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A Tale Of Two Prime Ministers

‘Can We Do Another 1991’ – This is the latest from Business India (July 12-25, 2021). The cover story compares former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh with the current prime minister Narendra Modi. The magazine says, “Given the abnormal times, comparisons about economic performance of successive prime ministers are odious. Like Singh, Modi is having his share of troubles not entirely of his own making. If Singh had to battle the domino effect of the global financial meltdown, Modi has to cope with the pandemic’s dark shadow since last year.” Still, let’s see in brief how the comparison works. On the face of it, there is little doubt that Modi as a PM has been running a tighter ship than what Singh did in terms of governance. This is mostly because of his centralised form of governance and lack of any extra-constitutional power interfering in his work. Yet, Singh stands tall over Modi as a reformer. The BJP-led dispensation has been no match for Singh as finance minister in the Narasimha Rao government in anchoring far-reaching structural reforms that invigorated the economy. Modi’s reforms like demonetisation and a hastily stitched GST have caused major disruptions in the informal sector. He has been forced to keep the farm reform laws in abeyance because of farmers’ protests and the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code because of the pandemic.