Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is Congress courting disaster?

It looks like the planetary position is not favourable to the Congress these days. Its decision-makers are getting bad advice and their moves are alienating public opinion. At this rate disaster may befall the party and catch its eyeless leaders by surprise.

Two decisions in particular are astonishingly dumb: the ones regarding the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Commonwealth Games fuhrer. As a man against whom a case was pending, P.J. Thomas should never have been appointed CVC in the first place. That’s commonsense because a Vigilance Commissioner should be not only impeccably clean but seen to be so. So why was he appointed? Was he deliberately planted there to serve some secret purpose?

That suspicion was strengthened when the Government took the decision to brazen out a Supreme Court snub Actually, the Court merely asked what every citizen was asking: How could a CVC under a CBI inquiry oversea spectrum corruption inquiries? A self-respecting CVC would have stepped down immediately. A Government leadership that respects public opinion would have encouraged him to go.

Instead, the Government saw to it that the CVC merely “recused” himself from supervising the 2G spectrum inquiry while he retained his post and stayed in his chair. What was the need to perform this circus act? There could only be two reasons. One, the Government was unable to find a single unblemished citizen in our country to fill the CVC post. Two, the Government had something to hide by retaining a tainted man distrusted by the public. By this act the Government itself lost the last shreds of people’s trust in its bonafides.

The Government’s loss of credibility was greater in the Kalmadi case. As the Commonwealth Games concluded, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi realised that Kalmadi was a widely hated figure: they ignored him at public functions and kept him out as they mixed with the medal winners. Why was this realisation not reflected in governmental action? Why was he removed only from a meaningless party post when, in fact, his position in sports organisations was what brought disgrace to the country and therefore those were the posts from which he should have been removed?

Indians squirmed as they watched this detested Indian gallivanting in Guangchow and Monaco and then walking into Parliament House as if he was the darling of the people. His aides were raided and arrested, all of them squealed on him, yet all that we had for too long a time was that the CBI was tightening its noose on him and that he would be nabbed soon. Maybe, but the rope he was given was so long that suspicions spread among the people. Was Kalmadi, like A. Raja, sharing his pickings with people high above?

Similar questions rise in older cases too. Why was Vilasrao Deshmukh, removed from chief ministership because of his insensitive handling of the Mumbai terror attack, accommodated straightaway in the Union Cabinet? Why is Ashok Chavan, in whose watch deplorable acts of omission and commission rocked Mumbai, still a visible presence in Congress leadership circles? For that matter, why was Buta Singh, forced to leave Bihar Governorship in ignominy, made Chairman of the Scheduled Castes/Tribes Commission where too he got involved in disgraceful corruption cases? Why is the other inexcusable gubernatorial offender, Syed Sibley Razi, still in office? He was at the centre of land scams in Jharkhand and his handpicked special-duty staff were raided and arrested, but he himself was only transferred to Assam where he could plunder pastures new.

The Congress leadership desists from punishing the crooks in its ranks. From Bofors days, it has shown a tendency to defend the indefensible. It should not forget what happened when it ignored public opinion, ignored even commonsense, and went on justifying Bofors. That one case of corruption was the reason why Congress was defeated in the 1989 election. There are many cases of corruption round its neck today. And the next election is not too far away.