During a debate in the Singaporean parliament on democracy in a city-state on Wednesday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong ‘s comments have stirred a hornet’s nest.
“…Nehru’s India has become one where, according to media reports, almost half the MPs in the Lok Sabha have criminal charges pending against them, including charges of rape and murder. Though it is also said that many of these allegations are politically motivated,” he said in his speech, to draw on comparative democracies in the world.
Lee, 70, was trying to make the point that “most countries are founded and start off on the basis of high ideals and noble values”, but gradually, the texture of politics changes. Most political systems today would be “unrecognisable” to their founding leaders, he said.
Referring to various world leaders including India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the Singapore Prime Minister said: “Things start off with passionate intensity. The leaders who fought for and won independence are often exceptional individuals of great courage, immense culture, and outstanding ability. They came through the crucible of fire and emerged as leaders of men and nations. They are the David Ben-Gurions, the Jawaharlal Nehrus, and we have our own too.”
However, the Indian government is taking up the matter with the foreign ministry and has summoned the Singapore High Commissioner on Friday.
A Congress leader in the state, on conditions of anonymity, questioned: “What is the BJP objecting to? The fact that Lee called it ‘Nehru’s India’ or the fact that ‘most MPs have a criminal record’? Both statements stand true, don’t they?”