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JF-Expert Member
Dec 20, 2007
A Spectrum of Scandals and Some Solace...

by Florine Roche
Daijiworld Media Network

Mangalore, Nov 20: The Manmohan Singh led UPA government at the centre is embroiled in an unprecedented degree of corruption scandals which have certainly put the Congress government at the centre on the defensive in addition to denting its image considerably. With back to back scandals involving the likes of Suresh Kalmadi, Ashok Chavan and Telecom minister Andimuthu Raja coming to the fore in a spate of few weeks, the Congress juggernaut seems to have come to a standstill, which until recently was looking unstoppable. To add insult to injury, the Supreme Court will compel our ‘Mr Clean’ Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to reply to its criticism over his inability to take a decision to prosecute “the Raja” of spectrum scandal. The sordid saga of corruption scandals has left the Congress government red-faced struggling to come out with a quick riposte in what is considered to be the maha”raja” of all scams.

The Congress is considered the mother of all ills that plague our political system today. Corruption, nepotism, scandals, favoritism, dynastic succession, loyalty to Nehru-Gandhi family, deification of leaders, black money stashed in safe havens abroad etc., are very much traits of Congress politicians. But in all fairness to the party, the corruption menace now has engulfed almost all political parties in India. This is evident from the fact that some of the state governments which are ruled by non-Congress governments too, are not free from the deadly virus of corruption. This corruption trend seems to echo the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s famous quote “corruption is an universal phenomenon”. The Adarsh Housing Society scam (the tower of shame under Ashok Chavan ) the land scam of Karnataka involving Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, who broke every rule to favour his son, are too fresh in public memory. While Chavan was sacrificed by the Congress B S Yeddyurappa is facing tremors under his feet and there are rumours of the party trying to find a suitable person to replace him.
Omnipresent corruption

Just a few months back Shashi Tharoor, the Minister of State for External Affairs had resigned following allegations that he had obtained pecuniary advantage in the form of sweat equity in IPL’s Kochi franchise, for his friend turned wife Sunanda Pushkar. Names of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel were also heard in this scandal but these allegations were petered out without causing any upheaval.

Compared to the enormity of the present scandals Shashi Tharoor episode looks like a mere speck in the realm of corruption and knowing that public memory is too short it looks as though it is a forgotten episode.

Today, the public has woken up to the telecom scandal involving a staggering 1.76 lakh crores loss to the national exchequer thanks to the constitutional body Controller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which exercised its constitutional powers without fear or favour. The ordinary public may not even know how many zeroes make 1.76 lakh crores. Gone are the earlier scams involving a few lakhs or a couple of crores. Such scams have become commonplace to merit any serious thought, probe, action or public outrage. Now that the telecom scandal is out in the open resulting in Minister Raja finally stepping down, the general public is wondering how the country is going to deal with a man who brushed aside all possible guidance causing huge loss to the government. Is resignation the only punishment for looting the nation on that scale? Even by the standards of India, where corruption is pervasive, the scale of the 2G scandal has shocked Indians and galvanized the main opposition party, the BJP which is now armed with a new ammunition to attack the ruling alliance during the ongoing winter session of parliament. It is another matter that its own government in Karnataka is mired in land scam scandal besmirching BJP’s image noticeably.

Telecom scams are not new to India as we have the precedent of former telecom minister Sukh Ram, who, incidentally, unleashed telecom revolution in India in the 90’s, involving in a scandal worth Rs. 1,500 crores. Sukh Ram was charged with amassing disproportionate assets during his tenure and was convicted and sentenced for three years of imprisonment. This is a rarity in Indian politics because most of our ‘netas’ go scot free even after getting involved in scandals, corruption or violence. The real tragedy of this largest democracy is not of squandering public money in CWG or usurping prime land in South Mumbai in the name of Kargil war widows, but the general belief among the common public that the guilty are never be brought to book.
True Watchdogs

Credit should certainly go to the two watchdogs of democracy the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and the fourth pillar of democracy - the press, for carrying out their responsibilities with due diligence and with a sense of purpose to nail the culprits. At a time when not even a single anti corruption agency worked independently it was the press and the CAG which took up the cudgel of fighting corruption. If the CAG had not come out with its observations the spectrum scandal would not have come out.

While the tower of shame scandal was unearthed thanks to the efforts of Shiva Sena, the media took up the issue once it came into public domain. Ditto with CWG with Rs. 8000 crore rip-off in allocation of rights & procurement of materials by Suresh Kalmadi-led panel and the media went after Kalmadi only after the CWG’s unpreparedness became a matter of national concern. Kalamadi is divested of only one responsibility and he continues to be the long serving President of Indian Olympic Association.

And with regard to the spectrum case, the media carried out a relentless campaign of sort to give the opposition a ready subject to tackle during the ongoing parliament session. One must hasten to add that it was the media which played the role of the true opposition party by carrying out thorough investigative and analytical reports on the scandal, forcing the reluctant minister Raja to step down. It was the sheer enormity of the money involved in the spectrum scandal that made the media and the public to sit and take notice of this shameful act.

Similarly in Karnataka, it was the media which played a crucial role unearthing the land scam arising out of Chief Minister B S Yedyurappa’s largesse towards his son. The opposition which is determined to unseat the BJP in Karnataka has found an ally in the press which has made its task simpler and easier in its efforts to nail the Chief Minister and bring down his beleaguered government. The audacity of the Chief Minister that he would expose the misdeeds of earlier leaders when he is caught with his foot in the mouth, smacks of the deterioration of morality in public life.

With scandals galore, it would be sacrilege to say that the Congress party occupies a higher moral ground vis-à-vis corruption. In fact the party was compelled to sacrifice these netaas only after their names got mired in scandals and not out of its genuine interest to wipe out corruption. Its highly ambiguous and nonchalant attitude towards corruption is surely a cause to worry if we are serious about bringing down the scale of corruption if not weed it out completely.

Apart from the 3 major scandals of CWG, Adarsh Housing society and Spectrum, there are scandals like Rs. 18,000 crore Scorpene submarine deal in which the middlemen had a hay day, cash to vote scandal, rice export scandal where private middlemen undermined ban to export Rs 2,500 crore of grain under Kamal Nath and Prasar Bharathi CEO B S Lalli’s continuation in office despite his actions that resulted in Rs. 68 crore loss to the national broadcaster by subcontracting broadcasting deals, all of which surfaced during the Congress led coalition rule. It may be said the Congress insouciance towards corruption stems from the compulsion of coalition politics. However, to condone a scandal of this magnitude like the Spectrum scandal is too high a price on pays in the name of politics of coalition. Indians did not did not expect Dr Manmohan Singh to turn a blind eye to scandals of such enormity by his own ministers.

Proving Churchill Right?

Looking at the sordid state of affairs of the last 63 years of our independence and the way state of things are in our country one cannot help recalling what Winston Churhill had said opposing granting independence to India "----------Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber & men of straw. They will have sweet tongues & silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power & India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air & water... would be taxed in India”. This is exactly what has happened to our country proving that Winston Churchill had rightly gauged Indians and their character. He was an astrologer whose predictions have come true to the T and we have proved him right in all aspects. We have rogues, goondas and people with criminal backgrounds who have become politicians with the single objective of amassing wealth and more wealth. What happens to the nation in the bargain is not their concern.

Despite such sorry state of affairs we have to salute and feel proud of our constitutional bodies and the fourth estate – the press, for delivering what is expected of them. It is not surprising if people wonder who is playing the role of the real opposition party in our democracy. It is some solace that when one has failed there are others who rise to the occasion and deliver. That is the beauty of our democracy.
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