Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is often described, not entirely without reason, as a somewhat passive and non-confrontational leader — an accidental politician, with the real strings being pulled, behind the scenes, by Sonia Gandhi. (Manmohan may wear the Pagri, but Sonia wears the pants, as it were.)
However, in the speech he gave yesterday in the Indian Parliament before the Confidence Vote (which the UPA government won, by about 20 votes), Manmohan Singh showed no signs of meekness or passivity. Indeed, his take-down of BJP leader L.K. Advani is rhetorically ferocious. I was impressed:
“The Leader of Opposition, Shri L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM. To fulfill his ambitions, he has made at least three attempts to topple our government. But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today. At his ripe old age, I do not expect Shri Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and Indiaâ€™s sake, I urge him at least to change his astrologers so that he gets more accurate predictions of things to come.
As for Shri Advaniâ€™s various charges, I do not wish to waste the time of the House in rebutting them. All I can say is that before leveling charges of incompetence on others, Shri Advani should do some introspection. Can our nation forgive a Home Minister who slept when the terrorists were knocking at the doors of our Parliament? Can our nation forgive a person who single handedly provided the inspiration for the destruction of the Babri Masjid with all the terrible consequences that followed? To atone for his sins, he suddenly decided to visit Pakistan and there he discovered new virtues in Mr. Jinnah. Alas, his own party and his mentors in the RSS disowned him on this issue. Can our nation approve the conduct of a Home Minister who was sleeping while Gujarat was burning leading to the loss of thousands of innocent lives? Our friends in the Left Front should ponder over the company they are forced to keep because of miscalculations by their General Secretary. (link)
Unfortunately, I gather the din was too great for the speech to actually be heard. But hey, at least he tried to say it.
In terms of content, the only thing that seems off key here is the reference to Advani’s “ripe old age” — I’m not sure that a 75 year old man can really get away with that comment! (Advani, for reference, is even older — about 81.)
The rest of the speech (read it here in its entirety) is more focused on substantively defending the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and the general policies of the current government. It is, by comparison to the above, a bit dull… but necessary.
In the interest of opposing dullness, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the second remarkable thing that happened in the chaotic Parliamentary session yesterday:
The allegations are going to be investigated, of course, but my instinct is that it smells like a stunt. The three MPs say they met Amar Singh, who told them “we can’t give you very much money to abstain, because we have the votes to sustain the government.” That sounds like B.S. (why would the SP bother with bribes if the vote was already secure?). And the story of how they were actually physically given the money is also a bit questionable (see this report). Finally, they claim they have video proving the bribe took place — but where is that video? Why didn’t they leak that to the media as well?
Of course, if it comes out that there’s hard evidence supporting the claims of vote-buying, the currently fragile UPA government probably really will fall. And the government falls because they really did buy votes and abstentions this nakedly, I for one won’t be particularly sorry about it.
In the meanwhile, 8 BJP MPs have been expelled from the party for defying leadership, when they either abstained from voting or voted cross-party for the bill. And the Samajwadi Party has filed a procedural complaint (“breach of privilege”) against the 3 BJP MPs who pulled the stunt.