New Delhi: It has been business as usual for Manmohan Singh – with back-to-back appointments, official meetings and clearing off pending files. But the prime minister is a much relaxed man these days with just five days left for him to demit office after a decade at the helm as India prepares to swear in a new prime minister later this month.
Known as a workaholic who has never taken a holiday, Manmohan Singh has not even now drawn up any holiday plans after retirement, say people close to him.
The prime minister, who will officially demit office on May 17 morning, a day after the Lok Sabha results are out, is still working 10 to 11 hours a day, his aides told IANS.
The prime minister, who will address the nation before demitting office, is also sorting through the hundreds of books that were gifted to him – deciding on the ones he wants to keep and take with him to his sprawling 2.5-acre retirement home – 3, Moti Lal Nehru Marg.
A PMO official told IANS that there is a pile of files waiting at his table every morning at his official 7, Race Course Road residence.
“He is still clearing about 30-35 files every day. At least 10 to 12 people call on him daily,” the official said. “He is pretty relaxed these days,” the official added.
The prime minister has never gone on a holiday. Even on foreign tours, he has never stayed on for an extra day beyond his diplomatic call.
After retirement would he be going on a long-deserved holiday? “He has no holiday plans. He has indicated he needs time for himself,” an aide told IANS.
The aide said the prime minister continues to call on the president once a week. It’s a routine he has followed through the years as prime minister. He also meets Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi once a week.
He has been attending meetings of the cabinet and the Congress core committee, though with most senior party leaders away on the campaign trail the core committee meetings have become infrequent of late, the official said.
Chief ministers, governors and Indian envoys have been calling on the prime minister during their visits to the capital.
Manmohan Singh, India’s 13th prime minister and the first technocrat to rule the country, will still be visible in public life – as a Rajya Sabha member. He was re-elected for a six-year term last year, his fifth successive since 1991.
The 81-year old prime minister had announced earlier this year that he would not seek a third term in case the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) comes back to power.
Among the engagements over the last few days were the last meeting of the National Advisory Council on Tuesday, during which Sonia Gandhi praised his “consensus-making skills” in helping push the policy initiatives of the powerful body. He was presented with a set of documents consisting of all recommendations of the advisory body chaired by the Congress president.
On April 30, the prime minister attended a farewell meeting of the Planning Commission, of which he is the chairperson. He is also attending farewell meetings with the staff of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which is also busy stacking and packing its documents.
The prime minister, a strong proponent of science and technology, also met senior scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) two weeks ago. Around a dozen senior scientists who accompanied ISRO chairperson K. Radhakrishnan presented Manmohan Singh with replicas of the projects they were in charge of and explained each one.
The meeting, slotted for 15 minutes, went on past half an hour as the prime minister evinced keen interest in each project, another official told IANS.
The prime minister is chairperson or president of several institutions, including the Gandhi Smriti and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. He is also associated with some universities as chancellor.
“Officials from these institutions are coming to meet the prime minister,” the PMO official said.
The Oxford and Cambridge-educated Manmohan Singh has been prime minister since May 2004 when Sonia Gandhi hand-picked him for the job.
The prime minister has not entertained requests for interviews in the past few weeks and addressed only a few rallies during the Congress campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
His aides said the prime minister was keen that “younger leaders” of the Congress hog the limelight.
Officials said the prime minister is keen to stick to the expenditure limits in his new accommodation for furniture, A/Cs and the like.
Manmohan Singh joined the government as an economic adviser in the commerce ministry in 1971. Among the many government positions that he has occupied are secretary in the finance ministry, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Governor of the
Reserve Bank of India, adviser to the prime minister and chairman of the University Grants Commission.