There has never been a charismatic challenger to the Nehru dynasty. The other non-Nehru parivar Prime Minister, Pamulaparty Venkata Narasimha Rao, was as unglamorous as his Finance Minister, a certain Manmohan Singh. Dismissing Charan Singh and Gulzarilal Nanda as inconsequential, we turn to Morarji Desai, that other Congress stalwart. Morarji’s liquid preferences and rigidity in response ensured that his own colleagues and backers gave him the heave, as they did to Deve Gowda, V.P. Singh and I.K. Gujral. Good men all, but no match for Nehru’s charm and guile.
As for Atal Behari Vajpayee, although he was believed to come from the RSS stable, it must have been as a very distant second cousin thrice removed, because the man was clearly in love with the legacy of Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Indeed, during his time, venerated editors, who once dazzled foreign-returned Congress leaders with their knowledge of French, did not even have to brush up on their school Sanskrit to floor Vajpayee. He ensured that former Congress loyalists were given an honoured place in power circles, while those with a noticeable Nagpur hue were shunned. Of course, as soon as the Congress party returned to office in 2004, these worthies shed the “former” with despatch, reverting to their pre-NDA regime avatar of scourges of the RSS and defenders of the creators of the very Idea of India, the Nehru family. Looking at possible outcomes in 2014, they must be brushing up their Gujarati in order to transform themselves from critics to defenders of Narendra Damodardas Modi.
Barack Hussein Obama would never have become President of the United States had it not been for the 2008 financial crash caused by the continuation of the Clinton-era freeing of Wall Street from legal constraints to the full exercise of greed. All that George W. Bush did was to build on the Clinton policy of doing away with Glass-Steagall and numerous other restrictions on Wall Street that were put in place after the Great Depression, which began in 1929.
Although the US economy is being portrayed by the Pink Press as bouncing back to health, the reality is that the US dollar is as overvalued as the British pound was in the years after World War I, the 1920s. The pound ought to have abandoned as the international medium of exchange in the 1920s but it was not, and the international economy paid a horrible price. Similarly, the US dollar is resting on quicksand rather than on concrete. The economy of the US accounts for less than a fifth of world output, yet the dollar accounts for four-fifths of world trade, including in that crucial feedstock, petroleum.
The sooner India works out agreements with Iran and Iraq in the first instance to do away with the dollar in the purchase of oil, the better. However, given the robotic adherence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s economic team to diktats from Washington, such a (merited) flight from the dollar is improbable. A pity. Had Manmohan Singh spent the effort that he has on meeting Barack Obama next month for a chat in the White House on working out a plan whereby the BRICS countries could trade with each other in their own currencies rather than in dollars or euros, the rupee may not be nudging past Chidambaram’s age to his own.
Trust in the US, expressed in the form of carrying out the wishes of the White House in a manner that made nonsense of his own country’s interests did not help Hosni Mubarak very much in 2011. After three decades of loyal service to the US, the Egyptian strongman was doomed by word from Obama and Hillary Clinton to the generals that the US no longer had any use for Mubarak and that he could be dispensed with. Manmohan Singh, despite the many scams that have flourished under his watch, is unlikely to spend time in jail. Files have a way of getting eaten up by the (invisible) termites that are present in such profusion in government offices, and certainly those relating to the giving away of valuable natural resources (spectrum, coal, iron ore, to name a few) have about them a robust flavour that would naturally attract any termite in the vicinity.
Manmohan Singh will spend his retirement at the villa set aside for him by his successor. What is clear is that he will leave behind an economy that has been made almost terminal by his clear lack of ability to ensure good governance. What is even clearer is that the principal beneficiary of the developing collapse of the Indian economy will be Narendra Modi. Of course, only if his detractors within the BJP are unable to prevent him being declared the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP, the way Vajpayee was in 1998, 1999 and 2004 and L.K. Advani was in 2009. Absent such a declaration, the BJP will still emit the odour of its failed past.