It didn’t really take Rahul Gandhi to wreck Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tour of the United States. It was already a farewell visit. US President Barack Obama had been reluctant to meet him, and even tried to avoid having to give Singh a lunch.
More to the point, in New Delhi it was evident to everyone that Singh had lost almost all standing with his cabinet. Many, like his defense minister, ignored what he said. One even shushed him during a cabinet meeting. No surprise that it took the cabinet 20 minutes to agree to reverse direction on the ordinance allowing convicted politicians to run again for office. As soon as Rahul Gandhi had made clear his opposition, the one person not expected to put up resistance was the prime minister.
Unfortunately, Singh’s devolution from a lame duck Prime Minister to a quadriplegic ruler has affected India in the global sphere.
The worst example has been Bangladesh, where a potentially historical accord has been put on hold because Singh cannot sell the policy to almost anyone. Then there is Sri Lanka fretting that the Prime Minister is too weak to contemplate going to Colombo for the Commonwealth Summit. Even Singh’s great friends the Japanese are wondering if they are investing in a black hole and that they are better off doing more with the next government. And more than one ambassador in New Delhi is bleakly wondering about the three or more years of professional waste he has put into New Delhi, writing cables on Singh’s non-performance.
It is noticeable how the number of bilaterals Singh holds every time he travels is dwindling. Foreign heads prefer to wait until the next man (or woman) comes into power. Yet Singh won’t resign. As he told his Pakistani counterpart after the latter apologized over tales he had called the Indian Prime Minister a “village woman,” Singh has skin like a rhinoceros after years in office.
Copyright © 2013 the Hindustan Times.