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As the monsoon session of the national parliament begins in Delhi, Mr Singh must be finding his seat a little too hot for comfort.

The shy and soft-spoken economist-turned-politician has in a matter of a few weeks become the favourite target of everybody.

The opposition is gunning for him. So are the Communists who have not joined the Congress-led coalition government but are lending it crucial support from the outside.

Symbol of honesty

Even many senior Congress leaders, including some ministers, have begun to criticise him none too discreetly.

It is not an easy position to be in, especially for someone like Mr Singh, a reluctant politician who has always been seen as a scholar first.

Critics say this image has in fact been assiduously cultivated by the prime minister himself.

But others argue that such a conclusion may be a little too harsh a judgment on someone who is seen by many as a symbol of honesty in what's widely regarded as a corrupt political system.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4715797.stm
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What is the meaning of 'he has been as a scholar first' ?
Comments  
The phrase in question, Rotter, must first be accurately quoted as: '[he] has always been seen as a scholar first'. (You left out 'seen'.)

Being seen (thought of) as a scholar is different from being seen as a politician, especially in this context where a scholar represents honesty, and a politician represents corruptness. The two qualities (honesty and corruptness) are antagonistic, which makes it hard to imagine that both can exist in the same person.
davekett, thanks for the reply.

He has always been seen as a scholar/politician/physcist/doctor first'.

I didn't know the existence of such words in English.

So you would say the man in question has been seen as a doctor/teacher/idiot first.

People know him or recognize him as a doctor/teacher/idiot. --> This is correct.

The words 'scholar first' is strange to me. That is why I posted here.
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Hello Rotter

You might also be interested in this idiom: 'to be regarded first and foremost as an XYZ', where 'first and foremost' roughly equals 'above all' or 'primarily'.

1. He has always been regarded first and foremost as a scholar.

Or you can use 'known', 'seen', 'considered', etc. instead of 'regarded'.

MrP
MrPedantic

I am familiar with 'first and foremost'. I would say it is a common expression.
I wonder whether 'first and foremost' was at the back of the writer's mind.

The BBC website is hastily written by harassed hacks. Their idioms are often slightly askew.

MrP
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MrPedanticThe BBC website is hastily written by harassed hacks.

Hi MrP, I usually get in the BBC site for practising my reading (and hearing) skills, I supposed the level was the highest, even so, do you recommend it anyway?

Hello Latin

Sorry, I was being a little grouchy that day...

I think the journalists' intention is to write readable, clear, unstuffy English. They tend to revise the online articles quite frequently, which is when the mistakes occur: they don't always tidy away the detritus, after editing this or that paragraph. This is especially the case in 'breaking news stories', where they want to get the copy on-screen as quickly as possible.

That said, it seems a good site to use for practising English, as the articles deal with all kinds of different subject matter. The Radio 4 programmes may be useful too – as you probably know, you can play back those that were broadcast earlier in the week. (I should add though that I'm no expert on the choice of websites for practising English!)

See you,

MrP