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In the national interest, Dr Singh?
February 06, 2006
One meaning of the word 'confer' is 'have discussions'. Its extension into 'conference' would therefore mean a formal meeting where there would be discussion, however brief.
But Sonia Gandhi-appointed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's press conference the other day was anything but that. There was to be no discussion whatever at that 'conference' -- even a refutation of the answer or a supplementary was denied. It was no more than a question-and-answer meeting, with journalists being given numbers on placards. Bowler number seven bowled to Younis Khan and Younis Khan condescended to play him -- period. Take it or leave it.
That is why Manmohan Singh got away with his laughable innovation of the phrase 'enlightened national interest.' The UPA government's decision on the Iran vote at the IAEA board of governors' meeting at Vienna, relations with USA and other countries, the government's economic and domestic priorities -- all these, our PM said, would be guided by 'enlightened national interest.'
Isn't any country's prime minister expected to act only and exclusively in 'national interest'? So what was Manmohan Singh being so lofty and solemn about?
And 'enlightened' national interest? What's that? Is it some kind of 'spiritualised' national interest? Was it national interest born of profound wisdom that only Manmohan Singh and/or Soniaji possesses?
We will not know. We will not because, as said earlier, Manmohan Singh's meeting with the journalists the other day was but a Q-and-A meeting. But our media would do well to note that phrase and ask the PM at some future meeting to spell out the epistemology of his 'enlightened national interest' phrase. But beware: he might well answer, 'I would not like to comment.'
If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh truly had national interest at heart, he would have spelt out at length why our country's almost entire nuclear science community's vicious but studied opposition to the Nuclear Energy Pact with the US is wrong and antinational. Why are scholars like Bharat Karnad repeatedly writing in the press warning the educated against that pact? The prime minister seemingly is unconcerned in his ensconced belief of 'enlightened national interest.'
If the man had the courage of a true patriot, he should convene a live televised debate on this pact with him facing nuclear experts, some former members of the armed forces and defence analysts. Assuring our ignorant Parliament that the pact was in our best interest and then telling President Bush that the deal had the backing of Parliament though Vajpayee (with 138 MPs in the Lok Sabha) objected to it is neither being honest nor courteous to a democratically elected Opposition.
If Manmohan Singh truly had national interest at heart, he would not have publicly defended Buta Singh's recommendation to dissolve the Bihar assembly and thereby undermined the sanctity of the Supreme Court judgment on the issue while also pooh poohing it as but a 3-2 verdict.
If Manmohan Singh truly had national interest at heart, he would not have upheld his government's decisions on the gubernatorial mischief and malfeasance in Goa and Jharkhand.
If Manmohhan Singh truly had national interest at heart, he would not have described Sonia Gandhi's role as being 'a legitimate influence on the government' when the fact is that 'Madam' has been grafted into a bizarre, surreal constitutional position without being made accountable to Parliament in any which way.
Leave alone his newfound catchphrase of 'enlightened national interest,' our prime minister was not quite honest at his Q-and-A meeting the other day. He claimed credit for the national economy's conspicuous growth 'in the last three years' cleverly overlooking the fact that his UPA government came to power less than two years ago, and that economic policies take a couple of years to show results.
Similarly, he claimed credit for the excellent relations with the US and when the fact is that it was the NDA efforts that had brought a US President to our cities and villages so soon after the superpower had slapped a slew of sanctions on us. Ditto with China being made to agree by NDA to Sikkim being a part of India and to exchange the long outstanding matter of maps of the disputed borders.
Tailpiece: There was one small mercy at Manmohan Singh's press meet: he didn't describe the defreezing of Quattrochis's millions in London as an act of 'enlightened national interest.' And, considering the way he ridiculed L K Advani, that presumably is the act by which he'd like us to judge his work.