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Last Time Manmohan Singh Got Angry, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Met Him With an Advice

Atal Bihari Vajpayee met Manmohan Singh, then a finance minister in Narasimha Rao Cabinet, and prevailed upon him not to take the criticism personally.

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Updated:December 12, 2017, 8:19 AM IST
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Last Time Manmohan Singh Got Angry, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Met Him With an Advice
In this August 24, 2005 photo, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gestures to predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi. (Reuters)
New Delhi: Manmohan Singh was a career bureaucrat and economist drafted into politics by former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao. But the reality of high-pitched political duels was perhaps explained to him by the then opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In the face of unsparing criticism from the Vajpayee-led opposition, Dr. Singh, then the finance minister in Rao Cabinet, was on the verge of quitting. That’s when Rao reached out to Vajpayee and asked him to meet the miffed leader.

Vajpayee met Singh and prevailed upon him not to take the criticism personally as opposition was merely doing its duty by taking the government of the day to task.

Since that day, an otherwise mild mannered Dr. Singh has had his share of duels in the public discourse, both in power and in opposition. But he usually maintains the poise of a seasoned politician.

All that notwithstanding, the repartees, rebuttals and critiques — though seldom — have been equally scathing.

During his decade long tenure as the Prime Minister, Dr Singh spoke less but was all ears to his fellow parliamentarians. One occasion that he did chose to retort was in the run up to 2009 general elections.

Being repeatedly captioned “a weak Prime Minister” by the then BJP PM candidate LK Advani, Singh replied: “Iron man was quick to melt when held to fire during Kargil conflict.”

Singh’s poetic contest with Sushma Swaraj, the then leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, drew wide media coverage.

Speaking on the motion of thanks to Presidential Address in 2013, Swaraj quoted poet Bashir Badr in her speech: ‘Kuch to majbooriyan rahi hongi, yun to koi bewafa nahin hota’, questioning UPA II’s policies.

In response, Singh ended his speech with a fine repartee quoting Mirza Ghalib: ‘Humein hai unse wafa ki umeed, jinhe nahi maloom wafa kya hai’.

After the crushing defeat in 2014, Dr. Singh has been regular to Parliament during sessions. But his interventions have been few and far between. But whenever he has spoken, he is heard with attention by even his political opponents.

There was a pin-drop silence in the Rajya Sabha when Dr Singh articulated one of the most scathing critiques of mid-night demonetisation announced by the NDA government.

Once the house was adjourned for lunch, Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked up to his predecessor to shake hands. Manmohan, the economist, had spoken and sounded a note of caution.

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