Manmohan Singh – The Saviour

The sheer magnanimity of recent scams has cornered 125-year-old Congress party.

Biplob Ghosal

There are no prizes for guessing that the grand old Congress Party is finding it hard to come out clean of the corruption taint. And this is despite coerced efforts by party stalwarts, Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and even Sonia Gandhi, to make the Aam Aadmi realise that the party is taking a tough stand against corruption.

Rhetoric aside, the fact remains that the sheer magnanimity of the scams like the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing Society and 2G spectrum allocation has cornered the 125-year-old Congress party.

The party is in the dock like it has seldom been. The turmoil’s biggest story is however, the cementing of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s place as the last man standing…“the saviour”.

Although no one discounts the fact that he detests the perks associated with his job and that he is above the shadow of corruption, but the moot question, in the current context, is the apparent hollowness of the Congress party.

Can the party, which has made it a habit of praising its first family for everything that’s good and blame others for all the ills, escape its apparent culpability in preventing loss to the national exchequer by hiding behind the `the pedestal` called Manmohan Singh’s integrity every time a new scam surfaces.

Though, many might argue that the government had forced its tainted cabinet ministers like Shashi Tharoor, Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi to resign. But the fact of the matter is the government reacted when it was cornered on scams and corruption issues.

CWG scam, Adarsh Housing Society and mother of all scams the ‘2G spectrum allocation’ have not only drained the exchequer but also maligned the country’s image across the world.

WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange in an interview sarcastically said, “In my dealings with Indians, there is such an incredible potential in the Indian media, because there is still a lot of corruption.”

The PM being the executive head is expected to act on his own. But everyone knows who has the last say in Delhi. Every time any union cabinet minister is accused of any misdoings, the Congress party says PM is looking into the matter and will respond. But in the 2G case there’s proof he reacted to Raja’s move, but it took two years to take action against the tainted minister. This matter undoubtedly questions his say in affairs.

Though, many project him as a weak prime minister and just a face which Congress puts forward to garner people’s support and sympathy, facts suggest that not only has he got ‘face value’ but also the drive to get accepted by the people – as was evident by the 2009 general election results.

Congress’ main political rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also understands that their biggest stumbling block is Dr Singh. The unrelenting demand for constituting a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G scam - a well-thought-out strategy is an example of this.

Clearly, the BJP is desperate to gain points over Manmohan Singh as it realises that without that happening its efforts to corner the government over corruption issues will go waste.

Undoubtedly, Congress is bogged down due by the pressure of running a coalition government, which more often than not, becomes an obstacle in taking strong action against tainted allies as in the case of A Raja.

However, the entire episode did put a question mark on Manmohan Singh’s resolve to take on the corrupt. Raja overruled him and even dismissed his suggestion to take the matter to the high-level EGoM (empowered group of ministers) in 2007, how could he have allowed it? Agreed it’s a coalition government, but then you are in-charge Mr Prime Minister.

Dr Singh doesn`t deny he is a politician by accident. He once said: "The greatness of democracy is that we are all birds of passage. We are here today, gone tomorrow. But in the brief time that the people entrust us with this responsibility it is our duty to be honest and sincere in the discharge of these responsibilities."

It is a well understood fact that he is a party man, but if his own party starts to use him against his principles, then there’s no way forward. The party has to understand that it cannot escape scrutiny every time by just harping about PM’s integrity.