A quiet Prime Minister, a quiet send off. Days before the clamour of a new government, Manmohan Singh, the man whose silence was often held against him, started his journey into the sunset on Tuesday. Unusual as it was for a sitting Prime Minister to do so, Singh personally bid goodbye to each of his 110 staff members in his South Block office, all of who lined up with bouquets and folded hands to greet the PM.
Whatever the verdict be on May 16, the foot-soldiers of his office seemed to be giving Singh a thumbs up as he walked down to acknowledge the “help and assistance” he had received from them since 2004.
In the final Union Cabinet meeting a few hours later, the last decision that was taken under the stewardship of the economist PM was a clearance to a $400 million FDI by KKR, a global buyout fund, in Hyderabad-based pharma company Gland Pharma and Gland Celsus Bio Chemicals. The Cabinet also appointed Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next Army Chief, overruling the BJP’s objections.
Always under fire from the Opposition for policy paralysis, it was surprising to see the prime minister being praised by BJP leader Arun Jaitley. “As curtains draw to close 10-year long period of providing leadership to the government of India, the PM goes out with dignity and grace,” Jaitley said. His own party, which was at best “deferential” to him in public but never failed to carp about him in private, joined the chorus to fete the PM for “experienced stewardship and his personal integrity and ability to lead the country through difficult times”.
Before Singh, 81, takes his final bow on May 17 with an address to the nation, Congress Working Committee and party chief Sonia Gandhi will host a dinner in his honour and present him with a memento.