Architect of India's economic reforms Manmohan Singh ends 33-year term in Parliament – Republic World

Manmohan Singh completes 33-year innings in Parliament | Image: PTI

New Delhi: Soft-spoken, erudite and humble, Manmohan Singh has retired from public life with his resignation from the Rajya Sabha – the former prime minister and architect of India's economic reforms who may have retired from politics as quietly and unceremoniously as he did joined it 33 years ago. The man who famously spoke of studying in the dim light of kerosene lamps in his village without electricity and who later became a famous academic is the model reluctant politician who almost stumbles into the turbulence of mainstream politics.

The 91-year-old Singh, who was praised for setting India on the path to liberalization in the early 1990s and who was also criticized for turning a blind eye to allegations of corruption during his 10-year term as prime minister, was elected in 2010 Member of the Rajya Sabha for the first time in October 1991 and was re-elected for five more terms.

He was among the five Rajya Sabha members whose terms ended on Wednesday.

Singh was Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao-led Congress government and remained in office until 1996. He then became Prime Minister from 2004 to 2014. Sonia Gandhi rejected Congress requests to become prime minister and instead appointed Singh as her partner. He led the country's ship for a decade until the BJP won in 2014.

However, the six-time Rajya Sabha MP could never become a member of the lower house. Singh contested only one Lok Sabha election from South Delhi constituency in 1999 and was defeated by BJP MP Vijay Kumar Malhotra.

His tenure in the Upper House was continuous except for a two-month break in 2019 when he was allotted a Rajya Sabha berth from Rajasthan.

Singh was a Rajya Sabha member from Assam for five consecutive terms from October 1, 1991 to June 14, 2019 and thereafter was re-elected to the House from Rajasthan after the short break. He has been a member from Rajasthan since August 20, 2019 and his term ended on April 3.

Singh was Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from March 21, 1998 to May 21, 2004. As prime minister between 2004 and 2014, he was also leader of the House of Representatives.

The BJP often accused him of leading a government riddled with corruption. The party called him 'MaunMohan Singh' and claimed that he did not speak out against corrupt leaders in his cabinet.

“Dr. So not only did Manmohan Singh lead the most corrupt government in the history of independent India, he also made Indians poorer. On the contrary, Prime Minister Vajpayee and Modi made Indians richer,” BJP’s Amit Malviya said on Wednesday.

At the end of his term as Prime Minister in 2014, Singh had said: “I really hope that history would be kinder to me than the contemporary media or, for that matter, the opposition parties in Parliament.” Of late, his health had been frail and man often saw him in a wheelchair during Rajya Sabha proceedings, especially during crucial votes.

While farewelling outgoing members of the Rajya Sabha recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Singh's role as a member of the Upper House and said his contributions would never be forgotten. Modi also noted that he came to the polls in a wheelchair and did so to strengthen democracy.

Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar paid a personal visit to Singh's residence on Tuesday and along with his wife welcomed and congratulated the Congress veteran for his long tenure in Parliament.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge also visited Singh and praised his performance in Parliament. In a letter, he said he would remain a “hero” to the middle class and aspiring youth.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also praised Singh's leadership and described him as the best person with the brightest mind.

Manmohan Singh is known not only for his vision that made India an economic power, but also for his hard work and humble, gentle demeanor, and many considered him a man of thought and integrity.

India's 14th Prime Minister presided over a decade of growth and development. Under his leadership, India experienced the highest growth rate of 7.7 percent on average and grew into a nearly $2 trillion economy as he helped turn the country into an economic powerhouse and helped raise the standard of living of Millions of people, according to his party.

At the heart of Singh's vision of India was the belief not only in high growth but also in ensuring inclusive growth, which was enshrined in the enactment of several important laws giving citizens the legal right to food, the right to education, the right to work and the right to work guaranteed information.

India's growth story under him began when civil servant and bureaucrat Singh turned politician and launched several bold economic reforms during his tenure as finance minister from 1991 to 1996.

“No power in the world can stop an idea whose time has come. I suggest to this august House that the emergence of India as a major economic power in the world happens to be such an idea,” Singh said as he concluded his iconic Budget speech. In July 1991, he entered Parliament, ushering in a new era and the India's rise to economic power.

Singh was born on September 26, 1932 in the village of Gah in what is now Pakistan's Punjab province. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from Panjab University in 1952 and 1954, and completed his Economic Tripos from Cambridge University in 1957 and a D.Phil in economics from Oxford University in 1962.

Singh subsequently taught at Panjab University and the Delhi School of Economics before joining the Indian government in 1971 as an economic advisor in the Ministry of Commerce. In 1972, he was soon promoted to chief economic adviser in the Ministry of Finance.

After a brief stint in the UNCTAD Secretariat, he was appointed Secretary General of the Southern Commission in Geneva from 1987 to 1990. In addition, Singh also held the positions of Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Advisor to the Prime Minister and Chairman of the University Grants Commission.

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