Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh seems to be under an illusion. His interaction this week with editors of a select group of editors of TV channels bore resemblance to a time in our recent past when Rajiv Gandhi, then the Prime Minister, sought to deflect criticism of corruption in high places by making it that he was above board. When the Bofors scandal was being raised, Rajiv Gandhi told Parliament that neither he nor anyone from his family had received the kickback. Well. He may not have known, at that time, that records would soon tumble out showing the money trail to Ottavio Quattrocchi.
The rest is history, to repeat that cliché. It came out in the months after Rajiv Gandhi made that statement that though not his family, one of his family’s close friends was among the recipients of the money that was paid into secret swiss bank accounts by the Swedish gun manufacturer. It is idle to argue that Rajiv Gandhi was all that innocent in that sordid deal. In any case, he as Prime Minister, could not have been unaware of the serious wrongs that went into the purchase of the 155 mm Howitzer guns for the Indian army.
This applies to Manmohan Singh too. He was asked about A. Raja and the scandal involving the sale of 2G Spectrum and Singh did concede that something had gone wrong in that regard. But then, he sought to absolve himself of any responsibility and held that in a coalition that he was leading it was inevitable that he left the choice of ministers to the leaders of the parties in the coalition. Here was an instance of the Prime Minister speaking against the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. The Constitution lays down the prerogative of forming the cabinet with the Prime Minister. Dr. Singh, to save his skin, did not hesitate blaming it on M.Karunanidhi. This bit is technical though a matter for concern.
Prime Minister Singh then went on to explain that he was privy to complaints against A.Raja even at the time he recommended the name to the President, Pratibha Patil to be sworn in as Cabinet Minister. And that he also heard good things about that man. Let us look into this a bit more closely. Yes. There was talk about the scandal involving the 2G spectrum sale and that Raja did something wrong. The CPI(M) had written about this to the Prime Minister even in 2007; the CPI(M) was very much an ally then and the party’s support was critical for the Government’s survival. It is a sad story that the CPI(M) did not push their point too hard then and there and Prakash Karat must explain why did his party let the scam remain a concern in just private communications between his party and the Government then.
But then, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must have known, at least in May 2009, when he decided to post Raja in the same ministry, that there was a certain industrial house trying all tricks to have Raja there and no one else at the helm in Sanchar Bhawan. The Government, at that time, had ordered the tapping of the telephone conversations by one Mrs. Nira Raadia. The conversations, thus tapped, revealed that Raadia, M.Kanomozhi and Barkha Dutt (of NDTV) were talking, several times in a day to pull all the stops and make Raja the Minister for Telecommunications. It is dangerous, even to imagine, that these were not brought to the Prime Minister’s notice by the concerned officers in the Enforcement Directorate. And if Manmohan Singh is to be believed – that he had only heard some vague complaints against Raja – there is something far too dangerous than things appear to be.
The point here is that neither can one believe Manmohan Singh nor can one disbelieve him. Either way, there is something seriously wrong with the way this Government is functioning. The nation is not safe in such hands that do not want to behave with a sense of responsibility or is prone to escape responsibility when push comes to shove. Now that Manmohan Singh has spoken, one can only wonder, as to what all horrors are in store from now to May 2014 because we are condemned to be ruled by this man and his coalition ``dharma'' until then.
The Prime Minister did get away with all these. It was a sad spectacle where senior editors, who are otherwise known to bark at party spokespersons in their studio every evening did not show such determination to nail in the Prime Minister. And the Prime Minister’s Press Advisor, a journalist known for his pontifications through his columns in the past, was seen containing even those who wanted to ask some friendly questions. Those who had the privilege to be there and interact with the Prime Minister did not do justice. It is another matter that the Prime Minister put up a poor show despite all that.