- Merkel steps down after 18 years
- All Germans clapped for six minutes giving standing ovation
- Merkel was living in an ordinary apartment as chancellor
Angela Merkal has quit as chancellor of Germany on Monday after 18 years of distinguished service. She led 80 million Germans with farsightedness, courage and conviction. It was a spectacle to watch the lady work with competence, skill, dedication and sincerity. She was described as “the lady of the world who is equivalent to six million men.” She never boasted about her achievements. Nor did she complain about the problems faced by the government. When I went to Berlin with Dr. Manmohan Singh, as part of the team of journalists accompanying the prime minister, I had opportunity to watch her from a distance and listen to her simple and candid speech. I had occasion to chat with Germans about their leader. Most of the persons I spoke to approved of her credentials as a dependable leader who believed in simple living and high thinking. It was my second visit to Germany. The first was in 1989 when the Berlin wall was felled. Germans are most hard working and disciplined people. They were lucky to have a leader of Merkel’s caliber.
Compared to the leaders of other countries in contemporary world, she is an angel. She did not complain against her predecessor for doing this or not doing that. The reactions to her laying down the office were extraordinary. The entire population went out to their balconies of their houses and clapped for her spontaneously for six continuous minutes. It was a standing ovation nationwide for the most endearing and enduring leader. It is something that did not occur anywhere at anytime earlier.
Since Merkel was from East Germany, the poor part of Germany thirty years ago when it merged with the wealthier West Germany, she did not have ambitions to own costly possessions. She was a chemical physicist and an unassuming person. She did not change her wardrobe for 18 years. She did not enrich herself nor did she do any favours for her friends and relatives. She worked like a leader whose only mission was to keep Germany at the top. She truly did it with grace, in style and in absolute silence. No prattle like leaders in other countries. No attacking the opposition parties or leaders. No lying. No shouting. No insulting anyone. She did not expect to be applauded. She was ordinary to a fault.
At a press conference a journalist asked Merkel, ”We notice that you are wearing the same suit, don’t you have any other?”. Merkel replied, “I am a government employee and not a model.” At another press conference, she was asked, “Do you have housemaids who clean your house, prepare your meals and so on?” Her answer was, “No, I do not have servants and I do not need them. My husband and I do this work at home every day.”
When another journalist asked, “Who is washing the clothes, you or your husband?” Her answer was, “I arrange the clothes, and my husband is the one who operates the washing machine, and it is usually at night, because electricity is available and there is no pressure on it, and the most important thing to take into account is the possible inconvenience for the neighbours. Thankfully, the wall separating our apartment from the neighbours is thick.” She said to them, “I expected you to ask me about the successes and failures in our work in the government!”
Our netas who live in luxurious bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi would do well to know that Merkel lives in a normal apartment like any other citizen. She continued to live for the 18 years in the same apartment where she lived before becoming chancellor of Germany. She does not own a villa or servants, swimming pools or gardens.
Merkel has left Germany richer. In fact, Germany is the largest economy in Europe. Germany was fortunate to have good leaders. But Merkel is the best.