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Reflecting on Manmohan Singh’s 33-year journey as he retires from Rajya Sabha in 5 key points

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After a 33-year tenure in the Indian Parliament, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh retired from the Rajya Sabha on April 3.

Manmohan Singh, aged 91, is acknowledged for initiating India’s economic liberalization as Finance Minister in 1991, opening it to global competition. He subsequently served two terms as Prime Minister of the Congress-led UPA government from 2004 to 2014.

Singh, who has been unwell for some time, has largely remained out of the public eye. His sole appearance in 2024 was at the book launch of his daughter at the India International Centre (IIC) in New Delhi, held in January.

During the two terms of the UPA government under Manmohan Singh’s leadership, several significant social welfare initiatives were introduced. These included the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA) scheme and the right to education for all children. Additionally, reforms like Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and the introduction of the national identity number, Aadhaar, were initiated during his tenure as Prime Minister.

However, his final years in office were overshadowed by corruption scandals and inflation, leading many in the opposition to label him as a ‘weak’ Prime Minister.

In 2014, the Congress-led UPA government, headed by PM Manmohan Singh, was defeated, allowing Narendra Modi to assume office as Prime Minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

PM Modi is now vying for a third consecutive term in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections of 2024, set to commence on April 19.

Singh never contested in Lok Sabha elections. Initially nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress party in October 1991, just four months after assuming the role of Union Finance Minister, he served five terms representing Assam before transitioning to Rajasthan in 2019, concluding his final term on Wednesday.

The law mandates that a Prime Minister or Union Minister must be a member of either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. During a Parliament session last August, Manmohan Singh received praise for attending despite his ill health, using a wheelchair.

Here are five notable statements from the former Prime Minister

Former academic and bureaucrat Manmohan Singh entered politics by joining the Congress in June 1991. He was appointed Finance Minister by then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. Singh introduced several bold reforms to rejuvenate and modernize the economy, earning him the title of architect of India’s economic liberalization.

On July 24, 1991, he famously declared, “India is now fully awake”

In his debut speech as Finance Minister in Parliament on July 24, 1991, Singh famously cited Victor Hugo, asserting, ‘No force on earth can halt an idea whose time has arrived’.

n a speech before the esteemed Parliament, Singh declared, ‘No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come,’ echoing Victor Hugo. He emphasized India’s rise as a global economic power, affirming, ‘India is now wide awake. We shall prevail. We shall overcome.’

Thirty years later, on the anniversary of economic liberalisation on July 23, 2021, Singh evoked Robert Frost’s poem, ‘But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep’.

On August 25, 1999, Singh criticized “politicians for misleading the public”

In an August 1999 interview with BBC, Singh cited former US President Abraham Lincoln, accusing Indian politicians of deceiving the public for the past fifty years.

“I firmly believe in the need for a different kind of politics—one characterized by honesty and transparency. We cannot deceive our people. As Abraham Lincoln famously remarked, ‘You can fool some people all the time, and all people some of the time, but you cannot fool all people all the time.’ Unfortunately, over the past 50 years, politicians have been misleading our citizens. There’s a significant risk if the divide between political promises and actions continues to widen as it has.”

On January 3, 2014, Singh stated, “History will judge me more favorably“

On January 3, 2014, nearing the end of his final term as Prime Minister, Singh defended his government’s record in response to criticism.

In a press conference, my third during my two terms, I stated that I don’t view myself as a weak Prime Minister. I believe history will judge me more favorably than the media or the Opposition. I’ve done my best given the political constraints and circumstances.

On January 3, 2014, Singh expressed his concerns about ”the potential consequences of having Narendra Modi as Prime Minister“

On January 4, 2014, prior to the Lok Sabha elections, Singh stated at a press conference that he genuinely believes having Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister would be harmful to the nation.

Four years later, Singh expressed remorse over his remark. “I once said Modi would be a disaster as PM. Now I realize it was too harsh, and I shouldn’t have said it. I don’t want to repeat it,” Singh mentioned in Indore in November 2018 before the Madhya Pradesh assembly polls.

On November 24, 2016, Singh labeled “demonetization as a massive mismanagement”

Manmohan Singh criticized PM Modi’s economic policies, particularly demonetization of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes, announced on November 8, 2016. During a Parliament debate that month, Singh labeled the implementation of the scheme as a massive management failure and described it as “organized loot” affecting common people.

One year later, Singh referred to demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as a “double blow to the economy.”

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