Manmohanomics: Journey to South Block (Life of an Indian Prime Minister
B. Rajeshwari ·       

The book describes Manmohan Singh's journey towards becoming the 'first among equals' and his policies expected to be adopted along with the challenges ahead. The authors track the developments leading to Singh becoming the Prime Minister, and the reasons behind Sonia Gandhi's decision. Perhaps, they could also have made a deeper query as to why Singh was chosen against the other senior leaders of the party? The fact that Sonia after listening to her "inner voice" decided not to take the challenge of being the second woman Prime Minister of the country is a story that has been told and retold in every magazine and newspaper.

The professional and personal qualities of Manmohan Singh which characterize him as a highly principled, honest and diligent civil servant rather than a politician would add a new value to his post in India, according to the authors. The book achieves in producing a distinct respect for the new Prime Minister and admiration for the success that he has achieved entirely by persistent hard work and being honest to the cause of the people. He has been described as Karmayogi, apolitical personality, reformer with a human face and a simple and good man. The authors also insist that being a Sikh, Singh can remove the memories of the anti-Sikh riots from the minds of the Sikh community and again win their support for the Congress.

Will he be able to keep his promise of reforms with a human face? Even his apolitical personality seems to be changing in the last few weeks. He is learning to open up and appear more in public to give his government's stand on various issues.

The book also provides foreign policy challenges and the domestic problems that Manmohan Singh would face during his tenure. The authors believe that Singh's foreign policy would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary and his success in foreign policy would depend on his government's ability to engage Pakistan at the negotiating table and find a plausible solution to Kashmir. There is a separate chapter in the book dealing with the India's relations with the United States under the Manmohan Singh government. The Leftists presence in the government could be a challenge in formulating the relations with United States. The Leftists have openly stated their displeasure on the hegemonistic policies of the United States in Iraq and wants the US troops to be vacated from Iraq. In such circumstances though it is possible that the anti-US statements and posturing might continue, but substantively issues may remain the same as the UPA government would not like to hamper its relations with the United States.

The book provides a distinct impression over the division of responsibilities between Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh on the UPA government's functioning. It emphasizes that the Sonia-Manmohan team is ideal, where Sonia could play the role of a popular leader and Manmohan an efficient administrator. But this seems to be an oversimplification of the relationship and does not recognize the strong position that Sonia Gandhi enjoys in the Congress Party. The book also touches upon the compulsions of leading a coalition that Manmohan Singh will have to face. The difficulties of satisfying the Left parties and the power hungry politicians in the coalition would be a challenging task in front of Dr. Singh.

The text of the Common Minimum Programme is given as a chapter which probably could have been as part of the appendix as there is no analysis of the text. The final chapters deal with the views from Kashmir and Pakistan on Dr. Singh's becoming the Prime Minister.

The various policies to be adopted by the various sectors of the government also form a part of the book. The economy under P. Chidambaram is expected to give priority to the agriculture sector and also carry the process of economic reforms. The same chapter also focuses on policies to be expected from Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Law Minister HR Bharadwaj and Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath. There is a general picture provided on the crucial areas that each of these sectors will concentrate on and this general impression is based on a few statements made by the Ministers concerned. The book therefore does not only talk about Dr. Singh's journey to South Block but tries to give an overall picture of the government and touches upon the important areas like Defence, National Security, Foreign Policy and Economy under Manmohan Singh.

The book is a collection of the events that followed after Manmohan Singh was selected by the Congress to lead the United Progressive Alliance government and would be of benefit to those who want to understand the UPA government's foreign and domestic policy agenda under Manmohan Singh.