The much hyped Indian movie, ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ which hit the theatres two weeks ago has ended up as a dud both in content and at the box office. This all apparent attack on India’s first Sikh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Gandhi family in a crucial Lok Sabha polls year has come under scathing attack from the media.
The man who ushered peace to a fragmented India following the bloodshed triggered by the notorious Gujarat riots for which incumbent PM Narendra Modi too stood as an accused, Manmohan Singh is also very much remembered for his economic achievements.
Having brought in a new era with economic liberalisation in 1991 as the finance minister of P. V. Narasimha Rao, Singh is also credited with maintaining a high economic growth rate especially during his own first term as prime minister. According to India’s National Statistical Commission the GDP growth during Singh’s government had reached 10.08% as per factor cost, the best since 1991 and just a few points behind nation’s best ever 10.2 marked during 1988-89 under Rajiv Gandhi.
His 2005 initiative the ambitious National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) which went on to improve health indicators in poor states in leaps and bounds is continued to date and the Right to Information Act propagated by his government is considered a major achievement assuring greater media freedom. Besides, he managed to seal a US-India civil nuclear deal and survived a no-confidence motion against that agreement in 2008.
Singh’s second term of course was marred by several controversies including the coal scandal, the 2G Spectrum scam, the Robert Vadra’s land deal and the Commonwealth Games corruption cases. Still he managed to maintain a decent economic growth even during this period.
Sri Lanka certainly was a key factor that led to the unpopularity of the Manmohan Singh government during its second term. Despite repeated requests from Tamil Nadu, Manmohan Singh refused to take a strong stand on Sri Lanka. It was no secret that his Congress-led government helped the island’s war against terrorism, especially in the last days of the war.
Domestic compulsions forced his government to help assist a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC later. However even then India managed to dilute the resolution in favour of Sri Lanka and came under scathing attack from Tamil Nadu for that.
The movie ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ has come at a time when Congress is showing a strong resurgence. By targeting somebody like Manmohan Sigh, who is known for his dignified calm and quiet ways, the movie-makers have stirred a hornets nest.
While there’s no doubt that Singh’s decisions as Prime Minister were largely influenced by the Gandhi family the portrayal of him in the movie as a weakling incapable of doing anything on his own, has shocked the many viewers. Among the critics, the Indian Express newspaper has described the movie as, “an out-an-out propaganda film, created for the specific purpose of making the former prime minister look like a weak, spineless man, a puppet whose strings were controlled by The Family”.
Whether anyone likes it or not Manmohan Singh, the country’s first Sikh prime minister, is still credited with some of the best achievements of independent India. A true technocrat who pulled the country out of an economic quagmire, a peac- maker and a distinguished alumni of both Oxford and Cambridge despite his very humble beginnings, Manmohan Singh certainly deserves a better place in history.