Economist Prime Minister and Scientist President

What a week it has been in India. First, a result that no one expected. Next, a drama that was almost unbelievable. Sonia Gandhi withdrew on the doorstep of the highest executive post in the land as she listened to her voice of conscience. And the result: Dr Manmohan Singh, the architect of India’s reforms in the early 1990s, is all set to become Prime Minister. The thing that he has in common with President APJ Abdul Kalam is not being a politician. This caps a week of amazing events in Indian politics.

Here is a profile of the Manmohan Singh (from Indian Express):

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered economist-turned-politician Manmohan Singh shot into prominence after he steered the economy from the pits of a severe balance of payments crisis and saved the country from the verge of defaulting its external payments in 1991.

Known as “Mr clean” and a gentleman politician, the Oxford-Cambridge educated architect of the country’s economic reforms changed the face of India in the global comity of nations during the five years he held the post of Finance Minister from 1991-96.

Born in Gah (West Punjab), now in Pakistan, on September 26, 1932, Singh, as Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao’s Congress government had changed the fundamental way the corporate India thinks and with it the life of millions of middle-class Indians by liberalising the economy.

The economic czar changed the outlook of foreigners towards India, whose economy was in a shambles in the early 1990s, with an unsustainable fiscal deficit of close to 8.5 per cent of GDP and the economy stagnating at a Hindu rate of growth of 4.0 per cent.

An unassuming personality, Singh has held several positions, including chief economic advisor and finance secretary before becoming governor of Reserve Bank and then deputy chairman of planning Commission and UGC chairman in 1980s and early nineties.

Singh, who unshackled the country from the bureaucratic controls and licence-permit raj, had taken the economy from the brink of bankruptcy to a high growth path of 6-7 per cent during his five years stint at North block.

The 72-year-old Rajya Sabha member from Assam has been welcomed by trade and industry as an instant choice for the coveted post because of his impeccable credentials, bureaucratic experience and intimate knowledge of international economics.

Singh, who is universally well regarded, was educated at Punjab University first and then in Oxford and Cambridge. His potential was evident when he won Cambridge’s prestigious Adam Smith Prize in 1956.

The following year, he returned to India as a university lecturer and for the next nine years remained at Punjab University before being posted for international duty with UNCTAD (1966-69).

He then joined the Delhi School of Economics as a professor. Two years later, his academic career was cut short and he joined the government to serve in various capacities.

In all these positions, those who worked with him have nothing but admiration for Singh’s talent and conduct. Hard-working, meticulous, charming and “such a nice man”, they all said about Singh.

The first two challenges before Manomohan Singh are to appoint the Cabinet of Ministers and get the Common Minimum Programme sorted out with the supporting parties. And then, hopefully, stop the nonsense of giving free power to farmers that the Southern CMs are doing (YS Reddy started it in Andhra Pradesh, and Jayalalitha has followed in Tamil Nadu). It is better get some paid power for half the day, than no power for the whole day.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.