India’s ‘silent’ prime minister becomes a tragic figure
NEW DELHI — India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh helped set his country on the path to modernity, prosperity and power, but critics say the shy, soft-spoken 79-year-old is in danger of going down in history as a failure.
The architect of India’s economic reforms, Singh was a major force behind his country’s rapprochement with the United States and is a respected figure on the world stage. President Obama’s aides used to boast of his tremendous rapport and friendship with Singh.
The image of the scrupulously honorable, humble and intellectual technocrat has slowly given way to a completely different one: a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government.
Every day for the past two weeks, India’s Parliament has been adjourned as the opposition bays for Singh’s resignation over allegations of waste and corruption in the allocation of coal-mining concessions.
The Congress party led by Italian-born Sonia Gandhi had surprised many people by winning national elections that year, but she sprang an even bigger surprise by renouncing the top job and handing it to Singh.
In him she saw not only the perfect figurehead for her government but also a man of unquestioning loyalty, party insiders say, someone she could both trust and control.
“I’m a small person put in this big chair,” Singh told broadcaster Charlie Rose in 2006. “I have to do my duty, whatever task is allotted of me.”
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