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Washington Post terms Manmohan Singh a 'tragic figure', govt extracts apology

Struggling in the face of Opposition onslaught demanding his resignation over 'Coalgate', an article from The Washington Post has added further to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's worries.

Saurabh Shukla   New Delhi     Last Updated: September 6, 2012  | 10:54 IST

Struggling in the face of Opposition onslaught demanding his resignation over 'Coalgate', an article from The Washington Post has added further to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's worries.

"The image of the scrupulously honourable, humble and intellectual technocrat has slowly given way to a completely different one: a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government," Simon Denyer wrote in The Washington Post. Coming in the wake of the Time magazine cover story describing Manmohan as an "underachiever", Denyer's article has set the cat among the pigeons.

As the Congress leaders scampered to defend the Prime Minister, what seemed to be troubling him the most is the damage it could do to his global image.

So when the Post described Manmohan as a tragic figure who may go down in history as a failure, he was worried.

For the Prime Minister, who served at the United Nations in Geneva and treasures the global high tables more than his domestic political equity, what seems to hurt him more is when such criticisms appear in the international media than a constant onslaught from the Indian media.

But the PMO officials were quick to deny this.

"We don't react because the PM is sensitive. It is because the Indian channels and news media pick up these stories much faster," an official remarked.

In July this year, The Independent noted in an article that "Indians are not unique in being more sensitive to criticism from afar than that directed at them domestically". It couldn't have been closer to the truth.

No wonder then that the Post article has touched a raw nerve.

"It was an unethical and unprofessional conduct on the part of the Post reporter. We are sending a letter to The Washington Post editor. We told the journalist to wait for the monsoon session of Parliament to get over so that the Prime Minister can speak, but he went ahead with the story," a senior official informed.

Senior UPA ministers too have trashed the story. "It is a superficial story, while I believe in the freedom of the media, it should provide a balanced view," information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said.

Soni also took a dig at the international media for portraying India in a poor light. "I feel you owe a greater responsibility to your readership... I am not advocating censorship or not laying down the rules of the game, but the foreign media needs to take a holistic view of the country," she said.

Reacting to the criticism, Denyer said: "Don't shoot the messenger. It's the slowdown in economic growth and the corruption scandals that have given India a bad name, not the journalist writing the story."

What seems to hurt the Prime Minister more is when such criticism appears in the global media than the constant onslaught from the Indian media

The image of the scrupulously honourable, humble and intellectual technocrat has slowly given way to a completely different one: a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government.

The story of Singh's dramatic fall from grace in his second term in office and the slow but steady tarnishing of his reputation has played out in parallel with his country's decline on his watch Under Singh, economic reforms have stalled, growth has slowed sharply and the rupee has collapsed.

But just as damaging to his reputation is the accusation that he looked the other way and remained silent as his Cabinet colleagues filled their own pockets.

Courtesy: Mail Today

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