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March 27, 2011

Page: 5/36

Home > 2011 Issues > March 27, 2011

Thinking Aloud

Manmohan behaves like an indifferent spectator

By Dr Jay Dubashi

A day after the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of PJ Thomas, apparently a favourite son of certain politicians in Delhi, as Central Vigilance Commissioner, the same politicians got the CBI to appeal to a court in Delhi to close the cheating case against Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Bofors affair. As expected, the court closed the case against Quattrocchi, who can now enter and leave India freely, and carry on his business under the very nose of the government.

Are the two cases related? Of course, they are, though, at first sight, one would not think so. The Central Vigilance Commission supervises CBI and has a big say in the appointment of its officers. If you have a corrupt Vigilance Commissioner under your thumb, you automatically have CBI under your thumb, which means, you can get away with murder, without anybody suspecting you. A corrupt commissioner is a very handy tool, and that is precisely what the Congress high-ups, including the topmost senior ministers, were trying to do, when they got together to appoint Thomas, despite the fact that there was a long-standing corruption case against him.

See, how easily the government got the CBI to close the case against Quattrocchi. Dr Manmohan Singh may say, as he has been doing of late, that he knew nothing about the case, and he is not involved. This is what he also said, or tried to say, about the 2-G spectrum case, until he was forced to admit otherwise. He would have said the same thing about the Thomas case, had he not been one of the three members of the so-called high-power committee set up to select a Vigilance Commissioner. Singh may now say-something he often said in other cases-that he had no idea that Thomas was involved in a corruption case. In fact, the fact that he was involved was brought to his attention-and also the attention of his brother-in-arms P Chidambaram-by none other than Sushma Swaraj, who was the third member of the committee.

Despite all this, Singh and Chidambaram went ahead and made the appointment, in a brazen display arrogance of power that takes one’s breath away. Singh knew what he was doing was wrong; yet, he went ahead and did it. He knew that he was appointing a tainted officer to the post, but he did not care and took no notice of Swaraj’s objection. I can quite understand why Chidambaram did it; he has no use for such finer points of law or ethics. He will do anything, say anything, to suit his bosses, or, to be correct, his boss. But I did not expect this kind of behaviour from a man like Manmohan Singh, who, unlike Chidambaram, who is a mere lawyer, is a technocrat, supposedly well versed in the finer points of technocracy, and, unlike lawyers, knows or is supposed to know the difference between good and evil, moral and immoral, and ethical and unethical. So, the question is, why did he sign on the dotted line?

Singh was not like this before he became what he has become. Power has corrupted him, but, knowing him. I never believed it would do so so quickly and so thoroughly. And this is not the first time he has done so. Time and again, in the last four or five instances, Singh has behaved as if he was just an indifferent spectator. Whether it is 2-G spectrum and the way A Raja played with it as a boy plays with his ball, or Suresh Kalmadi’s highly profitable-profitable for Kalmadi and his chums- escapades in the Commonwealth Games, Singh behaved as if he was a mere outsider, totally unrelated to the scandals swirling around him. Every time, he has appeared in the Parliament with a piece of paper containing an apology of sorts, but no admission of the fact that all this was happening or had happened under his very nose, and within a few kilometres of his house and office. And, surprisingly, he has got away scot-free.

I can understand a man like Chidambaram doing this. He is a lawyer and like lawyers, they are paid to do what they do. A lawyer can argue both ways, depending upon who has engaged him and who has paid him. Of course, some lawyers are very clever and give you the impression that they really mean what they say. Chidambaram has messed up every thing he has touched, including the appointment of PJ Thomas, the Kashmir issue, the Kasab affair, and, before that, black money. He has never taken a firm stand on any issue, except making snide remarks against Hindus, a sure way to please his boss.

With his squeaky clean image, Singh was supposed to put some life into the doddering party of the Gandhis. But he has turned out to be another joker in the Congress pack. The other jokers are much worse. Pranab Mukherjee is spreading so many lies about black money, and when the government intends to bring it home - probably never - that one fears the worst. In its election manifesto, the party had said that it would bring home the loot stashed abroad in 100 days, and it has been said again and again that the government has got hold of quite a few names, but Mukherjee goes round and round the issue and refuses to disclose a single name. And he wants us to believe that his friends in the party and elsewhere have never been to Switzerland or Italy, and he and his colleagues have never shaken hands with a man called Quattrocchi.

The other joker is, of course, Kapil Sibal, who, everytime he opens his big mouth, puts both his feet into it. He would have us believe that A Raja, who now happens to be in jail, is a figment of our imagination, and never had anything to do with telecom and cannot even pronounce, let alone spell it out, the word "Spectrum". He would also have us believe that the government actually made a profit on the sale of spectra, not loss, and can rattle out bogus figures, as he does from time to time, to prove it. The poor man does not realise that between him, Mukherjee, and the redoubtable Manmohan Singh, they have made their party a laughing stock, and they are going to get such a beating in the coming poll that all the king’s horses will not put the party together again.

Politicians may be corrupt but they are not fools. In Chennai, the unravelling of Singh’s party has already begun, though, as usual, it does not really bother him. The DMK has given notice that it doesn’t want to break bread with the Gandhis. In Maharashtra, Congress’ allies are distancing themselves from the party. It is only a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost, and send the corrupt government of Singh, Gandhi & Co packing - and, if you ask me, high time too!

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