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Disgraceful, insulting, unfortunate. Wow!

By A. Surya Prakash
Originally published on The Pioneer (Tuesday, August 21, 2012)

Driven by Sonia Gandhi, Congress MPs went on a rampage, slamming BJP veteran LK Advani for his remark on the ‘illegitimacy’ of the UPA regime. They convinced none with their ill-timed dramatics.

Last week, BJP stalwart LK Advani described the United Progressive Alliance Government as “illegitimate” in the context of the ‘cash for votes’ scandal of 2008, when an attempt was made to buy the loyalty of Opposition MPs during a trust vote in Parliament. Congress president Sonia Gandhi reacted wildly to the accusation, leading to much acrimony and adjournment of the House.

The House resumed its normal functioning after a break, but surprisingly Ms Gandhi’s parliamentary activism came as such a morale-booster for the Prime Minister that he lost all sense of proportion and haughtily declared that Mr Advani’s conduct was “disgraceful and unfortunate”.

Harsh words indeed, specially when it comes from a Prime Minister who has lost the moral authority to govern and who has no political legs to stand on, dependent as he is on the crutches lent to him by the family that controls the Congress. Harsh also for the reason that it is directed against a respected political leader whose sway over the electorate is a zillion times more than the man who heads the Union Government today.

‘Disgraceful’ has a whole range of meanings. It is unlikely that Mr Manmohan Singh would know all of them, because if he did, he would have been a little circumspect, given his own political circumstance and conduct as head of Government. For his benefit, here are a few of them: Deserving or bringing disgrace or shame (with reference to one’s character); conduct that bring dishonour, infamy; conduct that gives offence to moral sensibilities and that which is injurious to reputation; scandalous behaviour, behaviour that is contemptible, ignominious, opprobrious, detestable… One can go on and on, but this is enough for the issue at hand.

Since the expression used by the Prime Minister has all these terrible connotations, it is safe to say that no reasonable person who heard Mr Advani’s speech in the Lok Sabha that day would agree with Mr Singh. However, since Mr Singh has chosen to use the hatchet just to please his political masters, we need to see how “graceful” he has been since he took office in 2004.

First, his conduct vis-à-vis the Italian businessman, Ottavio Quattrocchi (Q for short), a friend of the Nehru-Gandhis. In the late 1990s, the Central Bureau of Investigation obtained conclusive proof that Q was paid US $7.343 million as commission by the Swedish arms manufacturer, Bofors, when we purchased field guns for our Army.

Bofors credited the money to Q’s account in Nordfinanz Bank, Zurich as soon as India paid the first tranche of 20 per cent of the contract value to the company. Q transferred this amount from one bank account to another. Eventually, the money landed up in an account in the UK. This was money which belonged to the people of India, meant for purchase of guns for our armed forces and Q had no legitimate right to a single penny. Therefore the Indian Government sent a Letter Rogatory to the British authorities requesting them to freeze Q’s Account. The British authorities acted swiftly and froze the account. All this happened when Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s National Democratic Alliance was in power. In 2004, the United Progressive Alliance won the Lok Sabha poll and Mr Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister. Soon thereafter, the mischief began. The Prime Minister furtively dispatched a senior law officer to London with a request that the UK Government defreeze Q’s bank account. Britain responded favourably to India’s request. The moment the order was issued, Q cleaned out this account and transferred the sum out of the UK. This way, Mr Manmohan Singh personally ensured that Q got away with the loot.

How shall we describe the conduct of the Prime Minister? Scandalous? Contemptible?

But the Quattrocchi saga does not end here. Even though Mr Singh had helped the Italian businessman lay his hands on the ill-gotten commission from Bofors, this khaas aadmi of the Nehru-Gandhis needed further help because he was still on the Interpol’s Wanted List and was an accused in the Bofors bribery case. Because of the Interpol alert, Q was nabbed by the Argentinian immigration authorities and jailed in that country. Argentina informed India of the arrest and asked for court orders to extradite him to India.

This was a fortuitous development because India had been on the look-out for Q ever since he stealthily exited from New Delhi in 1993. But, the Manmohan Singh Government kept all this under wraps for 17 days, misled even the Supreme Court and responded so lethargically that Argentina had no option but to release Q on bail. Thereafter, without batting an eyelid, Mr Singh directed the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is under his direct charge, to withdraw the case against Q. This was swiftly accomplished with the most cynical manipulation of the justice system, thus enabling Q to freely enjoy the booty.

How shall we describe this conduct of Mr Manmohan Singh? Deserving or bringing disgrace or shame? Opprobrious?

Apart from all this, Mr Singh is damaging institutions as well. The Prime Minister is unable to exercise his prerogative to appoint Ministers and allocate portfolios. Much of this responsibility has been outsourced by him to his party leader and the leaders of parties in the coalition. This way, just to cling to office, Mr Singh has stripped the office of Prime Minister of its core strength, which is guaranteed and mandated under Article 75(1) of the Constitution.

How shall we describe the conduct of the Prime Minister? Conduct that brings dishonour to his office?

Finally, a word about the scams. Throughout the phase when the 2G plunder was on, the Prime Minister was in the loop. But, he remained silent and allowed the then Telecom Minister to deprive the national exchequer of Rs 1.76 lakh crore. Similarly, he closed his eyes to the loot that took place in the name of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. We now hear from the Comptroller and Auditor-General that the national exchequer was cheated of Rs 1.86 lakh crore in the sale of coal blocks. The Coal Ministry was under Mr Manmohan Singh’s direct charge for much of this period. The auditors have detected fraud in contracts in the power and the civil aviation sectors as well. The total loss to the exchequer in just these three sectors during Mr Manmohan Singh’s stewardship of the government is approximately Rs 38,00,00,00,00,000.

How shall we describe the conduct of the Prime Minister who has presided over this humongous scam? Detestable? Ignominious?

Posted under category: GOVERNANCE


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