Date: 07 Jan 2011


Thu, Jan 06, 2011 | Updated 04.51AM IST\\\\\\\\\\ 4 JAN, 2011, 02.41AM IST, RAGHU KRISHNAN, \\\\\\\\\\ Why double standards for PMs? \\\\\\\\ India's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) can be court-martialled for dereliction of duty if he fails to take action for a year even when he realises that one of his corps commanders has been deliberately undermining preparedness in a vital sector. The COAS cannot claim that he himself was not involved in any hanky-panky and should, therefore, be considered a role model! \\\\\\\\\\ The argument is obvious even to those who are not conversant with military affairs. The COAS is accountable for the functioning of the entire army. It is a tradition that is engrained in his psyche. All commissioned army officers study at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, where, engraved at the entrance to Chetwode Hall - named after the then-commander-in-chief who inaugurated the IMA on December 10, 1932 - are the words, \\\\\\\\\\ "The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. \\\\\\\\\ The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come second, always and every time. \\\\\\\\\\ Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time." \\\\\\\\\ The words, from the speech Chetwode delivered while inaugurating the IMA 78 years ago, have inspired generations of officer-cadets who have passed out of the IMA, one of them being 21-year-old Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal who was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra for gallantry beyond the call of duty on December 16, 1971, when he single-handedly destroyed five hostile tanks in the Battle of Basanter on the western front and perished in a burning tank that he refused to leave since the enemy offensive was still on. \\\\\\\\\\\ We are repeatedly told by spokespersons of the country's ruling party that Manmohan Singh's integrity is above question. It is obviously not Manmohan Singh's individual integrity that is being questioned, but his professional functioning as the Prime Minister! \\\\\\\\\\ If the PM takes a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, his failure to act against a telecom minister who was perpetrating a major scam is a gross dereliction of duty! If, God forbid, there is a war tomorrow, it is the PM as the head of the national government who will be asking soldiers to protect the country and people even if it means sacrificing their lives. \\\\\\\\\\\ This is not a hypothetical situation. Thousands of soldiers have sacrificed their lives for the country, a recent instance being 26/11 when Major Sanjith Unnikrishnan was killed while trying to stop cross-border terrorists who were butchering people in Mumbai's Taj and Trident hotels and on the platform of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. \\\\\\\\\\\\ If a soldier can give his life for the country, it is surely not asking for too much to expect the Prime Minister of India - who sends soldiers to fight a war - to not shy away from taking uncomfortable decisions like immediately sacking a corrupt minister and then invoking the full force of the law against him. \\\\\\\\\\ And yet, Raja continued for almost a year as telecom minister even after the 1,76,000-crore scam was being unravelled by the media and by vigilant opposition MPs like Sitaram Yechury who submitted a detailed report on the mantri's deeds to the prime minister's office. Action is now being taken only after the CBI investigation is being monitored by the Supreme Court . \\\\\\\\\\\\\ The PM's prolonged failure to act is being attributed to realpolitik and coalition dharma by not just ruling party spokespersons but by the Nobel economics laureate Amartya Sen. \\\\\\\\\\\ When a soldier steps forward to defend the country, there are no guarantees even for his life. So, why should the nation's leader - who takes the final decision on whether soldiers should fight a war - hesitate to crack down on a major scam merely because it could affect the stability of the coalition he is heading? \\\\\\\\\\ Or, are we saying that the cut-off point for cracking down on a scam perpetrated by a national minister in a coalition government is not 1,76,000 crore but 2,00,000 crore! Leadership is not defined by clinging on to power at any cost. \\\\\\\\\\ The PM is primarily accountable not to the party supremo who appointed him or to the leaders of the alliance partners, but to the people of the country whose Constitution he has sworn to preserve, protect and defend. A PM who protects the national interest despite attempts to pressurise him can go on to win the trust of the people before, during and after an election. \\\\\\\\\\\\\ Unlike soldiers who risk their lives, politicians have far less to lose by taking hard decisions. By doing the right thing at the right time, politicians can retain their honour and leave an untarnished legacy for posterity. \\\\\\\\\\\\ Maybe all PMs should periodically visit the Khetarpal Auditorium at the IMA or the Khetarpal Parade Ground at the National Defence Academy to understand what service to the country is all about! 000000000