Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh shortly after the two exchanged barbs in public space on Wednesday has triggered off speculation regarding the nature of their discussions. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi tried to derive political capital from it by claiming that Modi took lessons on how to run the economy from Singh, while sources insisted that the two had met at the behest of the Prime Minister, to have a one on one interaction regarding certain issues which are only privy to those who hold the august office.
Singh has been at the receiving end of the attack from top BJP leaders during the one year celebrations of the Modi government and earlier in the day minced no words to slam the NDA regime for its policies, while claiming that the performance of the Central government under him was far more impressive since it had ensured that the growth rate of the economy remained on the average of around 8.5%. BJP president Amit Shah lashed out at Singh, accusing him of presiding over a corrupt regime, even if he himself was considered to be a man of great integrity.
The political powwows apart, the meeting between the former and present PM took everyone by surprise and by sheer coincidence took place on the 51st death anniversary of India’s first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru. Rahul’s remarks indicated that the Congress high command was not happy by this and though it could not say anything against Singh, it chose to allow the party vice president to convey his displeasure by his observations. What the Congress leadership has till this day not been able to explain is that why Singh was not a part of its campaign apparatus during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, especially because it was his government which was facing the trial before the people.
One would have expected him to be more proactive, but he hardly participated in any election rally to defend his government or to make a case in favour of the Congress continuing. Whether it was reluctance on Singh’s part or a conscious decision of the high command is something which has never been expressed in public domain. It was the way he was treated that became one of the many factors which resulted in the Congress being reduced to 44 in the Lok Sabha.
Whether anyone likes it or not, Modi’s greatest achievement in the last one year has been that he has been able to restore the sanctity and prestige of the office of the Prime Minister by clearly demonstrating that the buck stops with him. This was certainly not happening during the UPA regime and there is an element of truth in the fact that 10 Janpath was the controlling authority of the government.
Coming back to the Modi-Singh meeting, much is being talked about in the corridors of power on what they actually discussed. The conversation between the two is highly privileged but that has not stopped tongues from wagging. One unconfirmed report doing the rounds is that Singh was eager to explain to Modi why he had lashed out against his government that morning itself and the meeting which had been fixed earlier provided the right platform. Even if it may sound totally unlikely, according to the Lutyens’ zone buzz, Singh has been worried ever since his name figured in the coal scam as it has damaged his reputation of Mr Clean immensely. The buzz is that he told Modi that his attack against his government was at the instance of a close aide of the Congress president and left to himself, he would have never said what he said.
Now whether he conveyed any such thing to the Prime Minister or not is something that cannot be easily confirmed or denied. Congress sources said that its top leaders have been conscious of efforts being made by some persons close to the present regime to make Singh talk against the high command and share the methodology used by party leaders to influence him for taking decisions or making him look the other way. There have been a few who have even suggested that the only way Singh could keep himself out of the scams was to virtually turn an approver. This kind of talk and speculation is bound to gain currency unless Singh comes clean and explains what was discussed in the meeting between the two leaders. Modi will maintain his silence since it suits him politically to allow the rumours and speculation to go viral. The result is that it puts the Congress high command in an uncomfortable position. His office, however, described it as “a courtesy call”.
Singh has always been considered by the political elements in the Congress as a rank opportunist, who played second fiddle to Sonia Gandhi to advance his career. He never had any stakes in the future of the party and even now can leave it in lurch if the situation and circumstances demand. Between us.