Friday, September 21, 2012




The Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, whose Government is left with less than two years in office addressed the nation on the night of September 21,2012.

2. He has been addressing the people from the Red Fort on the Independence Day every year. He had also briefly addressed the people on the TV after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai.

3. His televised address of September 21, 2012, had a different context and a different purpose. The context was the growing negative atmosphere in the country partly as a result of his own sins of commission and omission in providing effective and inspiring leadership to the country during his second tenure as the Prime Minister that started in  2009.The negative atmosphere was also partly the result of the concerted efforts of the opposition led by the BJP to exploit the economic and other difficulties faced by the country to destroy the credibility of his Government and of him as a leader.

4. The BJP and other Hindutva elements have been constantly trying to project him as a non-leader, who has neither the stature nor the will  nor the ability nor the powers to govern. They have been projecting him as a Prime Minister on sufferance kept in office by Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress Party, in order to enjoy the powers of office  without the accountability for its record.

5. The purpose was to explain to the people the state of the national economy against the background of the global economic meltdown and the rationale for some unpopular economic decisions taken by his Government last week to reverse the slow-down in the economy. These decisions, inter alia, related to the increase in diesel prices to reduce the fiscal deficit in the short term and to permit foreign direct investment  in multi-brand retail and civil aviation in order to revive the interest of the foreign businessmen in investing in India. The purpose was also to convey a clear message to the foreign investors that India is still a vigorously on-going story and not a story that has petered out.

6. Thus, his message was simultaneously addressed to two audiences---Indian and global. His message to the Indian audience was that “I am the Prime Minister of India, I started the Indian economic miracle between 1991 and 96,I have a responsibility to take the miracle forward despite the temporary difficulties, I am determined to do so and my ability to do so would depend on your support.”

7. He explained the rationale for the recent economic decisions in lucid terms, admitted that these are hard and unpopular decisions and sought the people’s understanding and support. His message for understanding and co-operation was not addressed to the political class---neither in his own party nor in the opposition. It was directly addressed to the people in his capacity as the Prime Minister responsible for the governance of the country.

8.His message to the global audience sought to highlight his determination to give a fresh momentum to the economic reforms of which he was the architect between 1991 and 1996 and to make India investor-friendly once again.

9. While the purpose of his message to both the audiences was loud and clear, his ability to translate that message into action is not. That ability would depend upon to what extent he has been able to convince his own party on the need for hard decisions and to what extent he can depend on its backing for mobilising the support of the people.

10. The country has been passing through not only severe economic difficulties, but also a crisis of confidence and national self-esteem caused by widespread allegations of corruption, nepotism and malgovernance. Large sections of the people, rightly or wrongly, share the views of the detractors of the Prime Minister that he and his party have brought the country to the present  pass.

11.He is the leader of the Government, but not the leader of the party. His word is not law in the party. It is Mrs.Sonia Gandhi’s word that prevails in the party and not his. That is the public perception. Not unjustified.

12. It was a statesmanlike address, dignified, non-partisan, non-polemic and non-apologetic. To deliver  an address of such high quality marked by determination is easy, but to translate it into action is not. Translating it into action would depend on his determination to assert himself as the Prime Minister in the remaining months of his office and to function as he ought to function. Till now the public perception has been that he has been the most non-assertive Prime Minister the country has had.

13. To reverse that perception, he has to convey a clear message to Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and the party----thus far and no further. His message needed to be addressed to a third audience---Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and  the Congress Party.  That he could not have done in a televised address to the nation. He has to convey his message separately to Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and the Party. He has already made it clear to them that there can be no roll-back on the hard economic decisions already taken. He has to make it clear now that more hard decisions are required and he is determined to take them.

14.He has also to convey a clear message to the other political parties in the opposition as well as in his own ruling coalition. He must make it clear to them  that if they do not co-operate he and the Congress will not hesitate to seek a fresh mandate of the people by going for premature elections, if necessary.

15. If the Prime Minister has to translate his message into action, he and his party should rid themselves of the fear of premature elections. If they win and come back with a renewed mandate, well and good. If they do not, let whoever wins take over the responsibility for pulling the country out of its difficulties. (22-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)


peter g. said...

Dear Mr.Raman,
Hats off to you for you accurate analysis of the PM's speech .Your observations in Para 11 and para 13 are right on the dot. Considering his age, this is the last post that MMS is ever going to hold in public life.He should set aside all his fears of Sonia Gandhi watching him and devote the remaining time as PM to set right as many things as possible; the things that he wasnt able to with SG sitting on his back an holding the reins.He does not need to look upto her for any more favors and handouts. If He has been dithering and indecisive most of the time,it was because of her. Now he can throw off her yoke and tell her where she gets off.History will remember him at least as a PM who did bring about some changes for the good at the end of his tenure .He has nothing to fear now.

everestpeak said...

Dear Sir:

I have lot of respect for you. However, i admit i am disappointed by your analysis of the PMs speech.

Our PMs thro his 2nd term give lot of reasons for his ineptness and lack of responsibility.
Let me remind you his remark of "Coalition dharma". I do not recall the Constitution of India making room for "Coalition Dharma". Coalition Dharma in other words is "i know it is wrong, my hands are tied, i do not have the guts to call them to responsible". How can any citizen respect or trust a person who hides behind such a lousy explanation.

All the scams, that have taken place (2G, Coalgate) and linked to PMO. The PM may not have made any money...but he has the power to stop when it was brought to notice. I waiting for the thorium scam to be made public. It is estimated 48 lac crore loss.But he choose tp the play the role of Drutharastra. How can one support such a person.

MMS cannot take all the claim for the economic recovery, when he was just the finance minister. Shri PV Narsimha Rao, who managed the coalition deftly deserves lot of credit. If there was no backing. MMS would be in the position to claim the "I" word.

I request you to provide critical analysis rather show blind faith in the PM. He might be a good man...but he is the wrong company and is shirking from his responsibility. It does not take much that the FDI announcement has pushed coalgate to the page 10 and is no longer in news. This is political its lowest.

Visible Trade said...

Dear Sir,
I am sorry to call it, but this piece is extremely poor in analysis and insight. I have often noticed the same tone and stand in your pieces on similar subjects. To me this is extremely poor analysis and presents, for most part, what in your opinion MMS SHOULD do. You have analyzed the tone and the target audience but not the content, actions thus far or context (it is possible that you are fully equipped to analyze the content). What you have analyzed may or may-not be true but they have no significant implication.
This piece was just a lot of good sounding gibberish with no consequence, not quite unlike the MMS speach.