Even out of office, Manmohan Singh remains busy

By Anjali Ojha and Jaideep Sarin,

New Delhi/Chandigarh : Having occupied the country’s most important executive post for a decade, Manmohan Singh was without doubt a busy man. A month after he stepped down following his party’s election loss, the former prime minister is settling down to a busy routine of another kind.

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In the past month, Manmohan Singh has hardly made it to news headlines – except for the courtesy visit that his successor Narendra Modi paid to his new house. The only reference that the former prime minister gets is when the UPA government that he headed gets a battering on various issues, especially its “lame duck” governance and “policy paralysis”.

Unlike earlier, there are no hectic travel schedules as he ends up spending more time with his family and associates. His life, though, remains busy as before, say people close to him.

Known to be a workaholic who never took a holiday, the 81-year-old Congress leader is in no holiday mood even now.

At his sprawling No. 3, Motilal Nehru Marg government bungalow, Manmohan Singh starts his day early with a walk inside the premises, scans newspapers and follows that up with meetings, a source close to the former prime minister told IANS.

“He is not travelling and there are no official meetings. Otherwise, nothing has changed,” said the source, who has known the former prime minister for a long time and is familiar with his style of working.

“He still keeps busy, and has a series of meetings through the day, but these meetings are no more official,” he said, adding that instead of the 10 a.m. routine earlier, his meetings begin at 11 a.m. now.

Those seeking appointments from him include political leaders, businessmen, academics, former planning commission members and other people from different walks of life. Visitors also get more time to meet the veteran leader.

“Earlier, there were more people and lesser time. Maybe, 10 minutes each. Now we take fewer visitors and they get more time, up to half-an-hour. You cannot throw someone out of one’s house,” another person close to Manmohan Singh told IANS.

However, with no official burden now, Manmohan Singh mostly has family members and associates coming over. He gets letters, to which he replies every day.

“I met him a few days ago and he is in the process of settling down in the new house. I will meet him again after a few days,” Rashpal Malhotra, who has been associated with Manmohan Singh for nearly five decades and was even a tenant in his (Manmohan Singh’s) house in Chandigarh’s upscale Sector 11, told IANS.

Manmohan Singh and wife Gursharan Kaur have three daughters – Upinder Singh (51), Daman Singh (47) and Amrit Singh (41).

Eldest Upinder is a professor of history at the University of Delhi and an author. Daman is a writer while Amrit is a staff attorney at American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrant’s Rights Project.

When he is not meeting people or replying to letters, Manmohan Singh takes out time for his only hobby – reading.
“He loves reading and now he has more time for it,” another aide told IANS.

Having remained one of the most protected person in the country for a decade, Manmohan Singh still enjoys formidable security cover with 100 personnel of the elite Special Protection Group and Delhi Police deployed for his security. The SPG, which is tasked with security of the prime minister and ex-prime ministers, takes care of internal and external periphery of the house, while the Delhi Police personnel are stationed outside.

“The security around him is according to what is prescribed for a former prime minister,” a senior security official said.

The first technocrat to rule the country, Manmohan Singh will remain in public and political life as he continues to be a member of the Rajya Sabha, the country’s upper house of parliament. He was re-elected for a six-year term last year.

Born in Gah village of Jhelum district in what is now Pakistan’s Punjab province in 1932, Manmohan Singh studied and taught at Panjab University at Chandigarh before joining the government as an economic adviser in the commerce ministry in 1971.

He held several top jobs including secretary in the finance ministry, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, adviser to the prime minister before he became finance minister in the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in 1991. He became prime minister in 2004 when the Congress-led UPA won the general election.

(Anjali Ojha and Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected])