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Finally, the Man's Hour Arrives

Suddenly and unexpectedly, India has handed Manmohan Singh the mandate he needs to really do his job

Finally, its time for Dr. Manmohan Singh to stand up and be counted. Based on what he did as PV Narasimha Rao's finance minister, the man has a great reputation as a champion of economic reforms. During the last five years, Singh hardly did anything to live up to that reputation. Apparently, this was because his hands were tied by coalition politics.

Riding on his shoulders was a whole gang of coalition betaals, ever ready to cut off his head at the smallest displeasure. Now, suddenly and unexpectedly, that threat is gone. This morning, just a couple of hours into the counting, it became clear that India's electorate had decided precisely which politicians were part of the problem and which were part of the solution.

For five years we have had an arrangement which came to power with the plan of doing only whatever little it could agree to do. But Indians can't really afford a government whose very program is defined by the word 'minimum'. As in cricket matches, we need a maximum now.

In an election where every pundit was predicting increased political fragmentation, the electorate has delivered an amazing trend reversal. So now, its time to act. Unlike an actual political Prime Minister, Dr. Singh is more of an appointed executive. He often gave the impression of being a most reluctant prime minister. For all we know he may have been looking forward to retirement in his heart of hearts. Anyhow, the most significant phase of his job begins now.

Today, the people have anointed him with the freedom to do that job to his satisfaction, and they are waiting for him to step up.