US daily terms PM Manmohan Singh ‘tragic figure’

Washington/New Delhi: Months after the Time magazine termed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “an underachiever”, The Washington Post described him as “a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government” even as the prime minister’s office said the daily had apologised for not carrying its version.

The US daily, however, Wednesday made it clear that no apology has been offered for the article written by Simon Denyer, its India bureau chief.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters in New Delhi that the government will seek an apology from the daily.

In a tweet from his personal account, Denyer said: “No threats were issued from their side, no apology was offered from mine.”

“I am not apologizing,” Denyer said, defending the article, while talking to CNN-IBN channel.

However, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said that The Washington Post had said “sorry twice” for not carrying the PMO’s version in its article on Manmohan Singh.

Sources said the daily also suggested to the PMO to send in its response to the article, but the PMO reserves the right to reply to it or not.

“The Washington Post said sorry twice for not carrying our version and asked us to reply. We will see what to do,” a senior PMO official said.

In an article, “India’s ‘silent’ prime minister becomes a tragic figure”, the newspaper said Manmohan Singh helped set India on the path to modernity, prosperity and power, but cited critics saying the soft-spoken 79-year-old is in “danger of going down in history as a failure”.

“The architect of India’s economic reforms, Singh was a major force behind his country’s rapprochement with the United States and is a respected figure on the world stage.

“But the image of the scrupulously honourable, humble and intellectual technocrat has slowly given way to a completely different one: a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government,” The Washington Post said.

The daily said that for the past two weeks, the Indian parliament has been adjourned every day as the opposition demands Singh’s resignation over allegations of waste and corruption in the allocation of coal mining concessions.

“The story of Singh’s dramatic fall from grace in his second term in office and the slow but steady tarnishing of his reputation has played out in parallel with his country’s decline on his watch.”

Under attack from a combative opposition over alleged corruption in the allocation of coal blocks and a spate of other scams, the government earlier Wednesday said it would seek an apology from the newspaper.

“How can a US daily take the matter such lightly and publish something about the prime minister of another country? I will speak to the ministry of external affairs and the government will seek an apology from the daily,” told reporters in New Delhi.

Soni termed the report by The Washington Post as a piece of “yellow journalism” and “baseless”.