Notwithstanding the reported bitterness between the duo, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not hesitated from stepping out of the Congress limits to support PM Narendra Modi on matters concerning the nation. There have been at least three such occasions in the last three years when Singh backed Modi government’s initiative, or saved it from embarrassment or provided much-needed help.
Interestingly, Singh plays the dual role of being a statesman as well as a politician with near perfection. As a politician, Singh has never left an opportunity to disagree with Modi or his policies and attacked him. For example: While commenting on Modi’s claim on economic revival in 2015, Singh had jarred him saying the former was a “better event manager.”
After demonetisation, Singh stood in the Rajya Sabha and termed the move as “organised loot and plunder”. Even before Modi became the PM, Singh had told the Time magazine in January 2014 that the then Gujarat CM would be “disastrous” as Prime Minister of the country. But as a statesman and former PM of the country, Singh has backed Modi government at critical junctures. This trait of Singh puts him in a different league of present-day politicians who tend to oppose policies just for the sake of it.
Here we take at three such instances:
1. Breaking the deadlock on GST
In November 2015, Modi government was struggling to bring all parties to the table to discuss and pass the GST Bill in Parliament. No opposition leader appeared to be in a mood to take the discussion on the critical Bill forward. Modi government was eyeing washout of the winter session of Parliament. But came saviour Manmohan Singh, who set up a meeting between Modi and Sonia Gandhi on the request of the former. The Economic Times had then reported that Singh took an active interest in the discussion at Modi’s residence.
2. Saving Urjit Patel
Singh saved Modi government and RBI governor Urjit Patel from a major embarrassment when the latter was quizzed by a Parliamentary committee in January this year. Patel was summoned by the panel to testify on how the sudden demonetisation decision was planned and implemented. However, Singh, who is also a former RBI governor, advised Patel not to reply to questions that would create problems for the RBI. Especially when Congress leader Digvijaya Singh asked whether “chaos” would break out if cash withdrawal limit was withdrawn, Singh told Patel: “You should not reply to that query.”
With this Singh not only saved Patel and RBI from embarrassment but also Modi government. Patel’s response would have given the opposition another fodder to attack the government.
3. Letting GST Bill passed in Rajya Sabha
On Thursday, Singh advised Congress leader Jairam Ramesh against seeking an amendment to the GST Bill for the sake of consensus. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley acknowledged Singh’s gesture and thanked him for the cooperation by walking up to the Opposition benches in the Rajya Sabha.
(The article was first published on April 7, 2017. It was updated on June 21, 2017)