Dr Manmohan Singh, born in Gah, West Punjab (now Pakistan) in 1932 served as India’s 13th Prime Minister from 2004 to 2014. Singh studied at Panjab University and University of Cambridge. He later earned a doctorate from University of Oxford. He served as Chief Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance from 1972-76. He served as Governor, Reserve Bank of India from 1982-85.
He was Economic Advisor to Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar before he became the Finance Minister in the PV Narasimha Rao government in 1991. Singh became the Finance Minister who ushered in economic liberalisation in the country in 1991, thereby bringing a paradigm shift to Indian government’s economic outlook and transforming Indian economy.
A brilliant student, Dr Singh has been a Professor of Economics, teaching at Panjab University and Delhi School of Economics.
Singh became Prime Minister in 2004 when Congress President, Sonia Gandhi refused the post after the Congress bested the BJP in the polls. He became a Prime Minister with the support of different parties including the left parties, CPI and CPI(M). Singh’s first tenure as Prime Minister became known for high economic growth, rolling out of rural employment guarantee scheme, MNREGA and signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal.
The Indo-US nuclear deal led to the left parties withdrawing support from the government. The Manmohan Singh government faced a no-confidence motion in the parliament and won it. In 2009, the Congress party managed to increase its seat count and Manmohan Singh was sworn in as the prime minister once again.
In his second tenure as PM, India continued to grow at a decent pace but his government came in for criticism for rising number of corruption scandals. These included the coal scam, the 2G license scandal and the Commonwealth Games scandal. Known for his natural reticence, Singh came in for criticism for not speaking out enough. He held annual press conferences which did not reduce the criticism. Facing a wave of protests from 2011 to 2014, the Congress party lost the 2014 elections badly and Singh’s ten year tenure as Prime Minister came to an end.
He has been a member of the Rajya Sabha and is presently serving his fifth term from Assam. He contested for Lok Sabha once from the South Delhi constituency in 1999 but lost the election to BJP’s VK Malhotra.
Manmohan Singh has a reputation for personal integrity and was respected globally for his views on economy. In 2010, at a G20 summit in Toronto, US President Barack Obama said: "I can tell you here at G20, when the prime minister (of India) speaks, people listen."
Since 2014, Manmohan Singh has made periodic interventions in the parliament on economic issues. He has said that the day demonetisation of currency was announced was a black day for the Indian economy. In an address in Gujarat in 2017, he said the twin blows of demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) were disastrous for the economy and “broke the back of businesses.” Known for being soft spoken, Singh was harsh in his criticism of demonetisation when he called it “organised loot and legalised plunder” in a parliamentary address.