Free Press Journal

UPA Scam- tainted second anniversary


BY AMULYA GANGULI An unassertive prime minister and a calculating Congress president are responsible for making the UPA- 2alt39 s second anniversary perhaps the saddest in the seven years that the ruling alliance has been in power in two avatars. Much of the blame for its present plight has to be borne by Sonia Gandhi. Right from 2004 when UPA- 1 first came to power, her sole concern has been to enable the Congress hold on to the reins of power at any cost. Given the partyalt39s minority status in the coalition, the only way it could remain in office was by conceding the demands of the allies.

It is this policy of keeping them in good humour which has now blown up in the Congressalt39s face. Even the incarcerations of Kanimozhi and Andimuthu Raja have made no difference to its plummeting reputation. Next to the Congress president, the blame for the partyalt39s and governmentalt39s ethical and governance deficits is the prime ministeralt39s. By the time he said that ” our government is dead serious in bringing to book the wrongdoers regardless of their position”, it was already too late.

In any event, the statement itself gave the game away. A government must always be ” dead serious” in the matter of punishing the guilty, and not in fits and starts. That is the basis of the rule of law. Moreover, the prime minister should really have no need to say it publicly as if he has finally realized that the wrong- doers have been having a merry time. From this standpoint, the statement is an admission of failure. As is Manmohan Singhalt39s subsequent observation that ” we have a functioning a government … we take our job very seriously … we are here to govern and govern effectively”. What is evident from these pathetic attempts to emphasize the obvious is a belated realization that the government has allowed the situation to drift. And the specific lapse was to allow Raja remain as the telecom minister despite mounting evidence of his dubious deals. But the reason why such indulgence was shown to him – the fear that the DMK would withdraw support – turns the spotlight back on Sonia Gandhialt39s anxiety to avoid the uncertainties of a mid- term poll.

Before Raja, she had been similarly lenient towards the Left. To ensure that it continued to offer outside support to the government, she was even willing to scuttle the nuclear deal by saying that the communists had a ” point” in opposing it. But for the belated realization, apparently on Rahul Gandhialt39s part, that such a stance would alienate the middle class, and the Samajwadi Partyalt39s unexpected gesture of support, the government might have bowed to the Leftalt39s diktat.

The lesson from such conciliatory backtracking before intransigent allies is that it doesnalt39t help in the long run. As the recent elections results have shown, the voters did not believe that the Congress was ” dead serious” in its fight against corruption. In this particular case, of course, the party had the added disadvantage of being in the DMKalt39s company. The latteralt39s dramatic decline in M. Karunanidhialt39s twilight years holds another lesson – that of not clinging too closely to a partner which is showing signs of moral decrepitude under an aging patriarch.

But, as the electorate decided to torpedo the DMK, there was no escape for the Congress but to go down with an ally, whom it had tried so hard to please by accepting its veto of the Neyveli Lignite disinvestment in UPA- 1 and the Raja episode more recently. Yet, if the prime minister had been serious from the start to ” govern effectively”, he should have drawn a Lakshman rekha for the allies. The line might have carried different specifications for different parties.

For outfits like the DMK, it would have b