Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Who then is our Prime Minister?

The Congress plenary at Burari (adjacent to New Delhi) last week has raised a whole lot of issues. The party leaders claimed a legacy of 126 years. It is true that the Indian National Congress by which name the party headed by Sonia Gandhi is known even today was founded in December 1885. But then, in the years between then and now, a whole lot of splits have reduced this outfit into just one small element of what it was. In any case, those who sat on the stage at Burari and those who formed the audience had nothing to do with any of the activities of the INC in the true sense of the term.

Well. With the passage of time, it is not proper to expect the generation that fought for freedom to be around to this day. The point is that even those who are alive from that generation would have nothing to do with Sonia’s party notwithstanding her own association with the Nehru dynasty. Those constituting the crowd at Burari and the leaders who sat there are at best the legatees of a political culture that look at their association with the Congress as a means to some place in the power structure and in that sense cannot claim the legacy of that mighty organisation that was born in 1885.

Beginning with Rahul Gandhi and including such others as Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasad, Karthi Chidambaram, G.K.Vasan and all those young and flamboyant leaders, the fact is that they are all their because of their parents. And some others like A.K.Antony, Pranab Mukherjee and Ahmed Patel are there because they happened to join the Congress at some time when the party was in power and because they decided to live with the party. Dr. Manmohan Singh, however, belongs to another league. Like Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh, he is there in the Congress because he decided at some time to be there and being in the Congress has done them good and some good has also accrued to the nation.

These men are known to be clean and unlike such others as Suresh Kalmadi and Vilasrao Deshmukh, they do not face any charges of corruption. It is indeed a silver lining that one can count senior ministers as ``clean’’ and this is inevitable when ``unclean’’ men around seem to be the rule.

Having said that, it is indeed important to stress here that such a record of being ``clean’’ cannot be made a virtue. If the claims to the 125 years legacy of the Indian National Congress is to be accepted, it is important that cleanliness is not treated a virtue but a necessary condition. And this is where Sonia Gandhi let the cat out of the bag. Insisting that the Prime Minister was a man of impeccable character and screaming against anyone who raised a finger against his integrity, Sonia simply let the cat out of the bag. Did she admit to un-clean men being around in the cabinet? She had to do that. It was inevitable given the one-scam-a-day record that the UPA cabinet is now facing and in the larger context of the 2G Spectrum allocation scam.

Well. None and not even Sonia can now deny that the 2G Spectrum allocation was a squeaky clean affair. In that case, Kapil Sibal need not be doing what he is doing after Raja left Sanchar Bhawan. In that case, the CBI need not raid the premises of Raja and many others. In that case, the Congress would not have to stonewall the opposition demand for a JPC. The fact is that something is rotten in New Delhi and the stink is pervasive. The UPA as a whole is in a state from where no rhetoric can save its image. The truth is that 2G spectrum was sold out to ineligible and bogus and fly-by-night firms at prices that were far too less than what it should have been and that the then Minister simply trampled upon all rules to achieve this.

And in the midst of all these, it was ironical that the Prime Minister invoked Ceaser’s wife and offered himself to be examined by the Public Accounts Committee of the Lok Sabha. It is indeed strange that the Prime Minister sought to present his willingness to speak before the PAC as evidence of his cleanliness! And that he does not have anything to hide.

But then, Mr. Prime Minister, let it be known to you and to the people who read this that the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha does not give you the option of not going before the PAC if summoned. Rule 269(1) clearly lays down the powers to the committee, to summon anyone, through the Secretary General of the Lok Sabha and also demand relevant papers in connection with the matter.

The question may arise then as to why does the opposition insist on a JPC and is not content with the PAC. The answer to this lies in Rule 279 of the same Rules of Procedure. The PAC, through its chairman, can only make a brief statement after the probe and lay the report before the House. The PAC report may be publicized but unlike in the case of a JPC, there is no need for the Government to act on the report and there is no need for an Action Taken Report, which is necessary in the case of the JPC.

Well. Ceaser’s wife shall be above suspicion. Manmohan Singh may not have anything to hide. Not even such allusions from the Radia tapes that there was pressure, from many quarters, that Raja be made the Telecom Minister in May 2009. But then, the truth could be that he did not know most such things happening around him and that he did not know that 2G spectrum sale was a scandalous affair. All this, then raises a serious question: Who then is our Prime Minister?


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