DR.MANMOHAN SINGH – LIBERATOR OF INDIAN ECONOMY

Dr. Manmohan Singh is the fourteenth, and current, Prime Minister of India. He was born on 26 September, 1932, Gah, West Punjab (now in Pakistan) and is member of the left-of-centre Indian National Congress party. A Sikh by faith, Singh was sworn in on May 22, 2004.

A rather low-key politician, Manmohan Singh enjoys a “squeaky clean” image and was advisor to opposition chief Sonia Gandhi throughout the election campaign in 2004 and their time in the
opposition. He was awarded the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award in 2002. Singh’s elevation to the most important national office came when Sonia Gandhi herself refused to take the top job, in view of the massive opposition she could have faced on account of her Italian antecedents. Although many critics and opposition leaders routinely criticize Gandhi as being the real power, or indeed a de-facto ruler, Singh is held in high esteem, and regard, all over the country and the world.

Singh has been married since 1958; he and his wife have three daughters.

Economic Reforms

Singh is regarded as the architect of India’s original economic reform programme. His policies of economic liberalization, serving in his capacity as Finance Minister under the government of Narasimha Rao in the early 1990s, brought the country back from a looming economic bankruptcy. Now the country is enjoying record economic growth on the foundations laid by him. Singh is an economist by training, and has formerly served in the International Monetary Fund. He was educated at Nuffield College, Oxford, St John’s College, Cambridge and Punjab University; he holds a doctorate in economics from Oxford.

Although his economic policies – which included the reduction of several redundant socialist policies – were widely popular, especially among the middle class, Singh lost his seat to the Lok
Sabha from South Delhi in 1999. He was also a member of the Rajya Sabha from Assam since 1991 and the upper house leader of the opposition from 1998 – 2004 when India was governed by the right-of-center Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.

Although an economic modernization plan presented by Singh was rejected by the Congress Party, which avowed itself to socialism, the reforms he introduced are regarded as primarily responsible for the present economic boom the country enjoys, and considered irreversible in face of the real progress achieved.

Ascent to Power

Dr. Manmohan Singh, an economic bureaucrat, was the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India in the late 1980s. In 1991, he was asked to head the Finance Ministry by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who was aware of an acute economic crisis due to decades of stagnant socialist policies and a government riddled by fractious alliances, corruption and imcompetence. The crisis was so bad that the Government was about to mortgage its gold reserves to the Bank of England to obtain the cash reserves to run the country. All this while more than 400 million people starved and struggled in poverty and miserable living conditions.

Achieving an economic turn-around in two years, Dr. Singh was hailed as a hero, although the Rao
administration was unpopular thanks to scandals, its parliamentary status as a minority government, and religious violence all over the country. Although its dissolution in 1996 marked the end of Rao’s political career, Dr. Singh exited without bruises.

Dr. Singh stayed with the Congress Party despite continuous marginalization and defeats in the elections of 1996, 1998 and 1999. He did not join the rebels in a major split which occurred in 1999, when many major Congress leaders objected to Sonia Gandhi’s rise as Congress President and Leader of the Opposition. Being touted as the Congress choice for the PM’s job, she became a target for nationalists who objected to her Italian birth. It seemed that a party which turned to old links to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and a foreigner for political leadership had no future or potential to look forward to. But Singh continued as a prominent leader, rising in confidence and helping to revamp the party’s platform and organization.

The Congress alliance won a surprisingly high number of seats in the Parliamentary elections of 2004, owing to a nationwide disenchantment of millions of poorer citizens with the BJP’s focus on the surging middle-class, and also its dismal record in handling religious tensions. The Left Front decided to support a Congress alliance government from outside in order to keep the “communal forces” out of power. Sonia Gandhi was elected leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party and was expected to become the Prime Minister but in a surprise move, declined to accept the post and instead nominated Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. There were protests within the Congress about her refusal but eventually people accepted her decision and the allies too accepted her choice. Singh secured the nomination for prime minister on May 19, 2004 when President of India President Abdul Kalam. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam officially asked him to form a government. Although most expected him to head the Finance Ministry himself, he did not do so. His political mentor Sonia Gandhi retains absolute control over the MPs and organization of the Congress Party.

His appointment is notable as it comes 20 years after India witnessed significant tensions between
the Indian central government and the Punjabi Sikh community. After Congress Party Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the mother-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, ordered central government troops to storm the Golden Temple (the holiest site in Sikhism) in Amritsar, Punjab to quell a separatist movement, she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. The result was a tremendous nationwide crisis in which many innocent Sikhs were murdered in riots.

Tenure as Prime Minister

Singh has been Prime Minister for little over a year, and his remains a fairly popular government. His image is of an intellectual, a political leader of integrity (a common public perception denounces virtually every other as corrupt and tainted), compassionate and attentive to common people. Although legislative achievements have been few and the Congress-led alliance is routinely hampered by conflicts and scandals, Singh’s administration has focused on reducing the fiscal deficit, providing debt-relief to poor farmers, extending social programs and advancing the pro-industry economic and tax policies that have launched the country on its major economic expansion course since 2002. Being a Sikh from a secular-socialist party, Singh has been the image of the Congress campaign to defuse religious tensions and conflicts and bolster political support from minorities like Muslims, Christians, and of course, Sikhs.

The Prime Minister’s foreign policy has been to continue the new peace process with Pakistan initiated by his predecessor, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Exchange visits by top leaders from both countries have highlighted this year, as has reduced terrorism and increased prosperity in the
state of Kashmir. The peace process has also been used by the government to build stronger relations with the United States, China and European nations.

But the Government suffered a setback when it lost the support of a key ally, Russia, for its bid for a permanent membership to the U.N. Security Council with veto privileges. Plans to expand the Council and reform the U.N. did not empower the nation’s role as an Asian leader, although foreign leaders and its own hail it as the next Asian economic and strategic giant.

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MOUSAVI MIR HOSSEIN – THE IRANIAN REVOLUTIONIST

Mousavi Mir Hossein, born on 2nd March 1942 is an Iranian politician, painter, architect who served as the fifth and last Prime Minister of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He was the last prime minister in Iran before the constitutional changes which removed the post of prime minister. Before that, he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is currently the president of Iranian Academy of Arts. He is also a member of the Expediency Discernment Council and the High Council of Cultural Revolution, but he has not been participating in their meetings for a long time which is interpreted by political analysts and commentators as a sign of his disapproval. Mousavi holds a Masters degree in Architecture from Shahid Beheshti University (melli). In the early years of the revolution, Mousavi was the editor-in-chief of the official newspaper of the Islamic Republic Party, the Jomhouri-e Eslami (Islamic Republic) newspaper.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi is well-remembered, incredibly respected and praised by many Iranians across the political spectrum for his handling of Iran’s economy and protecting the country whilst at war with Iraq during his premiership. His strong commitment to Social Justice and Equality is well-known and is regarded to be at the core of his political ideology, which influenced policy-Making during his premiership. He pioneered the Coupon/vouchers-based economy during his premiership which resulted in a fair distribution of goods among people at the very crucial time of the war with Iraq. The economy was weakening day by day due to international sanctions by western powers who all backed Iraq during the war and demeed Iran as a threat towards regional hegemony.

Mousavi refused to run for president in the 1997 elections, which caused the reformists to turn to his former cabinet minister, then a little-known cleric, Mohammad Khatami, who won in a landslide. One of the memorable tactics of the 1997 Presidential Election Campaign was the posters containing Khatami’s picture alongside Mousavi and his support for Khatami’s bid, which is regarded by commentators to be the cause of the enormous support among working class Iranians that Khatami enjoyed. Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, explained in an interview that the reason for him not running in the 1997 elections was discouraging messages from higher officials, a statement which possibly hints at the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and/or the then President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

During Khatami’s administration, he served as the Senior Adviser to the President. He was considered as the possible leading candidate of the reformist alliance to run in the Iranian presidential election, 2005. But he finally declined the offer of certain parties in the reformist alliance on October 12, 2004, after a meeting with President Mohammad Khatami and the two other major members of the moderate Association of Combatant Clerics, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Mousavi-Khoiniha.

After 20 years of political silence, on March 9, 2009 he announced his bid to run in the 2009 Iranian Presidential Election, which has been since welcomed by many Iranians who still recall his time as Prime Minister. His intention to contest the upcoming Presidential election in June has been immensely welcomed by Trade Unions, Labour associations, grassroot activists on both sides of the political aisle and working class Iranians who feel being neglected for far too long by different administrations. Mousavi is well remembered by many Iranians for managing the country during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, and very effectively steering the country out of an economic meltdown. He has stated that his main goals are to institutionalise social justice, equality and fairness, freedom of expression, rooting out corruption as well as to speed up Iran’s pending process of privatization and thus move Iran away from what he calls “an alms-based economy”. Presidential hopeful Mousavi poses a serious pro-reform challenge to the country’s hard-line establishment and the current ultra-conservative president Ahmadinejad and has often criticized his economic mismanagement, stating that when Iran “was making profits from high oil prices, had he (Ahmadinejad) ever considered a situation when prices would fall?”.

Mousavi’s candidacy as a strong opportunity to unseat the current hard-line President Ahmadinejad, as he has lost popularity even among conservatives because of his handling of the faltering economy, evaporation of civil liberties and the disastrous state of the foreign policy, as some Iranians believe that his tough anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli rhetoric has worsened Iran’s isolation and standing in the world.

POLITICAL POSTS

  • Member of Central Campaign of Islamic Republican Party (1979–1981)
  • Head of Political Office of Islamic Republican Party (1980–1981)
  • Editor-in-Chief of Islamic Republican Newspaper (1981)
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs (1981)
  • President of Council of Cultural Revolution (1981)
  • Prime Minister of Iran (1981–1989)
  • President of Mostazafen Foundation of Islamic Revolution (1981–1989)
  • President of Economy Council (1982–1989)
  • Political adviser of president Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989–1997)
  • Senior adviser of president Mohammad Khatami (1997–2005)
  • Member of Expediency Discernment Council (1989-Present)
  • Member of Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (1996-Present)
  • President of Iranian Academy of Arts (2000–2009)
  • Leader of Green Movement and The Green Path of Hope (2009-Present)

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LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA – THE 35th PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, born on October 27, 1945, commonly referred to simply as “Lula”, is a Brazilian politician. He was elected President of Brazil in 2002, and re-elected in 2006. He is a liberal politician who often adopts centrist positions. He has been a very effective president, avoiding scandals and allowing Brazilian industry to prosper while taking steps towards combating Brazil’s legendary poverty.

EARLY LIFE

Lula was born in October, 1945 to poor parents in the town of Caetes, Pernambuco, but soon moved to a coastal city in São Paulo province. There was little time or money for young Lula to get an education, and he was working in the streets as a shoeshine boy and street vendor before he was in his teens. He was a hard worker and soon found full-time work in Sao Paulo’s booming automotive industry.

UNIONIZER

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, there was a lot of work in the industrial factories of Sao Paulo, but little in the way of worker’s rights. Lula became very involved in the movement to unionize the workers, and due to his natural leadership he rose quickly in the ranks of the union leadership. In the 1970’s he led several strikes, and was jailed for a while. In 1978 he was elected head of a steel-workers union. He became convinced that the true path to fair treatment for workers was not through unions and strikes, but through political power.

WORKER’S PARTY

In 1980, Lula became one of the founding members of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (“Party of the Workers,” known in Brazil by its initials PT). Lula was its first president. Brazil was at the time under a right-wing military dictatorship and organizing unions and political parties could have been very dangerous for Lula and his companions. The Party was not formally recognized by the Brazilian Electoral court until 1982. The PT was very popular with the working class and its growing political clout helped restore democracy to Brazil in the late 1980’s.

LULA’S EARLY POLITICAL CAREER

Lula first ran for office in 1982, for a seat in the São Paulo Province legislature, but lost. In 1986 he was elected to Congress, and by the time a new constitution was needed in the late 1980’s, the PT was powerful enough to demand a seat at the table to influence its provisions. Although the PT helped create the constitution, they refused to ratify the final result, as they felt it did not do enough to ensure workers’ rights. Lula ran for president in 1989, 1994 and 1998. He lost all three elections, although many believe that he only lost due to election fraud.

PRESIDENCY

Lula continued to run for president and finally won in 2002. Although many feared that Lula would immediately implement radical socialistic reforms and perhaps even default on some of Brazil’s debt, he has proven to be a progressive moderate, preferring slow but steady social change. He quickly identified some very real and serious problems in his country and attacked them directly and effectively. One example is his campaign against malnutrition. Under this program, the poorest Brazilian families get food aid, but only if their children stay in school. He has also efficiently managed the Brazilian economy, managing steady growth without making any drastic reforms, while still paying off foreign debts and funding badly-needed social programs.

Internationally, he has not become the ranting demagogue that many feared, instead perfecting the role of respected statesman. He has become a very important figure in Latin American politics, as he has taken great pains to be friendly with other nations. Lula’s Brazil is a leader in Latin American diplomacy: for example, Lula has sent a peacekeeping, humanitarian mission to Haiti on his own initiative.

He is a very forward-thinking leader, and under his administration Brazil has become a leader in the worldwide search for biofuels and clean energy. In December of 2008, Newsweek magazine named him the 18th most influential person in the world.

Lula will leave office in 2011 and has already announced that he will not seek to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term as many other South American politicians have done.

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JYOTI BASU – THE GREAT MARXIST LEADER

Jyoti Basu (8 July 1914 – 17 January 2010) or ‘Jyotirindra Basu’ was an Indian politician belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from West Bengal, India. He served as the Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000, making him the longest-serving Chief Minister of any Indian state. He was a member of the CPI(M) Politburo from the time of the party’s founding in 1964 until 2008. From 2008 until his death in 2010 he remained a permanent invitee to the central committee of the party. On his death, he was the last founding Politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Jyoti Basu was born on 8 July 1914 as Jyotirindra Basu at 43/1 Harrison Road (now Mahatma Gandhi Road) Calcutta into an upper middle-class Bengali family in West Bengal, India. His father, Nishikanta Basu, was a doctor from the village of Barudi in Narayanganj District, East Bengal (now in Bangladesh), while his mother Hemalata Basu was a housewife. Basu’s schooling started at Loreto School at Dharmatala, Calcutta (now Kolkata), in 1920. It was there where his father shortened his name and he became Jyoti Basu. However, he was moved to St. Xavier’s School in 1925. Basu completed his undergraduate education and received the honours in English from the Presidency College of the University of Calcutta.

Basu’s first track in politics was his effort to organize the Indian students studying in United Kingdom, mostly for the cause of Indian independence. Basu subsequently joined India League and London Majlis, both the organizations being communities of overseas Indian students. Basu was later elected the General Secretary of London Majlish. Basu was given the responsibility for arranging a meeting with Jawaharlal Nehru during Nehru’s visit to London in 1938. The same was done after Subhas Chandra Bose went to England. As a member of London Majlis, Basu introduced the visiting Indian political figures to the leaders of the Labour Party.
After the country gained independence, he was elected to the assembly from Baranagar in 1952. He was elected to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1991 and 1996. Though an elected member, Basu was arrested several times during the 1950s and 60s and for certain periods he went underground to evade arrest by the police.
In 1962, Jyoti Basu was one amongst the 32 members of the National Council who walked out of the meeting. When the CPI(M) was formed in 1964 as a result of the ideological struggle within the Communist movement, Basu became a member of the Politburo. He was, in fact, the last surviving member of the “Navaratnas”, the nine members of the first Politburo. The leftist section, to which the 32 National Council members belonged, organized a convention in Tenali, Andhra Pradesh July 7 to 11. It was here where the radical sections of party further showed their pro-Chinese stand. The Tenali convention was marked by the display of a large portrait of the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong.

On 1 January 2010, Basu was admitted to AMRI hospital,Saltlake Bidhannagar, Kolkata after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. On 16 January 2010, his health condition became extremely critical and he was suffering from multiple organ failure. Seventeen days after being taken ill, he died on 17 January 2010 at 11:47 am IST. Basu had pledged to donate his body and eyes for medical research on 4 April 2003 at a function organised by Ganadarpan and Susrut Eye Foundation in Kolkata and not to be burned at a crematorium. His eyes are donated to Susrut Eye Foundation. He is survived by his son Chandan, daughter-in-law Rakhi, grand daughters Payel, Doyel and Koyel, offsprings of his first daughter-in-law Dolly (separated with son Chandan in 1998), and grand son Subhojyoti, offspring of daughter-in-law Rakhi. His second wife Kamala Basu had earlier passed away on 1 October 2003. Basu’s body was kept at ‘Peace Haven’ for those who wanted to pay their respects. His body was handed over to SSKM Hospital, Kolkata for research on 19 January 2010 around 16:50 pm IST after a guard of honour at the nearby Moharkunja park (formerly, citizens’ park). The hospital authority is currently considering preserving his brain.

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