NEW DELHI, 29 JUNE: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was derided as a "joker" by Rajiv Gandhi when the former was the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission under Gandhi, who also made “hurtful, derogatory remarks about Dr Singh's presentation” on the 7th Five Year Plan (1985-90). A fuming Dr Singh said he was tendering his resignation as he seemed to have “lost the confidence of the Prime Minister”, before one of India's most senior bureaucrats at the time spent an hour with him to dissuade the economist from “taking this extreme step”. “I blamed the Prime Minister's ignorance for this behaviour... I further advised that since the Prime Minister was young and inexperienced, it was our duty to educate him rather than abandon him,” writes retired IAS officer Mr CG Somiah, a former Comptroller and Auditor General of India who also served as Union home secretary and Central Vigilance Commissioner, in his just-released book of reminiscences on a life spent in officialdom, The Honest Always Stand Alone. Mr Somiah's argument apparently won the day and Dr Singh didn't put in his papers. Writing of the time he was serving the Planning Commission, he recalls that at the first meeting of the panel after presentations for the outline for the Seventh Plan were completed, Gandhi ~ who in his capacity as Prime Minister was ex-officio Chairman ~ wanted it recast completely. “He wanted us to plan for the construction of autobahns, airfields, speedy trains, shopping malls and entertainment centres of excellence, big housing complexes, modern hospitals... He held forth in this way for the next half-an-hour and concluded his speech with a grin, suggesting we should change our mindset... We were shocked into silence. Dr Manmohan Singh called an internal meeting of the Commission; the broad consensus that emerged was that the Prime Minister was urban-centric without any knowledge of the socially and financially backward condition of the vast population living in rural areas. It was decided that in the next meeting we would try and educate the Prime Minister about the hard realities of the widespread poverty prevailing in the country.” Dr Singh spoke at length at the next meeting but Gandhi was obviously not impressed, recalls the former bureaucrat, because he made disparaging remarks about Dr Singh's presentation and later termed the plan panel a “bunch of jokers bereft of any modern ideas of development”. Joker in the pack!