By Harihar Swarup
Whatever may be failings of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it would be grossly unfair to call him corrupt. Anna Hazare persistently called him a clean leader even as his team member Arvind Kejriwal was dubbing the Prime Minister as corrupt. One does not know what happened overnight; Anna fell in line with Kejriwal. It is strange indeed that one day Anna Hazare calls Manmohan Singh incorruptible and within 24 hours changes his views. Apparently, he has done so under pressure from Kejriwal and other team members, giving rise to suspicion that his crusade against corruption might be politically motivated.
Let us have a look at the team members; none of them are spotlessly clean. IPS officer Kiran Bedi, travels economy class and charges fare of higher class, manifesting her petty mentality; everyone knows the record of lawyer -turned -activist Prashant Bhushan. Even Kejriwal is not above board.
Just days after a joint one-day fast at Jantar Mantar, both sides, Team Anna and Baba Ramdev, seem to have drifted away again. While Ramdev is busy wooing political parties, Anna Hazare has backed his teammates and launched a direct attack on the Prime Minister. This came even as Ramdev had said naming individuals was not right, and he (Ramdev) was correct.
Baba Ramdev’s alliance with Team Anna seemed to be on a shaky ground after Arvind Kejriwal stormed out of the fast venue. Ramdev objected to Kejriwal naming MPs in his speech, which the yoga guru said was against the protocol.
When the UPA-II began its second term in 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was more comfortably placed than the UPA-I. The coalition has reasonably comfortable numbers in Parliament and there was no Left Parties breathing down its neck. Then the Commonwealth Game and 2G scams broke and government appeared sliding down. Could the Prime Minister prevent the 2G scam by removing A Raja from the Communication ministry or even sacking him. Perhaps not, because DMK would have certainly revolted and might have even walked out of the government. This is what’s called compulsion of coalition politics. The corruption was done by a DMK minister and not by a Congress member of the Council of Ministers and at the receiving end was the Prime Minister. It is well known that DMK is the most corrupt party and its record confirms the charge.
Manmohan Singh is not corrupt but certainly he is guilty of not preventing corruption by his ministerial colleagues, particularly men like Raja. Dr Singh can be charged of pursuing a politics of decency and reconciliation as a matter of state policy. He is also not ruthless when hardheartedness needed to be shown.
Manmohan Singh is also guilty of making erroneous assessment that Team Anna was just a bunch of well-meaning civil society busybodies; he is guilty of not seeing through their political agenda. And, he is definitely guilty of underestimating the Anna Mob’s cunning ability to manipulate the media’s penchant to promote and project anyone camouflaged as a modern crusader.
Dr. Singh began his second term on a wrong note. He is guilty of not being ruthless enough to crack down on Niira Radia tape episode, a rouge operation carried out by unscrupulous corporate elements. Different segments of Corporate India drew different inferences. This container of worms was a logical culmination of the corporate war.
In the best tradition of Goebbels, the civil society crusader have neatly diverted attention from the Corporate magnates to corrupt politicians. Manmohan Singh may be charged with having led the country on a path of development which could only produce a crony capitalism with all its aberrations of inequality and injustice. He is certainly guilty of not going after corporate Dadas who have used and exploited the very openness of the democratic system to weaken the legitimate state so that thugs go undetected and unpunished. It is indeed how Team Anna and other pretenders reserve their moral indignation only for the political class and never for the beneficiaries of the political class’ corruption.
Manmohan Singh is also guilty of pursuing the noble quest for reconciliation at the expense of another adage of statecraft; those who spurn the public authority’s hand of reconciliation must be made to learn the cost of confrontation .
One can say Manmohan Singh may be guilty on many counts but he is not corrupt. His decency and politics of reconciliation have been his undoing. Dr. Singh and Sonia Gandhi may be guilty of making a virtue of seeking reconciliation to the extent of avoiding confrontation; a luxury, statecraft does not permit a Prime Minister.