Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the launch of his book ‘Changing India’. 

Wasn’t Afraid of Talking to Press: Manmohan Singh’s Dig at PM Modi

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took a veiled dig at PM Narendra Modi on Tuesday, 18 December, and said that he “wasn’t a prime minister who was afraid of talking to the press.”

Singh, who made the remark at an event to launch his book, Changing India, was seemingly referring to allegations by the Opposition that PM Modi has never taken questions from the media at a press conference since he came to power.

At the event in Delhi’s India International Centre, the Congress leader also narrated his journey from an economist to a politician, and shared anecdotes from his life.

On Devaluation in the 90s

“Issues like devaluation were never discussed by the PM and FM (Finance Minister) alone. I still have Narasimha Rao ji’s letter, which allowed devaluation,” Singh said.

“President R Venkataraman was not in favour of devaluation. I told the President that till we have sought the vote of confidence, there will be nothing to vote for as the foreign exchange reserves would have disappeared till then. I told him we have to go ahead with devaluation and Narasimha Rao allowed it,” he added.

Wasn’t Afraid of Talking to Press: Manmohan Singh’s Dig at PM Modi

Singh was speaking about the 1991 devaluation, after which the Indian rupee was devalued against all major currencies, including the dollar. Singh, the then finance minister, had suggested two-stage devaluation to test the waters.

Remembering the incident, Singh said, “I wanted to test the waters before devaluation. So the first stage was a mild dose and the second stage was a stronger dose.”

Singh said he also remembers the strong reaction that devaluation had evoked, with the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao asking Singh to abort the mission, but by the time he told former RBI Deputy Governor C Rangarajan to stop, it was already too late.

On Talking To Media Regularly as PM

The former PM also said that he wasn’t a prime minister who was afraid to talk to the press. “I would talk to media regularly,” he said, adding that the “the National Press Club invited me to talk. Our officials were nervous that I would not be able to manage but it was very successful.”

On India’s Economic Growth

Speaking about India’s economic growth, Singh said that he is hopeful of India’ growth.

Wasn’t Afraid of Talking to Press: Manmohan Singh’s Dig at PM Modi

Singh, who has been a vocal critic of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government’s policies, has written extensively about the country’s economic evolution in the last decade.

‘RBI’s Autonomy Should be Respected’

Amid reports of a tiff between RBI and the Modi-led government, Singh said, “One has to respect the autonomy and the independence of the RBI.”

Calling the relationship of the RBI and the government to “husband and wife”, he added, “There will be hiccups, there will be difference of opinion, but ultimately these must be harmonised in a manner that these two great institutions can work in harmony.”

Changing India

Changing India is a set of five volumes the gives the former PM’s perspectives on a wide range of economic, social and political issues as they evolved through his political career. Singh also writes about his time in academia during the 1950s, and his tenure as the prime minister from 2004-2014.

While the first volume of the book is titled India’s Export Trends and the Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth, the second volume captures the former PM’s Thoughts on Trade and Development

The third volume speaks about The International Economic Order and the Quest for Equity in Development.

The fourth volume focuses on Economic Reforms: 1991 and Beyond – which refers to India’s economic liberalisation in which Singh is believed to have played a key role as the Union finance minister at the time.

The fifth volume, which has two parts, talks about Singh’s years in office.