The people of India had enough of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeing in him an individual who in effect devalued the high post to which he was elevated by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. From the start of his years in what may be termed “virtual power”, it needs to be said to his credit that the mild-mannered searcher after an elusive peace with Pakistan was never shy of admitting the fact that it was Sonia Gandhi and none other to whom he owed his job. Where P.V. Narasimha Rao sought to claim the protocol rights of his post, after a while refusing to go on call to 10 Janpath from what is now 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, Prime Minister Singh had no hesitation in allowing television cameras to record his visits to the official residence that was the nerve centre not only of the Congress party but of the Government of India. Whether it be A.K. Antony or S.K. Shinde or P. Chdambaram, each understood where actual authority resided, and made frequent visits to “Dus Number” in order to get first-hand the views of the Congress president on matters relating to the tasks at hand. The Prime Minister may safely be assumed to have learnt of such decisions only through the media, unless of course they were brought before the Union Council of Ministers as a formality. Sonia Gandhi showed great skill in ensuring her primacy over the party and the government despite having no formal position within it. Such a stance was contrary to the practice followed first by several political leaders in India of placing their kin in key positions. Sonia Gandhi could have appointed son Rahul even as the PM of India had she so wanted, if not in 2004 then certainly by 2011, the year when Manmohan Singh became a liability to his party, but was loyally retained by Sonia Gandhi for three years more, in the process demolishing whatever chance the Congress had of securing enough seats to head a coalition in the Lok Sabha constituted in 2014. The extra three years in his high profile job, and which enabled the economist and professor to travel around the world, standing cheek to jowl with world leaders, showed the gratitude and satisfaction of Congress president Sonia Gandhi at Manmohan Singh not following the Narasimha Rao precedent of putting himself over the family that had controlled the Congress for three generations.
Although he was popular because of the contrast with his predecessors, once he became Prime Minister, Narendra Modi showed his forbearance by not standing in the way of the CBI and other agencies giving a clean chit to Manmohan Singh even in the matter of the coal scam. Despite his having been the minister and the PMO being involved in the allocation of mines, Manmohan Singh was absolved of blame, thereby proving as totally false the canard of vindictiveness spread about Narendra Modi. Now that PM Modi has understood and become an expert in the processes of governance at the Central level, the country is seeing more of Modi and less of Vajpayee and other predecessors in the present government. An example is the surgical strike on terrorist bases across the Line of Control in Kashmir. Neither Vajpayee nor Manmohan Singh would have shown the mettle needed to call for such a cross-LoC strike and ensure that it took place. Even after the betrayal at Kargil, Vajpayee refused to allow even a bird from the Indian side to cross the LoC, despite such a constraint severely limiting the ability of the armed forces to pay back the Pakistan army for its cowardly and treacherous actions at Kargil despite a peace offensive by Vajpayee focusing on Nawaz Sharif, who of course was powerless then and remains so now. Most likely, the men in khaki will order PM Sharif to give an extension to Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif in the knowledge that Sharif knows what can happen to him should he refuse to obey. Prime Minister Modi has boldly established India’s rights across the whole of Jammu & Kashmir, including those parts left behind by the Mountbatten-Nehru ceasefire agreement of 1948. Modi has made it clear that the days when Pakistan could get away with terrorism and treachery are over. He deserves the congratulations of the entire nation, and it is to their credit that leaders from Sonia Gandhi onwards have backed the Modi government in this bold and necessary response to the depredations of a rogue army.