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 After a storied career, former PM Manmohan Singh likely to retire from public life 
Feb 09, 2024 01:38 pm

Singh’s only public appearance this year was for his daughter’s book launch at the India International Centre in January, where he was present for an hour or so Former prime minister Manmohan Singh is likely to retire from public life after a five-decade-long storied career, people aware of the matter said  adding that the 91-year-old leader’s frail health had rendered discharging his duties as a parliamentarian very difficult. Singh, who has been a member of the Upper House since 1991, has been unable to attend a single day of Parliament’s Budget session this year and his last appearance in the House at the start of the Winter session for a single day. “He is mentally well, but finds it difficult to move,” said an aide, requesting anonymity. “His return to the Rajya Sabha is out of the question.” The Congress refused to comment on his possible retirement. He was unable to attend the session  when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former PM Deve Gowda lauded the senior Congress leader as they bid farewell to members retiring from the Upper House. Singh, whose term as a Rajya Sabha member is scheduled to end in April, sent a letter to the chairperson of the House, expressing his inability to attend a dinner for the retiring members. He was also unable to be a part of the group photograph that captured the batch of lawmakers who became members of the Upper House in August 2019. “As a wheelchair user, he needs more than one person to accompany him when he attends the House,’’ said the aide quoted above, adding that the layout of the new Parliament and security concerns also made his attendance tricky. Singh’s only public appearance this year was for his daughter’s book launch at the India International Centre (IIC) in January, where he was present for an hour or so. People aware of the matter said he informed the Congress that he wanted to give up his Rajya Sabha membership around a year ago. “Singh felt that there was no point continuing if he wasn’t able to discharge his duties fully,’’ said the person cited above. The Rajya Sabha website shows that his last speech in the House was on November 2019, when he raised concerns about foreigners being held at a detention centre in Silchar in Assam. The Congress’s chief spokesperson Jairam Ramesh paid tribute to Singh in a post on X. “Dr. Manmohan Singh said: 1. History will be kinder to me. 2. It will be disastrous for the country to have Shri Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. Both statements have been proved right Ramesh said. Deve Gowda, during his speech, praised Singh, recalling how he shed tears during a discussion on the 2G spectrum scam because of “.. the mistakes committed by some top Congress leaders.”Singh’s exit will mark an end of public service that started in 1971 as economic advisor in (what was then known as) the ministry of foreign trade. In the next 53 years, he served as chief economic advisor, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, finance secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman, and then finance minister and eventually two-term prime minister. He was credited with ushering in liberalisation in 1991 as finance minister, and safeguarding the country from the 2008 financial crisis as PM. He entered the Rajya Sabha in October 1991, months after becoming finance minister in the PV Narasimha Rao government. As Rajya Sabha deputy chair Harivansh put it, “Manmohan Singh’s mildness, chivalry and dignity will always be remembered.”