At the fag end of his term as prime minister, Manmohan Singh had famously said that he was certain that history would be kind to him. And he was not wrong, going by the manner in which the economist-turned-politician has emerged as a mascot of good governance and sane economic policy-making and as a credible voice critiquing the Narendra Modi government.
Manmohan's last days as prime minister were a grim period for him as he faced severe criticism for the numerous corruption scandals that roiled UPA-II as also the sense of policy paralysis that had set in. His challenger, Narendra Modi, taunted him for keeping mum and not responding to the allegations levelled against his government.
However, in the run up to the next Lok Sabha elections, Manmohan has emerged as an authoritative voice critiquing the Modi government's policies. His party, the Congress, is projecting him as a symbol of good governance, stability in the country and a strong economy. Comparisons are often made between the Modi government and the Manmohan regime, especially with regard to the economic growth rate. It is acknowledged in political circles that Manmohan's repute as the architect of India's economic liberalisation and the memory of the spurt in growth that the country saw after that have endured the tumultuous last months of UPA-II.
Manmohan has been a regular at the launch of books written by Congress leaders such as P. Chidambaram and Shashi Tharoor, where he has used the platform to attack the Modi government on issues such as demonetisation, unemployment, faulty implementation of Goods and Service Tax, assault on constitutional institutions, and attacks on members of minority communities and weaker sections of the society.
The former premier was attacked by his critics, especially Modi, for keeping quiet on the allegations faced by his government. In the campaign for Lok Sabha elections in 2014, Modi had taunted Manmohan by calling him 'MaunMohan Singh'. Manmohan has now got a chance to get back at the prime minister, and he has exhorted Modi to break his vow of silence.
He has even said that Modi should remember his own advice to him and break his 'Maun Vrat' on the issues raised by his critics.
Perhaps taking a cue from him, NDA ally Shiv Sena in its mouthpiece criticised Modi for his silence, calling him 'Mauni Baba', a term that BJP leaders had earlier used for Manmohan.
The former prime minister has been a regular feature of the Congress' campaign in the state elections, addressing press conferences where he has taken on the Modi regime. The latest in the series was his media interaction in Indore in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh.
Addressing reporters in the city that is known as a trading hub, Manmohan questioned the economic policies of the Modi government, saying, “farmers, traders, industrialists are all unhappy with the present government.”
He criticised the present dispensation for not living up to its promise of creating two crore jobs per annum. He called the promise made by Modi in the run-up to 2014 a “pipe dream”.
Manmohan also raised the issue of corruption, saying the people of the country are suspicious of the Rafale deal. “The opposition and various groups are demanding a joint parliamentary committee but the Modi government is not ready for it. Isse pata lagta hai daal mai kuchh kala hai (this shows there is something fishy),” he said.
In just a matter of a few years, Manmohan can claim that history has been kind to him.