Four hours after the 19-MP strong Trinamool Congress exited his government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on television on Friday evening, seeking the “trust, understanding and cooperation” of the aam aadmi to bring the economy back on track, just as he had done as Finance Minister in 1991.
“Strengthen my hands,” he said, making an impassioned televised appeal to the nation, to “build a better and more prosperous future for ourselves and for the generations to come.” In the 15-minute speech, first in Hindi and then in English, he explained the reasons for the “hard decisions,” while hitting out at his detractors, without mentioning any party by name: “Please do not be misled by those who want to confuse you by spreading fear and false information [about FDI]. The same tactics were adopted in 1991,” he said, stressing that “they did not succeed then. They will not succeed now.”
The speech may have been delivered in Dr. Singh’s usual deadpan style, but it was high on content, with a clear political message, as he invited the aam aadmi to a cooperative venture in which those opposing his government’s decisions were excluded. He also appealed to national pride: “The world is not kind to those who do not tackle their own problems,” he said, pointing out, “Many European countries… cannot pay their bills and are looking to others for help… I am determined to see that India will not be pushed into that situation. But I can succeed only if I can persuade you to understand why we had to act.”
A day after the Opposition-sponsored bandh, and shortly after the Congress Core Group met at his residence to review the political fallout of the Trinamool’s exit and the post-bandh statements made by the various parties, including the reassuring one by the Samajwadi Party that it would continue to support the government, the Prime Minister emphasised that “No government likes to impose burdens on the common man.”