New Delhi: When prices
of the humble onion overshadow the impact of big-time diplomatic
visits, it is time to worry. And that is how it was for Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh as 2010 winds to a close with corruption
scandals, the weakening political clout of his party and rising
prices clouding his profile in the global arena and the India
A year well begun has pretty much been undone as far as India's
prime minister is concerned. The schism between diplomatic pluses
and domestic minuses saw the common Indian more concerned about
the petrol price hike and the price of one kg of onion than the
indisputable triumph of all P-5 heads of nations - countries that
call the shots in global affairs - calling on India in the latter
half of the year.
Politically too, the year ended on a bad note for the Manmohan
Singh government, whose fortunes dipped to a never before slump
with a deepening corruption taint over the 2008 second-generation
(2G) telecom spectrum licence allotment, the Commonwealth Games
preparations and irregular allocation of apartments in a Mumbai
elite housing society.
The opposition got the leverage it had been looking for and,
united in purpose, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) together
with the Left parties and others ensured that parliament was
stalled every day of the winter session over demands for a joint
parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into what has come to be known
as the spectrum scam.
Despite staunch backing from Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who
extolled him as a man of "sobriety and integrity" and the man
himself offering to break precedence by appearing before
parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the opposition
refused to back down.
Was action not taken against communications minister A. Raja - who
finally quit in November - because of his status as a member of
ally DMK? Was the Congress turning a blind eye to corruption?
Despite strenuous efforts, the doubts persisted, giving opposition
parties some much-needed oxygen.
If the prime minister did not agree to a JPC, 2010 would be
remembered as the year of "stinking scams", said BJP leader L.K.
That the ruling Congress could get only four assembly seats out of
243 in a politically crucial state like Bihar added to the party's
many troubles - and therefore Manmohan Singh's.
The domestic montage was complex.
The northeast was quiet but Jammu and Kashmir flared up in the
summer of 2010 with more than 100 people being killed in the
valley in clashes with police, and many saying the situation was
the worst in two decades.
Terror kept a relatively low profile with the February bombing in
Pune, in which 17 people were killed, and the December blast in
Varanasi, taking the lives of two people, being the biggest
However, Maoist insurgency continued to be a major threat with one
government estimate stating that 974 people, including 577
civilians, were killed till November this year.
The international scenario was far more encouraging for the
technocrat prime minister, feted for his erudition.
India is like a bride being wooed by many suitors, is how Russian
Ambassador Alexander Kadakin put it ahead of his president Dmitry
Medvedev's trip. The visits by the five permanent members of the
Security Council began with British Prime Minister David Cameron
in July. Then followed US President Barack Obama, France's Nicolas
Sarkozy, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Medvedev in quick
Relations with Pakistan stayed turbulent, but Manmohan Singh
weathered the storm and the 2008 controversy over the inclusion of
Balochistan in a joint statement by maintaining staunchly that
relations could not move ahead without any meaningful steps to
stop terror activities directed at India.
On the economic front, the prime minister led the country in
signing a series of trade and economy pacts with several
countries, including Japan and Canada.
He also acknowledged that inflation was a "serious concern" but
promised it would go down to around five percent by the end of
this fiscal. And the homemaker, struggling to balance budgets with
the unprecedented rise in prices of essentials, waited anxiously
for his words to come true.
The Indian economy would grow at between 9 and 10 percent, he
held, a trajectory that led to the country being hailed as one of
the world's most important emerging economies.
The party needs to resurrect itself as does the government and
therefore the prime minister, the fortunes of all three
Like the Chinese yin and yang, where the negative balances the
positive, and the dark sets off the light, Manmohan Singh's 2010
has been a mix. Unfortunately for him, however, the shadows are
deepening in the twilight hours of the year and he needs some
quick thinking on his feet to recover lost ground.
(Minu Jain can
be contacted at email@example.com)