Spectrum of graft.
Conspiracy of silence, gross indifference, and culpability of inaction! Strong language in which India's opposition BJP attacked Manmohan Singh yesterday soon after the attorney general appeared before Supreme Court on behalf of the beleaguered prime minister in the unprecedented telecom scandal.
Although the BJP has no moral right to confront Singh on corruption given the involvement of its own leaders in numerous graft cases with the Karnataka chief minister embroiled in a land scam right now, the Congress-led UPA government faces its biggest crisis since it came to power seven years ago. Whatever the prime minister's compulsions for inaction, it's not possible for Singh to counter the serious accusations hurled at him by the opposition.
Of course, no one, not even the BJP, is questioning the personal integrity and probity of Singh. In fact, if the opposition hasn't gone all out against the government so far, it is precisely because of the spotless image of the former economist. However, as head of the government, the honest Singh cannot escape the responsibility for the corrupt and indefensible actions of his ministers. Especially when the scale of irregularities and plain, old-fashioned corruption is of this magnitude.
Just about everyone, including many within the Congress, finds it disturbing and rather hard to believe that the disgraced Telecom Minister A. Raja cheated the exchequer to the tune of Rs.1.76 trillion (approximately SR140 billion, or close to $40 billiion) right under the prime minister's nose and he didn't know or couldn't do anything to stop it.
So much so that an agitated Supreme Court demanded to know in a direct snub to the premier this past week, why he ignored repeated complaints and warnings by opposition parties of irregularities in the granting of 2G spectrum telecom licenses over a period of nearly two years.
Clearly, Singh or the Congress leadership chose not to rein in Raja, who represented a regional ally DMK in the government, let alone act against the minister so as not to upset the coalition apple cart. Mr. Clean chose the survival of his government, dependent on DMK's 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha, over probity and accountability. Which is a sad reflection more on the cynical nature of politics in the world's largest democracy, rather than on Singh's leadership and integrity.
Unfortunately for the Congress, India's grand old party that spearheaded the Independence movement, it remains hopelessly mired in corruption culture even when it's seen as a more reasonable, secular choice over the rabid, right-wing BJP. Over the past few months, three scams have come to light in a row. Last month even as the country was still recovering from the shock of the Commonwealth Games scandal, it was outraged by the Adarsh Housing Society scam involving Maharashtra chief minister and many top Maharashtra politicians. Every known case of fraud though looks almost harmless compared to what a brazen Raja has gifted to the nation. And having tried to shield him all this while, Singh, picked up by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for the top job for his impeccable credentials, may end up as the fall guy. At stake though is not just Singh's legacy but the future of India. Where's India headed as a nation? This is a question that must concern all Indians. As Gandhi warned this week, India's moral universe is fast shrinking and it should be a source of concern to all Indians.
- Arab News
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