Six years ago, a momentous event took place in the history of our nation. We are still struggling to understand the reason why Sonia Gandhi plucked one Mr. Manmohan Singh out of relative obscurity to make him the leader of the largest democracy in the world. Agreed he had a red-lettered history. Losing his mother at an early age had not deterred him from academic excellence which had brought him honours from the Mecca of world education - Oxbridge. A steady rise up the ranks of Indian bureaucracy had seen him ascend to the Governorship of the Reserve Bank in the early 1980s and from there to be Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. But it was the masterstroke of P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991 to buck the tradition of political Finance minister appointments and hand him the reins of an economy that was plunging into bankruptcy. His ambitious and unprecedented reforms paved the way for India's emergence as an economic powerhouse and cemented Manmohan's place in Indian history.
But all this had certainly not prepared the country for its first apolitical Prime Minister. So when Sonia Gandhi silenced all her detractors in one fell swoop by entrusting the government to Mr. Singh, the whole country was bemused. The opposition parties, whose main election plank was Sonia's origins were thrown into a disarray that they never fully recovered from throughout Manmohan's first term in office. Of course, there were questions on everyone's mind. Could this fine, upstanding man, who only fault was that he had never won an election, lead this great nation with all its potential and yet, all its contradictions. Many a great man and woman had been felled by this giant. But amidst the consternation, there was general rejoicing. The appointment of a technocrat as the head of the country with the fourth largest purchasing power in the world was hailed by the media and the common man alike. And the icing on the cake was, as the BBC put it, that he 'enjoyed massive popular support, not least because he was seen by many as a clean politician untouched by the taint of corruption that has run through many Indian administrations'.
In the light of the unfolding events of the last few months, Mr. Singh can no longer hide behind his reputation. In the past, through every scam and every scandal, not even his most vitriolic foes would even think of pointing a finger at him. But today, it is the Supreme Court that has passed judgement. And the people and their representatives in the opposition are at last asking for an explanation. As possibly the greatest thefts in the history of mankind were being played out under his nose, why did he remain silent? How could he allow the perpetrators to get away with the wanton rape of our country's exchequer? How could do nothing as Mr. Kalmadi and Mr. Raja committed these crimes with impunity? How could he allow a host of government spokespersons to yell shallow defenses for these crimes till they were hoarse, while knowing all the time that there was some truth to the accusations? How could he allow a reputation built over a lifetime of selfless service be washed away by colleagues with no scruples or integrity? And worst of all, how could he betray the trust of the Indian people who looked to him and his government to clean out the Augean stables of corruption, not fill them?
Mr. Manmohan Singh had everything going for him. With good governance, he could have cemented the position of his party at the helm of Indian affairs for some time to come. But it seems that our great country of contradictions has taken another victim. The opposition has something to shout about. And the people may not find it easy to forgive. And just like that, our dreams of an India where governance and integrity go hand in hand may have to be put off by a few generations.
India needs you Mr. Singh. Where else can we turn to find someone of your calibre and stature. But your silence has confused even your most ardent supporters. And we need to know the truth. So, will you come clean, Mr. Singh? Will you spell out the details of all that has taken place? Will you explain to us, your people, how these audacious crimes escaped your notice? And if they did not, will you apologise for having been silent for the sake of party and power? Will you ask forgiveness of the people you have betrayed? For therein may lie your salvation.