Friday, March 19, 2010


…against Manmohan Singh the politician. Everybody knows that bureaucrats – by definition, instinct, training and mindset – are incapable of leading revolutions. Forget revolution, the chances of bureaucrats initiating and nurturing even substantive change are about as high as Dr. Manmohan Singh personally contesting the next Lok Sabha elections against Sonia Gandhi. And in a dysfunctional democracy like India where bureaucrats are simply not accountable to absolutely anybody except their own old boys club, it would be folly to expect them to actually behave and perform like ‘public servants’. There have been notable and noble exceptions no doubt; but they have been exceptions. No matter how deeply fl awed they are, it is politicians who deliver change in a democracy – for better or for worse. And no matter how dysfunctional Indian democracy is, politicians have realised that they are indeed accountable to voters. So it is Jawaharlal Nehru and B. R. Ambedkar who first empowered a majority of Indian women by giving Hindu women property rights. It is Indira Gandhi who nationalised banks and abolished privy purses. It is the feisty George Fernandes who ‘threw’ Coke and IBM out of India. It is Rajiv Gandhi who preferred technocrats over bureaucrats to seed the revolution in India’s IT and telecom sectors. Sadly, it is Rajiv Gandhi who listened to terrible advice and made the Parliament deny alimony to Shah Bano. It is Madhav Rao Scindia who originally transformed Indian Railways. It is V. P. Singh who unleashed the Mandal genie. It is Atal Behari Vajpayee who took the nuclear leap of faith and unleashed a vision to modernize Indian roads and highways. It is Sonia Gandhi who compelled the government of the day to introduce historic policies like NREGS, RTI and now the Women’s Reservation Bill. And it is Kapil Sibal who seems determined to transform the rotten education system of India.

You may well wonder why I am stating the obvious and then following it up with a swathe of examples to stress the obvious. There is a reason. When Dr. Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister of India in 2004, discerning analysts had already figured out that there would be a titanic in house battle between Dr. Singh the quintessential bureaucrat and Manmohan Singh the reluctant politician. All those who genuinely wished India well, earnestly hoped that the reluctant politician would score over the hard core bureaucrat when matters really came to a head. Indeed, the manner in which he behaved like a ‘politician-statesman’ when it came to Indo-Pak ties and the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, prompted many breathless pundits to proclaim that a canny and ruthless politician lurked behind the docile and oft en timorous façade.

But I think that ‘manufactured’ image itself is a façade. Many decisions and moves have convinced me that the bureaucrat usually scores over the politician. I will cite just some of them. Dr. Singh allowed bureaucrats to willfully humiliate the armed forces during the Sixth Pay Commission rip-off . He allowed massive Sixth Pay Commission pay hikes for bureaucrats without asking for even an iota of accountability. He did not publicly oppose the move by bureaucrats to remove ‘file notings’ from the purview of RTI. He seems to publicly support the argument of the judiciary to exempt top judges from RTI. And look at how his team introduced the deeply fl awed and anti-Indian Nuclear Liability Bill.

But then, I don’t blame Dr. Singh at all. I think we all expected too much from a retired bureaucrat!


1 comment:

  1. i do agree with u.......politics changes the people....then why do Dr. singh is the exception