Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2014 15:57:16 +0530
MANMOHAN SINGH - A MAN OF INTEGRITY
Since every opinion poll over the last 12 months has been predicting that the electorate will give the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) a sound thrashing in the Lok Sabha election in 2014, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s declaration that he will not be available for a third term is certain to be the new addition to the list of Manmohan Singh jokes. Mr.Singh’s belated announcement is so typical of him, as is his ability to keep a straight face and with a monotone, declare the obvious and deliver untruths and half-truths while doing so.
Mr.Singh entered office in 2004 with strong credentials as an eminent economist and as a man of integrity. But by the time be completed his first term in office, both these qualities had suffered erosion. Sadly, on January 3, 2014 when he finally announced his retirement, these credentials stood completely eroded. There is now an unbridgeable trust deficit between the prime minister and the people. Therefore, instead of sadness that the good Doctor is going to lay down office in May this year, there is worry that this event is still five months away!
Here are some events in Mr.Singh’s prime ministerial tenure which raise serious doubts about his integrity and his commitment to the oath he took when he entered office.
Appoint of Navin Chawla as Election Commissioner:
One of the first acts of Mr.Singh which smacked of brazen political considerations and betrayed gross contempt for public good was the appointment of Mr.Navin Chawla as Election Commissioner in 2005. Mr.Chawla was virtually declared a “tyrant’ who was “authoritarian and callous” by the Shah Commission which probed the excesses committed by the fascist regime of Indira Gandhi during the Emergency in 1975-77. The commission declared Mr.Chawla “unfit to hold any public office”. Mr.Singh overlooked such a strong indictment of this man apparently at the behest of his political boss, Ms.Sonia Gandhi because of Mr.Chawla’s proximity to the Gandhi family. This was the first act of Mr.Singh which raised doubts about his claims to being a `Man of integrity’. It also raised the question about his commitment to his oath of office. Is a prime minister who appoints a person so hopelessly unfit for public office and so completely devoid of democratic credentials as an Election Commissioner, loyal to the oath which says he will work “in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will’ ?
Appointment of P.J.Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner:
A three member committee comprising the Prime minister, Home minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha were to select the candidate for appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), who oversees investigation of top corruption cases in the country. Mr. P.J.Thomas, who was an accused in a corruption case pertaining to import of palmolein oil in Kerala was one of the persons short-listed for the job. Obviously acting on the orders of Ms.Sonia Gandhi, the Prime minister ganged up with the Home Minister, brushed aside the objections of the Leader of the Opposition and selected Mr.Thomas. No other prime minister has displayed such gross irresponsibility in making an appointment at that level. Later the Supreme Court threw Mr.Thomas out of office and while doing so virtually indicted the Prime Minister when it said it was the duty of the committee not to recommend a person “who can affect the institutional integrity of the CVC”. Did it need the Supreme Court to tell Mr.Singh something so basic while appointing the CVC? This was yet another instance when Mr.Singh’s claim to being a `Man of Integrity’, was seriously questioned.
Allowing Ottavio Quattrochchi to walk away with the Bofors loot :
The Central Bureau of Investigation obtained records which established that Ottavio Quattrochchi, the friend of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi had been paid a commission totaling U.S $ 7.3 million when we purchased field guns from Bofors for our army. This was Indian public money and it had no business to land up in Quattrochchi’s account. The Vajpayee Government got the British authorities to freeze this bank account. Instead of securing repatriation of this money, which belonged to the Indian public, Mr.Singh asked the British to unfreeze this bank account and allowed Quattrochchi to enjoy the loot. This act of his, done clearly at the behest of his political boss, Ms.Sonia Gandhi, constituted another betrayal of the trust of the Indian people and tarnished his claims to personal integrity.
Directing the CBI to withdraw the case against Quattrochchi:
After allowing Quattrochchi to lay his hands on this ill gotten wealth, Mr.Singh directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to withdraw the case against him. He also ensured Quattrochchi was not extradited to India from Argentina and even got the Interpol alert for the Italian cancelled. Yet, Mr.Singh believes that he is a `Man of integrity’.
At his press conference last week, Mr.Singh was asked about the Commonwealth Games Scam, the 2G Scam and Coalgate. He made the extraordinary claim that he was the one who insisted that spectrum allocation should be transparent, fair and equitable and that coal block allocations should be done through auctions. This is a classic example of the half-truths and untruths that Mr.Singh utters in order to cover up his actions which could actually place him in the list of accused in some of these corruption cases. If indeed he was the one who insisted that spectrum should be allocated in a transparent and equitable manner, why did he not do it? As prime minister he had the authority to stop the fraudulent and corrupt disbursal of spectrum by the Telecom Ministry. Similarly, in coal block allocations, if he felt they ought to be done through auctions, why did he not do it, specially when he was not only the prime minister but also the Coal Minister when the scandalous allotments were made?
By all indications, India will have a new non-Congress government after May, 2014. The first act of that government should be to rip the mask of integrity that Mr.Singh has been wearing all these years and to examine whether his name should figure in the 2G and Coalgate FIRs. The new government must also initiate action to recover from him U.S $ 7.3 million, which he gifted away to Quattrochchi and set new standards of accountability for our prime ministers.