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In what may be a new low in political discourse, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha accused Dr. Manmohan Singh of talking like a consultant to the government rather than like its leader.
Although politicians routinely trade barbs, Mr. Sinha’s scathing remarks have touched a raw nerve with the PM, who has threatened to resign rather than put up with such harsh and intemperate remarks.
Talking to reporters, Dr. Singh, in a voice choked with emotion, said: “People have described me as nikamma, under-achiever, puppet, politically impotent, even corrupt. But never in my distinguished career have I been labeled a consultant, and a management consultant at that. Yashwantji has crossed the laxman rekha with this insult and I would rather quit than put up with such abuse.”
“I admit a large part of my work comprises giving abstract advice to cabinet colleagues and whispering sweet nothings in the ears of my anchor client, Soniaji, but give me some credit for occasionally standing up for what I truly believe in and wielding clout. Like threatening to resign if my party didn’t support me on the Indo-US nuclear deal. Why paint me as a smooth talking, laptop wielding, execrable consultant ? I don’t deserve to be denigrated thus,” he lamented.
The PM wistfully recalled how in 1991 his then boss PV Narasimha Rao had told him: “Spare me the mumbo-jumbo and produce results on the economic front.” “And I rolled my sleeves up and turned the economy around rather than producing colorful PowerPoint slides.”
The BJP has distanced itself from Mr. Yashwant Sinha’s acerbic statement, saying such truculent remarks were unwarranted. “Agreed, the PM is not in control of his government but to describe him as a management consultant is highly denigratory. Sinhaji could have been little more circumspect in his choice of words,” said BJP spokesperson, Prakash Javelinthrower.
Later, Mr. Sinha retracted his statement. “I only wanted to make the point that Dr. Singh, for whom I have the highest personal regard, has been completely ineffective as the Prime Minister. But calling him a management consultant was uncalled for, in retrospect. I have no hesitation in taking back my words if he feels hurt,” said the BJP leader.