Millennium Post

Perform or perish

Where was the prime minister when those protesting against the gangrape of a 23-year-old in a moving bus last Sunday had to face the wrath of the police? Where has he been when the country has been traumatised at the brutality with which the paramedic student was abused and been pleading for exemplary punishment for the rapists? Sonia Gandhi has visited the victim’s family and met a section of the agitators. CM Sheila Dikshit has assured of government support for her treatment. Other political dignitaries have also variously expressed their grief and support for the victim and her family and promised punishment for the guilty. But where was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? As the country’s top people’s representative, wasn’t it him that we wished to see beside us during this difficult time -  not taking to the streets of course, but at least expressing empathy with those who were doing just that, unable to bear the trauma of living in an unsafe society any more. Wasn’t it him, we expected to rebuke the police, to stop their lathis midway with his command, as the men in uniform turned against young students – boys and girls – protesting against the crime. We did. And we were disappointed to find him missing in action, as usual.  On Monday, the Prime Minister finally broke his silence with an address to the nation. ‘I also feel deeply sad at the turn of events leading to clashes between protesters and police forces. Anger at this crime is justified but violence will serve no purpose. I appeal to all concerned citizens to maintain peace and calm. I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety of women in this country,’ said the Prime Minister. But his words were too little, too late. And if anything, rather than acting as salve to bruised souls, it has acted as ammunition to the seething rage, with netizens taking to the micro-blogging site Twitter, to express their disgust with his stiff delivery, lacking any warmth. What made it worse, were his ending words, probably addressed to the gathered media ‘theek hai? (all ok?)’ which is being criticised as the worst possible gaffe at such a time. The PM’s inaction has begun affecting his ministry too. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has said in various intervies, ‘It is very easy to ask the Home Minister to go to India Gate and talk. Tomorrow if any other party’s demonstration goes on why should not the Home Minister go there... tomorrow Maoists will come here to demonstrate with weapons’. Someone needs to tell the Home Minister the difference between armed rebels and commonman protestors.

We have seen Manmohan Singh being variously described as an ‘underachiever’ and ‘Sonia Gandhi’s poodle’ in international media. Within the country he has been criticised for being a ‘puppet PM’, hanging on the UPA chairperson’s approval for everything. Oh the economist in him did speak, loud and clear on FDI, writing off those opposed to the policy as being ‘ ignorant of global realities or constrained by out-dated ideologies’. But here too his assurances to the people were shallow.  Our elected representative has failed us time and again, hiding behind the party top brass whenever the nation has been in crisis. So Mr PM, it is time to rethink your role. The poll on whether to have UPA or NDA or some other coalition at the centre will happen when it is due. But what we want right now, is a representative who can lead from the front. Do that or bow out.
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