Combating corruption in a democracy
Calls for adhering to time-honored conventions and decisive actions!

There is much desperation in New Delhi. There is much heat on the Prime Minister. Nor is Sonia Gandhi at ease. We needn’t bore the readers.

Everyone seems to be not doing what conventions in the past were followed and not taking timely actions.

The PM can’t pretend anymore about his failures. He has to face the harsh realities soon. His Cabinet reshuffle didn’t win him friends. Rather he became a poorer performer.

His reasons for what he has not done in combating corruption and blaming the coalition politics is not winning him friend either.”Compulsions of coalition politics” is a lame excuse. There were many collation governments in the past. Even his original mentor, P.V.Narasihma Rao ran a minority government. Doesn’t he  or other know? So too others, V.P. Singh, Gujral, Deve Gowda and Chandrashekhar ran very handicapped governments.

But they didn’t earn this much of infamy. Dr.Singh’s true capabilities are coming into the open only now. He could hide his limitations at the earlier years. Not anymore. Not now. Nor hereafter.

The media in India is operating at three levels. The print media in English is more tolerant that other media, TV and the Internet. The big newspapers, those that are run as big business and also those in the regional languages are very careful not to offend the establishment, both the bureaucracy as well as the political class. But the TV news channels, given their instant impact, are not so deferential. Even here there are notable changes in tenor and emphasis.

After the Nira Radia tapes exposed two prominent  stars, one TV and print star and columnist and the other being the only top ranking TV star and anchor, both however  got involved with the Nira Radia type over-hyped lobbying, got lost their image once  and forever.
Now, the NDTV’s tone is distinctly hesitant and given the fact that the Tatas were the biggest advertisers with a huge as much as, as it is reported, something like an Rs.600/700 crore budget the news channel is totally a rattled one these days. Most days one doesn’t see the owner-anchor on the news channel as he once was a prominent face and the other channels, especially the ones who want to give competition to the upstart as they perceive their competitor is going all out to cry hoarse! Cry hoarse at both the establishment as well as at the government.

The other day Karan Thapar had on the CNN-IBN collected a gathering of notables in the print media to ask whether the media, both the print and the TV were kind or harsh to the Prime Minister.

The conclusion was while the print media as a whole was generally kind and deferential to the Prime Minister; the TV channels were not so kind. For the simple reason that the TV channels given their visual impact showed the Prime Minister what he actually was. He was, as it turned out when he conducted as it were a round table to conduct, for the first time, in his entire career as the Prime Minister, a first time live exposure to his persona, the PM was found to be a dour and dull personality. There was utterly no expression whatever as to what he actually felt for some of the great embarrassment in his regime of 7 years.

There was no feeling or guilt or embarrassment to his many obvious failings and mistakes in decision-making. To put it in other words there were some plain inefficiency in his functioning as a Prime Minister. With all will-power at one’s disposal it was very difficult not to excuse him for what he had failed to do in the latest sum of scams and scandals that go in the name of his Prime Ministership. The job is not anything less than the most supreme in the country and under the Constitution.

A Prime Minister is not just any other high office. Even the President under the Constitution has some escape clauses, for instance, if we can say so. The President is not directly accountable or answerable to the public, though the Rashtrapathy is the very embodiment of the virtues, a sense of majesty of justice in embodied in the office of the Rashtrapathy.
The every ambience, the very atmosphere and the very persona of the President under the Constitution matters a great deal.

It is for the people, from the top class of elite to the lowest of the lowly to decide collective what they feel as a people, as a nation and as a collective consciousness.
But in the case of the Prime Minister it is entirely different a proposition.

Fortunately, we have had some of the great personalities as Prime Minister, even in a brief 64 years. There was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the outstanding personality who was groomed in much glory in the freedom struggle and groomed by Mahatma Gandhi. This glow is still there in the midst of the poor and the rich alike. Then there was Lalbahdur Shastri. So too Morarji Desai and then Vajpayee. Indira Gandhi had her own strengths and weaknesses. The latest book of autobiography by I.K. Gujral, himself a Prime Minister, to give a contrast to the best and the dull Prime Ministers in the 1980s and the 1990s, says much about his working with Mrs.Gandhi. The less said the better!

Now, as for the incumbent Prime Minister he has much to answer.

He has won some credos for his being an economic expert. Yes, the economy is growing at a respectable rate and yet this alone didn’t him all the glory. Now, it is not economic, it is politics, it is his capabilities as a governance expert that is under the cloud.

Now, the JPC is constituted, it is very likely this time the PJC findings can’t be managed somehow by the government.

There is now unprecedented corruption and scams and scandals are of a much bigger scale. Rs.35 lakh crore of black money is generated annually and about 10 per cent of the same goes abroad into illegal tax havens. Since 1971,when the highest tax rate was 97.5 per cent tax rates have fallen but the black money has grown from 7 per cent to 50 per cent of the  GDP. And since the controls and regulations have been drastically eliminated after 1991 but the size of the black economy continues to rise.

It is a poor excuse to pretend not to know these unacceptable developments and a Prime Minister who doesn’t speak out and who can’t communicate to the people, his anxieties and concerns doesn’t deserve to occupy the PM’s chair any longer.

It is plain now, the PM has not public relations sensitivity, he has long been a bureaucrat and his loyalty is only to his master, not to the people at large.

So, this is a very undesirable development and the democratic polity won’t tolerate any more such rigidities in the system and he must go.

Democracy is for the last man. This government operates in a political vacuum. The Congress President in the Indian scheme of things is only next to the Prime Minister. Under Sonia Gandhi, the party apparatus has acquired more political clout and as such she has also to take some bale for the current developments.

She is wasting her time in NAC. Instead she must concentrate on running the party affairs which are in a mess. Many of the institutions, the CWC, the PCCs, not to speak of the DCCs are simply are not there. They are not functioning. Every decision in the party is taken adhoc and she hasn’t even changed the official bearers, even her assistants in her household and AICC for a change. Just telephone her house or office and see the response! You will realise how things have become so rigid here also.

Democracy must assert itself. Cabinet changes must see some go and others come in. Here it is very strange. Every minister, affected or unaffected nurse a grievance! What sort of Cabinet reshuffle is this?

It is time, JPC does its work expeditiously and there is a break from the current logjam!

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