16 April, 2021

The Man Who Wasn’t There?

He reinstituted the value of inclusive growth and governance open to scrutiny. He institutionalised the voice of civil society.

Narendra Bisht
The Man Who Wasn’t There?

The Manmohan Singh Decade, which technically comes to an end on May 16, can neither be adequately understood nor fairly evaluated without anchoring it in the context of its birth in May 2004. That context was the horrible, horrible violence of Gujarat 2002. And it is no accident that the chief political beneficiary of that violence sho­uld now appear to have come so close to heralding an end to Manmohan Singh’s prime ministerial innings, third longest in the history of our republic.

Let us try to understand that context of the Gujarat violence, and juxtapose it in the larger framework of how India is to be governed—on what terms and on whose terms. The Gujarat violence had contested the terms of coexistence. Fifty years ago, Clifford Geertz, a great cultural anthropologist, had insightfully observed: “Whatever social scientists might desire, there are some social phenomena whose impact is immediate and profound, even decisive, but whose significance cannot be effectively assessed until well after their occurrence; and one of these is surely the...

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