Friday, February 18, 2011


Ever since Rahul Gandhi made a remark that coalitions are responsible for corruption, all Congressmen have accepted it as gospel and are busy parroting the same from every platform. It is a little more disappointing when a person of much acclaimed integrity (though I must say the behaviour of the Prime Minister in recent times could end up giving a new meaning altogether to the word integrity) like Dr. Manmohan Singh parrots the same line and says that the hailstorm of scams that have been hitting the headlines are because of the compulsions of coalition politics. It is absolutely shocking when many so called pundits in the media establishment swallow this nonsense hook, line and sinker and start giving it some legitimacy.

Let me first point out how we are collectively making a mockery of our democracy and our constitution. When visionaries like Dr. B. R. Ambedkar framed the Indian Constitution, they made two things very clear: the first is that it is purely the prerogative of the Prime Minister to appoint his or her Cabinet. The second is that the Union Cabinet must share collective responsibility. Bot these basic tenets of the Indian Constitution are being openly destroyed by this UPA regime and no pundit seems to be raising even a whimper of protest. When Manmohan Singh says that it is not him but the DMK which appointed the now arrested Raja as the Union Telecom Minister – and he says this without a qualm on live television broadcast across the world – he is openly admitting that the Constitution has been trashed. Earlier, at least there used to be some eff orts to maintain a fig leaf of Constitutional sanctity when allies used to pressurise the Prime Minister for cabinet portfolios and appointments. Dr. Singh has – at one stroke – removed even that fig leaf. Virtually, everyone in India who has any sense knows that Dr. Manmohan Singh is not a Prime Minister in the sense Nehru, Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were. Everybody also knew he was more a courtier than a leader; India's first 'appointed' rather than elected Prime Minister. A few issues ago, our sister magazine The Sunday Indian had asked CVoter to conduct a major nationwide opinion poll to assess the attitude of voters towards this UPA government. In that poll, more than 3 out of 4 Indians said that Manmohan Singh is even more of a puppet now than he was earlier. There could be no more damning indictment of both Dr. Singh and the state of the UPA government.

The other manner in which this government merrily trashes the Constitution is the complete refusal to follow even the basic norms of collective responsibility when it comes to the Union Cabinet. We have the sorry spectacle of ministers shooting off their mouths and announcing policy decisions which are then publicly ridiculed by fellow cabinet ministers. Surely Dr. Ambedkar and other framers of the Indian Constitution would have thought of a different structure if they had even an inkling that matters in the Republic of India would come to such a sorry pass. Can you imagine Barrack Obama admitting on live television that he has no authority to make or unmake cabinet appointments? What is truly shocking is that all of us in the media are collectively letting this UPA government trample upon the Constitution without even pointing out how insidious and dangerous this is for the future of India.

That brings me to the point about how wrong and false spokespersons of the UPA regime and their fifth horsemen in the media are when they correlate coalitions with corruption as if it is a statistically proven certainty. In fact, if he had read the speech delivered by the late Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 during the centenary celebrations of the Congress and many subsequent remarks, Rahul Gandhi could have hesitated a bit because his father had a very different opinion on the real reasons behind widespread corruption in India. When Rajiv Gandhi publicly said that only Rs.15 out of Rs.100 spent on welfare and other government schemes actually reached intended beneficiaries, his party lorded over Lok Sabha with a brute majority and also ruled over much of India with huge majorities. Rajiv Gandhi kept saying that it was vested interests and power brokers who were responsible for corruption. Tragically for him, it was the same vested interests and power brokers who smeared his clean image with the Bofors scam.

Then again, a quick look at history will show that corruption increases manifold whenever there is a dictatorship or a brute majority. The latest example is the ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak of Egypt who is reported to have stashed away more than $3 billion during his 30 year reign. Most us would have forgotten a colourful Congress leader called Pratap Singh Kairon whose government ruling over Punjab was perceived to be so corrupt that it embarrassed even Jawaharlal Nehru. Then again, there was the Congress Chief Minister A. R. Antulay who was forced to quit his post because of the infamous 'cement scam'. Surely, we remember the allegations of massive corruption-and cases-against J. Jayalalitha who ruled over Tamil Nadu as Chief Minister with a brute majority? And of course, was it alliance partners and allies that resulted in the notorious fodder scam that implicated Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family? In Orissa, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik rules with a brute majority. And despite his clean image, his government is literally swamped by scams.

There are only two reasons why corruption flourishes in India, and both have nothing to do with coalition politics. The first reason in vesting discretionary power with ministers and bureaucrats. The second is the well justified belief of the corrupt that our judicial system is so rotten that the corrupt usually get away with anything without any fear of punishment. So let us not delude ourselves with this stupid excuse that the UPA government is being battered by scam after scam because of coalition compulsions. At least Dr. Manmohan Singh can be honest and state the true reasons for corruption flourishing under his watch. We know – as he himself admits – that he is incapable of doing anything about it. But at least please don't pass the buck in such a deviously brazen manner.