Wikileaks revelations not flattering but nebulous

March 22nd, 2011 - 4:33 pm ICT by ANI  

Manmohan Singh By B. I. Saini

New Delhi, Mar 22 (ANI): The latest WikiLeaks revelations, accessed and published in the Hindu, paint a none too flattering picture of Indian polity. The Congress, the leading light of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, UPA, is shown to be not above resorting to questionable means to ensure its survival while the principal opposition party, the BJP, comes out in the revelations as not averse to putting party considerations above national interest.

Unlike in the case of the 2G spectrum scam, where he initially did not react to the matter, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh this time categorically denied that either his Government or the Congress Party gave any bribes to ensure its survival in the July 2008 trust vote. In identical statements made in both Houses of Parliament, he said that the Government and the ruling coalition had nothing to do with the alleged cash for votes matter.

Despite Dr. Manmohan Singh’s coming out with a clear cut statement, it is clear that the re-emergence of the cash for votes scam last week could not have come at a worse time for the Congress. Just after buying peace with the Opposition on the 2G spectrum scandal by conceding the demand for setting up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), the Congress is now facing a resurgent Opposition demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself.

After tasting blood during the Winter Session of Parliament, resulting in its almost complete wash out, the BJP and the Left parties appear to be determined to turn the heat on the UPA during the remainder of the Budget Session, truncated because of the Assembly elections in the four States of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

The Assembly elections are crucial as the Congress is looking at them as an opportunity to turn the tables on the Opposition, which has been baying for its blood by focusing on the scams after scams, which have been plaguing the UPA in its second re-incarnation. The BJP may not have much stake in the States going to the polls except for Assam, but a setback for the Congress will enable the BJP and the Left parties to step up their onslaught on the Congress on the issue of corruption.

Just like the 2G spectrum allocation issue, the cash for votes scandal had its origin in the last phase of the first Manmohan Singh Government. UPA-I was deserted by the Left parties, which had earlier been supporting the Government from outside, on the issue of going forward with the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. The Left parties as well as the BJP opposed the deal on the ground that it was against national interest and involved toeing the US line on global issues.

Even at that time, there were allegations that the Manmohan Singh Government resorted to questionable means to ensure its survival in the July 22, 2008 trust vote. The BJP even produced in the Lok Sabha currency notes of about Rs. 1 crore allegedly given to a group of its Members of Parliament to persuade them to either abstain or vote for the Government on the trust vote. The Manmohan Singh Government ultimately won the vote of confidence by a narrow margin.

Many of the revelations in the WikiLeaks cables published in the Hindu are nebulous and are in the nature of third or fourth party evidence which would not be admissible in a court of law. The cables from the American Embassy in New Delhi to the State Department in Washington refer to a low level official from the mission being shown two chests allegedly containing cash by a person said to be an aide of Congress leader Satish Sharma, who is known to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi family, especially Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Satish Sharma as well as some of those who are alleged to have received the bribes have denied the allegations.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done the right thing this time by coming forward to deny the cash for votes allegation right in the initial stages of the controversy. But the denial may not cut much ice with the opposition and the public after the ‘benign tolerance’ allegedly displayed by Dr. Manmohan Singh in dealing with corruption and wrongdoing by his ministerial colleagues in the 2G spectrum and other scams which have been coming to light one after the other.

UPA-II and especially Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have lost credibility so far as the issue of taking action against the corrupt is concerned. With the Government failing to take effective action against corrupt elements, the Supreme Court has had to step in time and again to ensure that at least the basic norms of a democratic set up are adhered to.

The UPA would have been in much greater difficulty over the cash for votes scam, but for the BJP also being on the defensive because of the revelation in the WikiLeaks cables that its opposition to the Indo-US civil nuclear deal was just on account of party considerations. The cables show that its leaders assured US Embassy functionaries that the party had no real problem with the nuclear deal.

But nonetheless, the Congress may have a tough time ahead over the cash for votes scandal. With the Congress on the defensive, its allies within and outside the UPA are assertive and waiting for an opportunity to bring down the party a notch or two from its high pedestal. This is apparent from the scenario in West Bengal where Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has come out with its list of candidates in the Assembly elections without reaching an agreement with the Congress, its ally in the UPA.

Despite the difficulties it is facing, the BJP, looking for an opportunity to keep up the attack on the Congress, finds the re-emergence of the cash for votes scandal a God sent opportunity to dent the Congress imagine further. The Left parties on their part are all set to use the scam to put up a determined fight to reverse the downturn in their fortunes in poll-bound West Bengal and Kerala.

What the Congress needs to do is to come out with out- of- the- box ideas to beat back the Opposition challenge arising from its loss of credibility in tackling corruption. It is a desperate situation and requires desperate remedies. Perhaps a dose of spring cleaning and effective action against corrupt elements and those tolerating them will do the trick.

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of the author B.I.Saini. (ANI)

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