A good start and a folly



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The cat has been belled. With A Raja already cooling his heels in Tihar, the jail is set to host more 5-star guests. Suresh Kalmadi has finally been arrested. The charge that he faces concerns awarding a contract for time scoring equipment to a Swiss firm at an inflated rate of Rs 141 crore without taking into consideration rival bids.

To me, his crime was more than causing a loss of Rs 100 odd crores to the exchequer. It had to do with his bungling the Commonwealth Games to an extent that he dragged India’s name through mud. That he made India a laughing stock internationally. An unforgivable crime!

When the Prime Minister in his uncommonly bold interaction session with the Editors stated that corruption will not be tolerated, one thought it to be lip service by a man who could do little. The arrest of Kalmadi and most of the Commonwealth top brass as well as the 2G chargesheet that names Kanimozhi as a co-accused and co-conspirator in the scam despite her being Karunanidhi’s favourite daughter is a good start.

Obviously, the PM has covered some distance from the time that he expressed his inability to take firm action owing to “compulsions of coalition politics”. He has cocked a snook at the DMK despite the ally applying pressure tactics by issuing threats to withdraw its ministers. After its muscle-flexing during seat-sharing talks ahead of Tamil Nadu polls came to a naught, DMK must have understood the futility of barking without biting.

Notably, Dayalu Ammal has been spared because “she speaks only Tamil” and because she is “too old and with failing health”. Karunanidhi’s wife holds 60% share in Kalaignar TV. Obviously, the PM has miles to go before he really walks his talk in the true sense of the term.

While Congress was quick to jettison Kalmadi or even former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, it still has its holy cows which it protects at all costs and so shouldn’t hurry to assume the moral high ground. After Kalmadi, I would be curious to see whether the probity and accountability extend to the Delhi government or whether Sheila Diskhsit will be spared the stick. We also know of the quiet burial that the Bofors case got and the defreeze of Quattrochi’s accounts.

BJP sounded repetitive and predictable with its “too little too late” reaction to the Kalmadi episode. Maybe the party could give it a shot in doing “too little” and earning a few brownie points. If I have got my facts right, there’s still a certain Mr Yeddyurappa still the CM in Karnataka despite a bundle of evidence of corruption against him and his family. Despite immense pressure to wash its hands off the corruption taint, the BJP was unable to remove one man from his post because of a virtual revolt. The opposition could borrow a leaf from the Congress on correct posturing for a start.

Now, the folly. Watching PM and Sonia paying obeisance in front of Sai Baba made my stomach turn. I have nothing against the ecumenical Sai Baba or people paying homage to the deceased.

But where were you Madam Gandhi and Mr Prime Minister when Sam Manekshaw, the hero of the 1971 War, was being bid adieu in Wellington. The power duo was probably too busy in Delhi to give the true hero of India a farewell that he deserved. Most of the BJP top bosses were conspicuous by their absence at Manekshaw’s funeral. And this is a party which claims to be dyed in the wool patriotic!

Really, must populist politics make decent enough men and women sink to such hypocrisy?