On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing an election rally in Bhilwara in Rajasthan on the tenth anniversary of the terror strike, that brought the island city of Mumbai to a standstill.
While his speech largely revolved around criticising the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, he responded to recent remarks of a Congress leader who questioned Modi, seeking an account of four generations of Congress that ruled the country.
To this, Modi remarked,
“I am a workaholic (Kaamdaar) who has 125 crore people of the country standing behind him. Modi has the courage to question accountability and be accountable of single penny. Have you ever heard that I took a holiday? Have you ever heard that I went somewhere for leisure or was missing for a week? I give an account of each and every decision I take and the work that I do”, he asserted.
Modi’s cheerleaders were prompt to hail him for his utmost dedication at work. However, some who were critical of such pompous statements, stated that it was ironical that the Prime Minister was away from his prime duty of running the country and constantly busy in campaigning for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in past 4.5 years.
While it is appreciable that Narendra Modi may not have taken any break from his official routine, what makes this repetitive statement of a ‘dedicated PM’ petty, is that his predecessor Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was much more older than Modi, also never took any holiday during his tenure at the PMO and otherwise. The overriding difference was Dr. Singh never spoke about this himself, unless it was observed and written by the media directly.
Manmohan Singh, India’s 13th prime minister and the first technocrat to rule the country, was re-elected for a six-year term in 2013, his fifth successive since 1991 as a Rajya Sabha member. However, the then 81-year old prime minister had announced earlier that he would not seek a third term as PM in case the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) comes back to power in 2014.
A detailed analysis was done by DNA India in a report published on 11th May, 2014, just about a week before the former Prime Minister was going to step down from his chair after a decade. Even with just 5 days left for him to demit office, Dr. Singh was flooded with back-to-back appointments, working nearly 10-11 hours a day.
He was known as a workaholic who had never taken a holiday throughout his stint as the Prime Minister and sources close to him even said that he had not made any plans of holiday post retirement.
Dr. Singh’s aide had then told the newspaper that one of world’s finest economist had never gone on a holiday. Even on his foreign tours, he had never stayed on for an extra day beyond his diplomatic call.
Manmohan Singh had joined the government as an economic adviser in the commerce ministry in 1971. Among the many government positions that he has occupied are secretary in the finance ministry, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, adviser to the prime minister and chairman of the University Grants Commission.
A 12,000-word report was also published by The Caravan on Dr. Manmohan Singh’s dedication to his work and nation. Infact according to his former media adviser, Sanjaya Baru, the Prime Minister had very little interest in relaxation and recalled a incident during Singh’s official visit to Goa. Baru said,
“I said to him, ‘sir, it’s a weekend. Why don’t we stay Saturday night, spend Sunday morning on the beach and come back Sunday evening. You don’t miss a working day.”
“You know what he asked? ‘But what do I do there?’ “Only Manmohan Singh could ask what he could do in Goa,” Baru said.
Dr. Singh’s daughter, Daman, too recalled that her father had taken only one vacation in the past 40 years after the family planned to go to Nainital.
“As children we just assumed that’s the way all fathers are. He hasn’t changed at all.”
The report further called Singh the architect of India’s economic liberalisation, who struck to his old austere habits and shunned expensive suits, fancy restaurants and luxurious cars.
Dr. Manmohan Singh has never boasted about any credit towards his duty. What makes the former Prime Minister far superior in his stature, making him earn our formal and informal respect, is this subtle humility that he always displayed.
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