SO the United Progressive Alliance has completed two years of its second term. Sadly, in these two years, it has shown itself to be regressive, disunited and its alliance partners at loggerheads with each other. It has nothing to show but scams, more scams and yet more scams. It should be ashamed of itself. The scams are not necessarily associated with the UPA, but for all that it cannot distance itself from them. It probably does not know that India has slipped to 87th spot in Transparency International’s latest ranking of nations based on the level of corruption.
There is a tendency both among the powers that be and with the media to forget the past – and move on. But then thoughts persist. Whatever happened to PJ Thomas? To Niira Radia? Ashok Chavan had links with the Adarsh Housing Society scam. Suresh Kalmadi with several CWG scams. Ramachandra Nair with Housing Finance scam. Lalit Modi with IPL scam. And who can forget Kanimozi and A Raja associated with the 2G scam?
According to a poll conducted by the New Indian Express-C Fore 2011, a stunning 45 per cent of voters polled across 17 cities in metropolitan India have indicated the UPA government for its bad performance. The April 2011 poll indicted Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh (41 per cent) for being responsible for inaction on the corruption front, Sonia Gandhi was made accountable by 24 per cent and coalition partners by 35 per cent of the voters. One can’t think of a more morally bankrupt coalition than the UPA. And think of this: In the Lok Sabha there are 74 MPs, allegedly with serious criminal charges against them whose wealth average is Rs six crore. And the average wealth of a Cabinet Minister is around Rs 7.5 crore.
According to a survey conducted by the National Election Watch (NEW) quoted by Madhav Godbole in his brilliant study India’s Parliamentary Democracy on Trial, 543 MPs of the 15th Lok Sabha are worth close to Rs 2,800 crore. Being wealthy is not a crime. What constitutes a crime is how that wealth was acquired. The UPA government must be careful that MPs don’t use their status to make money. It is under watch. Only recently, another opinion poll, this one conducted by the news website Lens On News indicated that 58 per cent of the respondents thought that the incumbent Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government is the “most corrupt government ever”. Is that much to be proud of? The Congress is on its last legs. It has no place in Tamil Nadu. It has now been literally shown the door in Andhra Pradesh.
It is generally believed that it is at the prodding of the Congress that Karnataka’s Governor Hans Raj Bharadwaj attempted to unseat the Yedyurappa Government. It has merely boomeranged. Not only has the strength of the BJP increased to 119 in the 224 member Karnataka Legislative Assembly but the BJP has won three by-elections from Congress and the JD(S). If the Governor has any self-respect, he should resign. His recommendation for presidential rule to be imposed in Karnataka has been ignored and treated as unacceptable.
The slap in the face of the Congress received in Andhra Pradesh where the rebel Congress leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy and his mother Vijayalakshmi won by huge margins should be a message to the Congress that its downward slide is becoming unstoppable. And then we have the Hindustan Times-C Fore 2011 survey across fourteen cities polling 10,126 people. They were asked: Do you think the government is serious about fighting corruption? Almost half the respondents (49 per cent) said ‘No’. Some 66 per cent averred that the spate of scams has paralysed the government. As many as 94 per cent said inflation (48 per cent) and corruption (46 per cent) are issues that are most worrying. Again, 67 per cent said the government is not doing enough to rein in the run-away prices. Some 75 per cent said the government is not doing enough to improve the farm sector. The poll shows that in practically every department it has turned out to be a colossal failure. Most painful to realise is that 68 per cent feel that the Prime Minister has turned a blind eye to corruption because of coalition compulsions.
There is hardly one issue on which the UPA Government can feel that it has the public with it. Matters are made worse by some of its loud-mouthed Ministers like Jayaram Ramesh making insulting remarks about some of our major educational institutions like the IIMs and IITs. Ministers like Ramesh and Sibal must be called to order and told not to make silly statements that run the country down. And after the 2G scam, isn’t it time to make inquiries into the financial assets of our bureaucrats, both serving and retired? Has one forgotten that only a few months ago – in December 2010- one Neera Yadav who had become Chief Secretary in the Mulayam Singh regime in 2005 was later arrested and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment? Her reported worth was alleged to be no less than Rs 500 crore! Why should bureaucrats not be under the watchful eye of the CBI, when Ministers are? Bureaucrats can play an even dirtier game than their political bosses who are here today and gone tomorrow. But the most shocking news, according to some media, is the UPA Government’s determined effort – or, at least, so it seems – to ignore charges against none else than Sonia Gandhi.
Writing in Bharatiya Pragna (January 2011), S Gurumurthy charged the Congress president of stashing about $ 2.2 billion in a secret account in a Swiss Bank. Quoted is an expose in Schweizer Illustrierte (November 1991), the most popular magazine in Switzerland that said Sonia Gandhi controlled $ 2.2 billion that, had it been invested in safe, long-term deposits, would have multiplied to $9.41 billion (Rs 42,345 crore!). It is said that as recently as December 27, 2010 writing in India Today (December 27, 2010) the well-known lawyer Ram Jethmalani had raised the same issue, only to be ignored. If the report is false Sonia Gandhi can easily sue her detractors. Her continued silence is bewildering. One understands that on April 15, former Law and Justice Minister Dr Subramaniam Swamy has asked Prime Minister Dr Singh for leave to lay corruption charges against Sonia Gandhi, following submission of a meticulously researched 200 + page report. The Prime Minister apparently has three months to decide whether or not to grant sanction to prosecute Sonia Gandhi. Mrs Gandhi is not just an individual; she is a solid core of India Politics. But will Dr Singh dare to give the necessary permission to Dr Subramaniam Swamy. Right now, one can only wait and see.