An embarrassing fuss

Ever since his second term in office began, there have been many, many moments when the Prime Minister looked pathetic. He looked pathetic every time one of his ministers defied his orders publicly. He looked pathetic when his own economic ideas were abandoned because of pressure from the jholawallahs in Sonia Gandhi's kitchen cabinet. He looked pathetic in the way in which he handled Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. And, he has looked especially pathetic because of the way he has watched silently from the sidelines as the economic gains brought about by his reforms have been frittered away by ministers steeped in licence raj ideology.

Despite this sad record, it is hard for me to remember a moment when he looked more pathetic than he did last week. His government's response to an article in a foreign newspaper that 99.9 per cent of Indians would not have heard of, leave alone read, set a new record in being pathetic. When Ambika Soni went on national television to rant and rave against The Washington Post, there were those who said she must have acted on her own initiative and not on the Prime Minister's behalf. If she did, she should have lost her job. And, it would have provided a good opportunity to abolish the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting but the Prime Minister's own office soon made it clear that she spoke for Dr Manmohan Singh himself and that he was deeply upset.

The article that so offended the leader of the world's largest democracy described him as a 'failure' and a 'dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat.' It is hard to believe that this description shocked Dr Manmohan Singh. Had he been reading just one newspaper a day, in any Indian language, he would have discovered long ago that this is the general opinion of him in the Indian press. And, if he were able to wander incognito in the streets of our fair and wondrous land, he might discover that the average Indian has an even poorer opinion of him.

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