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Like Flawed Honest Abe, Singh Should Aim for greatness

June 27, 2013 in Economics

By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

As prime minister Manmohan Singh enters his final year in office, he is likely to be hoping to go down in history as the man who made India a miracle economy, growing at 8.5 per cent a year. However, after a series of scandals, critics say he stands to be remembered for presiding over New Delhi’s most corrupt regime ever.

Nobody doubts his personal integrity. He has long been seen as an honest man struggling against the tide in dishonest times. But the Teflon is finally wearing off. In May he tried to save the jobs of two ministers: one accused by the Supreme Court of interfering in a probe of an alleged coal mines allotment scam; the other following the arrest of his nephew over a disputed bribery allegation. Both ultimately had to resign.

The Supreme Court accused Mr Singh of trying to convert the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is examining the coal case, into a “caged parrot”. Columnists who once sympathized with him now say he is tainted by complicity.

Mr Singh’s place in history as an economic reformer is assured but he should aim for a higher goal.”

I think history will judge him more positively: it usually lionises people achieving difficult goals in tainted times. Consider, for example, Abraham Lincoln, as portrayed in last year’s Oscar-winning biopic. Lincoln graphically shows the dirty tricks and bribes the 16th US president used to ensure passage of the bill abolishing slavery. Yet this did not diminish his heroic stature, in the film or in history books. Indeed, he is popularly remembered as “Honest Abe”.

American politics was highly corrupt in Lincoln’s time. There was no permanent civil service, so hundreds of important (and lucrative) positions could be given by the president to his supporters. “To the victor the spoils” was the motto of the day. It could also be the motto of contemporary Indian politics.

Lincoln was not an idealist demanding freedom from slavery as a fundamental right. Rather, he held that the constitution gave each state the right to keep or abolish slavery. He won the Republican nomination to run for president in 1860 because delegates thought his moderate stance would win more votes than outright abolitionism, especially in the border states between north and south (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware).

Lincoln tried hard to avoid …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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