First things first. Manmohan Singh is probably the most honest man to have sat on the Prime Minister’s chair. His personal honesty has never been in doubt and probably will not be ever. One can’t think of such a sophisticated character ever conceiving of a scam let alone carrying it out.
He has all the right credentials for the job. Degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. A career with the UN. Stints with the Planning Commission and Reserve Bank of India even before he sat on the Finance Minister’s chair. He also carried out Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s famous liberalization reforms.
No problems there.
But now that his 10-year-stint as PM is coming to an end, it is time to look at his legacy, especially considering the fact that he has presided over the government at a time that has seen record scams.
There are many who believe that to watch a crime and do absolutely nothing is a big crime in itself. That’s where Manmohan’s inaction may be not that easy to brush under the carpet.
The 2G scam made it to Time magazine’s global “Top 10 Abuses of Power” of all time. The CAG made the Rs 1.76 lakh crore figure reach an iconic status. It is alleged that the illegal undercharging of fees led to a massive loss of revenue to the national exchequer.
The Supreme Court also declared the whole process “unconstitutional and arbitrary”. Now you and I might go through all the deals, auctions and contracts and not make heads or tails of it. Even someone like Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda could say that he okayed things without understanding it since he was a “humble farmer”!
But what excuse does the greatest economic wizard who ever sat on the PM’s chair have? While the truth will never be known, there are only two possibilities.
1. He spotted the problem and kept quiet, making him complicit in the scam.
2. He didn’t spot it, making him incompetent and quite overhyped to sit in the chair in the first place.
Either theory puts him in extremely bad light: He would have had to step down if it had been any Western country.
With Coalgate, it even gets murkier. It has been conclusively shown that many States and parties have been shortchanging the nation for years now. Again, many irregularities have come to light. If A Raja could quit because he headed the Telecom Ministry, why can’t the same yardstick be applied and the head of the Coal Ministry also be told to go?
That is one Ministry that Manmohan has headed in the past! It must be said that the mainstream media has been extremely kind to Manmohan, otherwise he just might have been hounded to quit in any other country.
There is also something called Thoriumgate of whose details we are still waiting. Interestingly, Manmohan is Atomic Energy Minister too.
What of the ISRO S-band scam? Even that is alleged to have involved the iconic lakh crore figure. More interestingly, Manmohan is Space Minister too.
Check out all the scams that have happened under Manmohan’s watch: Scorpene scam, Satyam scam, Aadhar scam, Tatra scam, Sukna scam, DIAL scam, highway scam … phew!
Choppergate is the latest to hit India. Now this involves national security, so how does the PMO stay out of this in terms of responsibility? The cash for votes scandal also has many many unanswered questions till date.
All of us have studied in school in our Civics class about the glorious collective responsibility of the government. How in heavens name does it not apply here? In the 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi was hounded like crazy for Bofors. How is Manmohan getting away with so many scams?
Another point to note is that the CBI is the key to investigate most of these scams. If they have made very little headway, then shouldn’t the overall head be blamed? Now who does the CBI report to? Why to Manmohan of course! And the CBI has been reporting to him for 9 years now! The CBI’s abject failures are actually Manmohan’s too.
When a team project fails miserably, then the team lead is axed. If a company fails consistently, the CEO is shown the door. But it seems that the CEO of India is the cleanest person on Earth despite so many scams flying thick and fast around him and absolutely no action should be taken against him!
There is also the fact that he lost the only Lok Sabha election he fought for and he has a Rajya Sabha ticket from Assam, a state that he does not hail from.
But despite everything, Manmohan continues to be an “honourable man”!
How the cleanest man around can produce the dirtiest government in India’s Independent history remains a political conundrum that will confound the sharpest of minds.
But one thing is clear. Manmohan has been the most ineffective administrator in stopping the flow of scams in India’s history. For that alone he should have resigned ages ago.
More From this Author:
Open letter to Rahul Gandhi
The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty: Fated to rule India
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/