He [PM] knew that he was vested with limited power, says Jaitley

A day after he accused him of being “absent” from the just concluded Lok Sabha polls, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley described Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an “unquestionably very good Finance Minister”.

“There were two strong qualities of Prime Minister that I discovered. Firstly, whenever you discussed a serious subject with the Prime Minister he came out as a man of scholarship. He was what we call to as “a Syana aadmi” (wise man). His words were measured and he would reflect before making a comment. Secondly, his personal integrity was always above board. With an element of scholarship he was always well read and well prepared on any subject that he dealt with,” Mr. Jaitley wrote in his blog.

Even as he dwelt at length on his career as India’s Finance Minister, “…The footprints he left behind as a Finance Minister during this period will be remembered for a long time”, Mr. Jaitely did not miss out a chance to take a pot shot at the outgoing PM. “…And yet, when he addressed the country, he never came out as a leader. The reason for not coming out as a leader was clear. He never wanted to rock the boat,” he said.

Making a reference to the dual-power centres--Dr. Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi-, Mr. Jaitley said: “He [PM] knew that he was vested with limited power and on all major decisions he had to keep the party and its first family in good humour. Thus when the reform process was blocked on account of decisions of the National Advisory Council or when Rahul Gandhi tore apart the papers of objectionable ordinance, the Prime Minister was perceived as a non-leader who had to accept everything without his opinion mattering significantly. It was his inability to overrule people which affected his functioning.”

The BJP leader said the Prime Minister had been less assertive: “He did not have the last word. Had he overruled his Finance Minister on the retrospective tax law knowing fully well the consequences of a retrospective taxation, the Prime Minister would have stood out. If he had stood up and cancelled the Coal Blocks allocation once the fraud was revealed or cancelled the 2G licenses himself rather than wait for the Court to do it I have no doubt that history would have recorded him very differently. It was the inability to speak up within his own party that may compel the historians to take a different view of the man.”

 

He concluded his blog by saying that the Prime Minister goes out with “dignity and grace” and will remain an elder statesman and a man of “credibility to guide the nation”. Here too, there is a caveat, “Only if he had stood up at the right time and disagreed he would have been regarded with still a greater honour.”

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