Ranjona Banerji: Yes, we have a Prime Minister!

24 Sep,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


India was shocked to learn last week that it had a prime minister. This news had been quite successfully hidden from the public for a few years. And that was not all – the prime minister not only existed, he could also speak and do things. No one has expected this incredible turn of events. Many young people who live in cyberspace had heard of the prime minister only through the fake or parody twitter handles like Yum Yum Singh. Others, slightly older, realised that India had a PM when American magazines like Time and American newspapers like Washington Post criticised him.


In fact many people in Delhi believe that those two calamitous articles actually reminded Manmohan Singh that he was prime minister of India. Plus, the fact that Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress were finally gone. Stung by the media and emboldened by the loss of Mamata, Manmohan Singh strode on to national television and explained why his government had done what it did.


Money he told us sternly does not grow on trees, proving that when it comes to clichés, speechwriters always try and look for the most tired ones. However, the rest of the speech explained quite clearly why the government did what it did as far as FDI in multi-brand retail and the hike in diesel prices are concerned. Since Singh made the speech in both Hindi and English, we were assured that he knew at least two languages fluently.


The UPA has made a serious mistake by hiding Singh and by trying to match the BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad and Meenakshi Lekhi with Renuka Choudhury and Digvijaya Singh. Instead of competing with the BJP in TV studios, all they had to do was trot out the prime minister every six months on Doordarshan. Since Parliament exists only for political parties to yell and “rush to the well of the house”, how are we to know that the government exists?


Singh’s speech meanwhile actually floored people. He pointed out that the crisis was bad, that FDI in multi-brand retail wasn’t the end of the world, the government did need to subsidise cheap diesel for rich people with SUVs (heh heh) and he reminded everyone that he had pulled India out of a financial crisis last time.


Arun Shourie of the BJP told reporters in Bhopal, as reported in Monday’s Indian Express: “Increasing diesel prices was the need of the hour… Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has for the first time shown his strength.” BC Khanduri, also of the BJP and the former chief minister of Uttarakhand said (also in the Indian Express) that the PM’s resignation is “no solution”. He blamed coalition politics for being a hurdle on the path to reform.


In UPA 1, the prime minister showed us his strength over the Indo-US nuclear deal, especially when the Left walked out. This time, he flexed his muscles after Mamata Banerjee walked out. This means that a party with Bengal connections is necessary to make a government initially and then it is vital for the said party to depart for the government to actually start working. Go figure.


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