portfolios without rubbing the feathers.
    But a few of them are there, but they need a lot of grooming & guidance right now. Nitin his position himself as RSS representative.

    In alleys, you could not depend on Nitish completely as we saw him just walked out from NDA & again joined back. Ram Vilas with yes/no attitude, not dependable. Better the Author would have suggested the present scenario rather than focusing on the Nehruvian Period of thinking which is not relevant to the present.

    Nagesh Rao

  41. Jawarhlal Nehru use to suck up to the Brits and so he had no real qualities one should emulate.Look at his daughter and her siblings looting the treasuryt every chance they get.You band your Shekar Gupta are Congress PAID agents so stop giving advise.

  42. Mr. Singh seems to have forgotten that political parties can twist the story to their advantage. Suppose Congress would say all the advice or consultation they have given so far, were from Manmohan Singh and PM has to simply implement them.

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