Submission #9

Submission information
Submitted by Anonymous
19 February 2016 - 4:45pm
The Inevitability of Dr. Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister
New Delhi

I met [Narasimha] Rao on 20 June 1991 immediately after his election as CPP leader and showed him my draft proposals. He spent quite some time with me dissecting them and specified to me the addition and deletions he wished to make. The next step was to match the man to the ministry.

Narasimha Rao had earlier hinted [to me] that he was thinking of choosing a professional economist as the finance minister. During his discussion with me on 20 June he had mentioned the name of Dr. Manmohan Singh and that of Dr. I.G. Patel, another well-known and experienced economic administrator who had been recommended to him by a few influential individuals. I told him, without any hesitation, that my personal choice would be Dr. Manmohan Singh and I briefly explained why. I could see that Rao was happy at my whole hearted endorsement of Manmohan Singh. He then said that since the Finance Minister’s post was a political one, he hoped that Manmohan Singh would not hesitate to join politics. I asserted that I was confident that Manmohan Singh would accept the offer. Being a good friend I will be able to persuade him even if he expressed reservation about acceptance and I would tie up the loose ends, if any, quickly.

On 20 June when I telephoned Manmohan Sigh’s house his butler informed me that he was on a trip to Europe and was expected to reach Delhi only much later that night. I left word that I would call again early in the morning the next day. When I telephoned his house at 5 am on 21 June his butler told me that he was fast asleep and could not be disturbed. However, I insisted that I had to meet him without any delay and told him my name again hoping that my identity would make a difference. But it made no impression on the man. Upon insisting that I had to talk to Dr. Manmohan Singh very urgently, he came on the line. I just told him that I had to meet him immediately, without giving any reason and that I would reach his house in a few minutes. When I arrived there he had gone back to sleep as obviously he was jet-lagged. He could not have guessed that I was on very important mission- not only to him but to the nation as a whole. He was hurriedly woken up again and I straight away conveyed to him my message. His immediate reaction was -What is your reaction? My response was that, if I had any other view, except to support his appointment as Finance Minister, I would not have met him at the unusual hour. He was happy upon hearing this view but asked me whether I thought Rao would stand by him even if his own cabinet or part colleagues were to oppose his proposals and plans as Finance Minister at a later stage. I assured him on behalf of Rao that he would have the latter’s full trust and support. Manmohan was delighted at this assurance and gladly accepted the offer and requested me to convey his thanks to Rao. He reminded me with great warmth how he felt especially happy that I was again becoming an instrument in major change in his official career. I told him that he was Narasimha Rao’s voice and my role in his appointment was mainly because I happened to be his friend as well as Rao’s.

I went to Rao’s house directly after taking Manmohan Singh’s leave and informed him about the latter’s positive response and that I had conveyed the assurance that Rao would fully back Manmohan Singh in the discharge of his duties as the finance minster. Rao was very happy that he had succeeded in selecting the right man for this vital post when country’s financial position was at its nadir.

(Excerpt from "Through the Corridors of Power: An Insider’s Story")

P.C. Alexander

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