By Rakesh Raman
Like most other Indian politicians, is India’s Prime Minister (PM) also a dishonest man? This question is on the lips of many Indians today, as the Indian PM Manmohan Singh is facing corruption charges leveled by a civil society organization led by a social activist, Anna Hazare. Manmohan Singh, allegedly involved in a coal-related scandal, comes as a new link in the chain of corruption events that have plagued India.
Today, political and bureaucratic corruption is so rampant in India that it has become a non-issue. It’s simply a wastage of time to discuss about corruption because it has become the lifeblood of Indian governance and now it’s almost impossible to weed it out.
However, the matter is slightly different this time, as India’s PM is directly under attack, though he has already been facing indirect charges of corruption in the ongoing telecom scam case related to 2G spectrum allocation in which, according to estimates, the Indian government lost some billions of dollars.
In the new coal scandal, Hazare’s team is flaunting a leaked draft report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, which investigates financial irregularities in government departments.
Quoting the preliminary CAG report, Hazare’s team alleges that when Manmohan Singh was the coal minister, the government didn’t auction 155 coal fields during 2004-09. It may have resulted in windfall gains – amounting to some crazy figure of Rs 10.7 lakh crore (over US$ 200 billion; 1 US$ ~ Rs. 55) – to certain companies, and probably to the politicians at the helm of affairs.
Hazare and his team members are very cautious and have not said in clear words that Manmohan Singh, who is now PM of India, is a corrupt man. But they have subtly done everything else that suggests he is corrupt.
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For example, on its website – India Against Corruption – Hazare’s team has put a bigger photograph of Manmohan Singh along with 14 other Indian ministers, saying that these are “Tainted” Indian ministers about whom it has preliminary proofs that they have been involved in corruption cases. And in their public statements, Hazare’s team members are leaving no stone unturned to drag Manmohan Singh’s name in the coal case.
It’s learnt that under a constant pressure from Hazare’s team and the main opposition Party BJP, of late, India’s Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) – which deals with government corruption cases – has sent the case of alleged coal corruption to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the topmost investigation department in India that looks into serious offences.
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But Hazare’s team is not satisfied. It wants the investigation in PM’s case to be done by a specially constituted independent investigation team. It argues that since CBI is totally under the control of the government, it can’t be fair in its judgment in this case. Metaphorically, it will be like a slave investigating his master.
Hazare knows that nothing will happen to Manmohan Singh because in India, politicians of all political parties enjoy political immunity under which they can commit any crime and still go scot free. The latest examples are of A. Raja caught for 2G scam and Suresh Kalmadi for Commonwealth Games scam. After brief imprisonment, they were released, and now they’re enjoying their normal life freely and happily.
Manmohan Singh enjoys an additional immunity, as he is really close to Congress Party head Sonia Gandhi. Coal case is new. Even if he is not a culprit in this case, he is a live case of political impotence, as he is silently watching all corruption happening around him but not doing anything worthwhile to stop it. Inaction is also a form of corruption. His parasitic trait went in his favor when he was handpicked by Sonia Gandhi to make him the PM.
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While she calls the shots, Manmohan Singh has been playing just a figurehead role in the government. Sonia Gandhi preferred him because he can act as a perfect puppet. Other Congress leaders would have posed resistance when Sonia Gandhi would ask them to vacate the chair for her son Rahul Gandhi, who is being groomed as the future PM of India. But Manmohan Singh will obey meekly, it is commonly believed.
So, Sonia Gandhi will never let any harm come to Manmohan Singh – not even in the coal scandal. Obviously. And all government paraphernalia that can investigate this case is right under her thumb.
In the coal case, Congress Party doesn’t seem to have any sound argument to defend Manmohan Singh except offering the baseless rhetoric that he’s the most honest man in the government. But the Congress spokespersons don’t realize that a man can live under the garb of innocence till he’s caught.
They can learn this from the former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s example of promiscuity. Clinton kept making love to White House intern Monica Lewinsky secretly till the time he was caught.
Then how can Manmohan Singh be allowed to escape without an impartial probe? All of us know that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And there’s a burning connection between coal and fire. Only an independent inquiry in the coal case can reveal the truth behind this connection. Let the truth prevail.
You can also read: More Articles by the RMN Editor, Rakesh Raman