Two weeks after Time magazine ran a cover story on Manmohan Singh labeling him ‘the underachiever’, The Outlook, a weekly Indian magazine, has disclosed that it will be running a cover story on Barack Obama for its next issue using the same label to describe the American president.
Time magazine criticised Singh for being “unable to control his ministers and – his new, temporary portfolio at the finance ministry notwithstanding – unwilling to stick his neck out on reforms that will continue the process of liberalisation he helped start.” Many others, such as Ratan Tata, have come quickly to the defense of Singh and argued that he should not be blamed for the country’s woes.
While some might applaud and take pride at the retort by The Outlook, there are others who are more disturbed by the sudden indignation shown by Indians about having an American magazine call their own prime minister an ‘underachiever’. Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor of Tehelka writes,
The noisy outburst over a Time magazine cover tagging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an “underachiever” is embarrassing proof that a large section of India’s ruling elite and media is still handcuffed to a slavish deference to western labels….Time’s covers were not exposés that pointed to any new facts about Indian public life, nor did they argue differently from dozens of domestic media outlets. So why did they trigger such seismic tremors of shame or triumph?
Others have written, “One could in fact argue that the ‘underachiever’ tag is much kinder than many other epithets like ‘complete failure’ that have been doing the rounds in Indian publications.”
While many continue to enjoy this retort, the Indian media may want to reflect on issues relevant to the Indian masses rather than responding with posts just to garner publicity. With the next general elections looming large, and many Indian voters disillusioned with the lack of credible candidates, a reflective debate might do more good than a tit-for-tat response.