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The failed promise of India's once beloved prime minister

In an essay worth saving for posterity, historian Ram Guha assesses the many failings of a man once projected as India's best prime minister
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India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during the Opening Ceremony for the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Oct. 3, 2010 in New Delhi. (Ian Walton/Getty Images)

All right, folks.  It's New Year's Eve.  It's Saturday.  And yet I am blogging.  Suffice to say, you have to click through to the article that's inspired me.  If you have any interest in India, or politics, or good writing, that is.  I'd reproduce it in full if it qualified as "fair use."

So what am I talking about?

The always perceptive and usually entertaining Ram Guha has written a withering-yet-sympathetic assessment of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's second (and most likely last) term in office that is absolutely chock full of zingers.  And if that's not enough, it also provides a pretty good summary of what's been going on in Indian politics, if you have been lazy about watching.

Here he goes on Singh's failure to stand up to Sonia Gandhi on corruption -- where if he'd threatened to resign the whole party would have caved to his designs -- and anti-corruption demagogue Anna Hazare:

It is a mark of how disappointing Manmohan Singh’s second term has been that it has allowed an authoritarian village reformer — with little understanding of what Mohandas K. Gandhi said, did, or meant — to claim the mantle of the Mahatma.

And how about his dismissal of the Grand Old Man of Indian letters, novelist (and one-time journalist) Khushwant Singh?

About 18 months ago, Khushwant Singh wrote that Manmohan Singh was the best prime minister India has had. Khushwant is reliable on some matters: such as the history of the Sikhs, the attractions of Scotch whisky, and the poetry of Muhammed Iqbal. He is a man of enormous charm, with a large fund of good and bad jokes. But in so far as politicians go he has a disastrous track record. He once saw in the ruffian Sanjay Gandhi the redeemer of the nation.

I don't know why the editors of the Telegraph saw fit to publish this bit of brilliance on a day where the paper will get few readers.  But it's already getting tweeted all over the place Indian intellectuals, so it won't die unnoticed.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/the-failed-promise-indias-once-beloved-prime-minister