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You are ‘too young to do a soft job’, Indira Gandhi once told Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh, who steered the UPA government for 10 years as prime minister, was looking for a ‘soft’ job in his 50s but was told by then prime minister Indira Gandhi to become the governor of the Reserve Bank of India as he was “too young to do a soft job”, a new book by his daughter has revealed.

Authored by the second of his three daughters, Daman Singh, the book, titled ‘Strictly Personal: Manmohan and Gursharan’, says that Indira Gandhi wanted Manmohan Singh as a member of the Planning Commission to prepare the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-85).

“But when he expressed his difficulty in retiring 10 years early (from the civil service), she was magnanimous enough to appreciate this. She also took the trouble to find a way out. The post of member-secretary was created, for which he did not have to resign,” says the book, published by HarperCollins India (pp 452, Rs 699).

“Two and a half years later, she wished to appoint him governor of the Reserve Bank of India. When he (Singh) went to see her, he mentioned that he had been in a tough job for many years and that he was now looking for a ‘soft’ option.”

“She looked up and, with a radiant smile… said you are only 50. You are too young to do a soft job,” said the book.

Daman Singh, 48, a writer who is a graduate of St Stephen’s College, Delhi and Institute of Rural Management, Anand, Gujarat, has based the book on her conversations with her parents and her research. It also contains some interesting nuggets about Manmohan Singh’s past.

In April 1948, he joined a two-year FSc course that would lead to further studies in medicine at Amritsar’s Khalsa College as his father wanted him to become a doctor. He dropped out after just a couple of months as he had lost interest in becoming a doctor. In fact, he had also lost interest in studying science, the book says.

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