An illusory prime minister

Dr Manmohan Singh is only the illusion of a prime minister.

From Jammu last week, and most horribly, came yet another example of what happens when policies and institutions are reduced to an illusion. It is in matters of national security and foreign policy that we see the worst legacy of being ruled by a prime minister who is not in fact prime minister. It's true that he represents India this week at the United Nations and speaks on our behalf to world leaders, but the average Indian knows that, in the game of smoke and mirrors that Sonia Gandhi has played with such skill, Dr Manmohan Singh is only the illusion of a prime minister. The problem is that neither is she and nor is her son, who announced, with the profundity of a political ingénue, at a rural public rally four days ago that he did not believe that one man alone could solve India's problems. You are wrong 'boss', and here is why.

In a parliamentary democracy, it is the prime minister who is the first among equals. It is his personal responsibility to make policies and be accountable when these turn out to be bad ones. But, in the past decade that India has been ruled by an illusory prime minister, nobody has been accountable and nobody appears to have been fully in charge. This is why we have seen bad policies made by rogue ministers and open defiance from a rogue Army chief. What a tragic coincidence that no sooner did this former Army chief make his foolish revelations on Kashmir than we had our first major cross-border terrorist incident in years. And, what a frightening security lapse it proved to be.

Somehow military intelligence missed the killer squad crossing the LoC. Then the killers attack a police station, hijack a truck on a major road, and make their way to an Army camp an hour away without anybody sounding a red alert. Is this what we call national security? Have we learned not a single lesson, even a small one, from the 26/11 attack? The man directly responsible for what happened is technically the Prime Minister, but can we really hold him to account when we know that he has played a subordinate role in matters of policy for the whole of his second term?

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