Ex-PM Manmohan Singh retires from Rajya Sabha after 33 years | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Ex-PM Manmohan Singh retires from Rajya Sabha after 33 years

By, New Delhi
Apr 03, 2024 10:08 AM IST

Manmohan Singh, 91, was the third PM from the Rajya Sabha after Indira Gandhi (in her first term) and Inder Kumar Gujral.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first PM outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to complete 10 years, or two full terms, in office, will finish a remarkable political innings in the Rajya Sabha spanning 33 years on Wednesday.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being escorted after casting his vote for the presidential election, at Parliament House, in New Delhi,on July 18, 2022 (HT File)
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being escorted after casting his vote for the presidential election, at Parliament House, in New Delhi,on July 18, 2022 (HT File)

The architect of India’s economic liberalisation and the force behind the 2008 Indo-US nuclear agreement, Singh headed a government that transformed the social welfare framework with a bouquet of rights-based legislation and ushered in a slew of reforms including Direct Benefit Transfer and launched Aadhaar.

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Singh, 91, was the third PM from the Rajya Sabha after Indira Gandhi (in her first term) and Inder Kumar Gujral.

On a personal level, India’s only Sikh PM was known as an epitome of grace and politeness. When the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was formed, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee had to force Singh to stop addressing him as “sir” -- an old habit since Singh was the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor when Mukherjee was the Union finance minister.

Singh entered the Upper House in October 1991, four months after he became the Union finance minister in June 1991. He represented Assam for five terms in the Upper House and shifted to Rajasthan in 2019.

Proficient in Urdu and English, Singh remained one of the best parliamentary speakers in the recent past. “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. I suggest to this august House that the emergence of India as a major economic power in the world happens to be one such idea,” Singh said as he presented his first budget in 1991.

He didn’t shy away from saying “I bow my head in shame” in the Upper House on the 1984 Anti-Sikh massacre.

And when late Sushma Swaraj resorted to an Urdu shayari to question the PM, Singh—an ardent fan of poet Iqbal—floored everyone saying: “Maana ki teri deed ke kabil nahi hoon main, tu mera shauq dekh mera intizaar dekh (Agreed I am not worthy of your sight, behold my zeal and see how I wait).”

“We live in times that are largely shaped by you. The economic prosperity and stability that we enjoy today is built on the foundations laid by you along with our former Prime Minister, Bharat Ratna Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao. The current set of leaders who have reaped the benefits of your work are reluctant to credit you due to political biases,” said Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge In a glowing tribute.

The Congress chief argued that the work initiated by Singh’s government to ensure direct transfer of benefits to individual beneficiaries by creating zero balance accounts and unique identification of the beneficiary through Aadhaar was “hijacked by the succeeding government without giving” Singh any credit.

Hailing Singh as “a hero of the middle class,” Kharge said, “The nation misses the quiet yet strong dignity that you brought to the office of the Prime Minister. Parliament will now miss your wisdom and experience. Your dignified, measured, soft spoken yet statesman like words are in contrast to the loud voices filled with lies that signify the current politics.”

Old timers in the Rajya Sabha shared many memories of Singh, who was a regular at the Parliament library to scan magazines for articles on economics. Once, he drank lassi at the milk department’s stall outside the Central Hall and started digging in his pockets for money. The milkman repeatedly requested him to not pay, but a determined Singh gathered coins from different pockets and paid 6.

Singh’s last intervention in Parliament was against demonetisation. The former PM called it an “an organised loot and legalised plunder”.

Former Union minister P Chidambaram, who was the commerce minister when Singh was the finance minister, told HT, “Dr Manmohan Singh entered politics 33 years ago like a lamb. As he leaves the Rajya Sabha tomorrow, his work and his accomplishments will resonate for many years as the roar of a lion. It was one of the greatest privileges of my life that I had an opportunity to work with Dr Singh for many years.”

Kapil Sibal, who was the education and law minister under Singh, paid a glowing tribute. “In 10 years as PM, he never called me to say that please do this or do that. When I tried to push the educational reforms, he told me that there was opposition to this. It was like warning me and he never said don’t go ahead. On the Akash tablet and on RTI, I got my way, he would warn me about opposition within the party (On RTI). He never interfered or foisted his opinion on me.

In his 10 years, Singh ran a fragile coalition. The Left parties withdrew support over the nuclear deal in 2008. But when CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury went to meet him with a delegation in 2009, Singh told him, “I am missing your counsel.”

”I entered Parliament when Singh was the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He is extremely well-read and his arguments were based on facts and knowledge. I spoke before him on demonetisation. He had said notebandi would result in 2 percentage points reduction in GDP. His prophecy always came true,’” said Yechury.

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