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March 13, 2011

Page: 5/36

Home > 2011 Issues > March 13, 2011

Thinking Aloud

Manmohan speaks like a typical babu

By Dr Jay Dubashi

This "Dharma" is nothing but another handy excuse. The "Dharma" doesnít say that you should not touch crooks, and they should be allowed to stay, even if they are found with their hands in the till. "Coalition Dharma" is not part of the Constitution. It is a gimmick invented by politicians to keep themselves in power. If you find that the price paid for this arrangement is too heavy, it should be scrapped.

I switched off Prime Minister Manmohan Singhís TV press conference half-way through. I just couldnít stand the punishment he was receiving. Here was a distinguished ex-economist, a man belonging to my tribe, who went on and on making excuses - for himself as well as his government - and was so full of pity for himself that I just couldnít stand it. I never expected the Prime Minister of a country like India to behave like this, and that too, before his people. He looked and behaved like a general who had lost the battle and had no idea how to face the music.

Then I went back a few years and reminded myself that Singh was essentially a babu and had always remained a babu, though his designations changed over the years as he rose in his career. Indian babus always make excuses, and when matters come to a crunch, blame somebody else for their acts of omission and commission. Ask a babu why something has not been done on time, he will come up with a thousand excuses - his grandmother passed away, his father is in hospital, etc - and when you see through his game, he will throw up his hands and start crying. Singh didnít actually cry, but he came close to it, but somehow you donít expect your Prime Ministers to shed tears and you come away wondering whether the man has really lost his marbles.

Singh had only one real argument for the mess he has created : He didnít know. He didnít know that A Raja was cheating him and the government. He didnít know that Suresh Kalmadi was knee-deep in hanky-panky. He had no idea who Radia was and so on. This is what babus do-pata nahin. But Singh is not an ordinary babu - he is Prime Minister of India, not only a babu of babus but much else besides. That he has been reduced to that level is his misfortune - and ours.

But I simply refuse to believe that Singh did not know. The whole world knew about how spectrums were being bought and sold and how the minister in-charge and his comrades-in-arms were making money. Everybody in Delhi know what Kalmadi was upto in the Commonwealth Games, for his reputation had travelled long before him and I refuse to believe that it had not reached Race Course Road. Thousands and thousands of crores were being made and the Prime Minister didnít know about it? If he really didnít, it shows how cut off from the government he was. If he did, and I am sure he did, why didnít he act?

Singh says he didnít act, because he couldnít. Why he couldnít? If he had acted, the government would have fallen. There was something called "Coalition Dharma" and his government was party to it. How could he sack A Raja, without the permission of his boss, M Karunanidhi?

But Singh did not say in his press conference that he had raised the matter with Karunanidhi at all. Did he go to him and tell him about Raja? Did he summon Raja and tell him that he was going to be sacked and would he go and tell his boss in Chennai? He did nothing of the kind. He hid behind the so-called Coalition Dharma and went on as if nothing had happened. What he actually did was to ignore the criminality behind corruption and once the Rajas, the Kalmadis and others realised that the Prime Minister was no better than a wimp, and would do anything to keep his job, they cocked a snook at Race Course Road and went on with robbing the country.

Let us not beat about the bush-to Singh keeping his job was more important than cleaning up the government. This is what all babus try to do - after all, a babu cannot be a babu without his job - and this is what Dr Manmohan Singh, the quintessential babu, did. It is not that he was in need of a job. But job is a job and you donít throw it away because somebody else is looting the country, and, in any case, that somebody else is not really your responsibility and has been imposed on you by the "Coalition Dharma".

Acutally, this "Dharma" is nothing but another handy excuse. The "Dharma" doesnít say that you should not touch crooks, and they should be allowed to stay, even if they are found with their hands in the till. "Coalition Dharma" is not part of the Constitution. It is a gimmick invented by politicians to keep themselves in power. If you find that the price paid for this arrangement is too heavy, it should be scrapped.

There is also another aspect - the aspect of criminality. The Indian National Congress has become a criminal organisation, whose sole objective is pursuit of power. Power begets money, and money begets power - a new business model that the Congress has devised and perfected over the last few years. What the Congress is saying in fact is that we are bringing prosperity to you through high GDP growth rates, and in return, you should allow us to make money, commit murders, engage into partnership with crooks, cheat the government and generally behave as criminals do. You must not ask questions, and if you do, we will create trouble. We are creating jobs for you, we are raising your salaries and perks and you should keep your mouth shut.

And this is precisely what the Prime Minister did: he kept his mouth shut. He did not look too closely at what his ministers were doing, and even if he did find out, he did not ask too many questions. The whole world knew what the Kalmadis and his chums were doing, but they were not pulled-up, as long as the games went off. The means donít matter, only the ends - and what are the ends? A high growth rate, high salaries and perks, and, of course, a lot of money for the party in power. Singh, the good babu and a God-fearing man, did not ask questions, though he did know what was going on. He only pretended he didnít know, as babus do when they find they are in trouble.

Under Singh & Co. India has become a criminal country, ruled by mafia. It is not his fault; his hands are clean. But he is, after all, head of the government and he bears as much responsibility for the state of affairs as the Rajas and the Kalmadis and others. After all, he is working with them, and they are working for him. How can he escape responsibility for the criminal going on under him and his government, for they all report to him. What on earth does he do, day after day, if he cannot keep an eye on his people and create a moral environment in which everyone behaves as he should?

As Shakespeare said, the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves. Dr Manmohan Singh is as much responsible for the criminalisation of the government as anybody else. He has done nothing to stop the rot, not because he cannot, but because he wonít.

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