A YEAR OF STINKING SCAMS

December 11, 2010

The cover story of the latest Outlook (Dec. 13, 2010) carries the bold caption CONGRESS CRISIS. Below the caption are two pictures- of Sonia ji and Rahul Gandhi. A top corner of the cover bears a photograph of the much talked about lobbyist, Nira Radia.

 

A sub-caption to the main heading reads:

A Parliament impasse. An election defeat. Rebellion in the ranks. The stench of corruption. Can the Congress dig itself out of the hole before the 2014 polls ?

***

The year 2009 was for the Congress party a year of triumph. The 14th Lok Sabha elections victory was for them a surprise win. But with this second consecutive victory they were on cloud nine.

 

The year 2010 is now about to end. If at the close of last year the ruling party was soaring sky high, today they are literally in the dumps. 2010 will always be remembered as the Year of Stinking Scams !

***

 Last week in Parliament’s Central Hall I ran into several MPs who kept commenting on the serious crisis Government was facing, and in an anxious tone ask me: is another election imminent? My answer was, “Government no doubt is in a bad shape, Congressmen are extremely depressed and disheartened, But that does not mean that the government would call for elections. Only when in the course of my interaction with some ministers I heard them suggesting that to resolve the parliamentary impasse, government may even think of dissolution of the Lok Sabha, that I realized why MPs had become panicky about the possibility of elections. 

 

No government chooses to go in for an early election unless it is confident of victory. U.P.A.’s stocks have never before been as low as they are today. The talk of dissolution was intended to frighten MPs. All opposition MPs Left, Right and Centre− had become a solid phalanx in support of the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee.

***

Ravindra Kumar, Editor Statesman, has last month (November 10) written a scathing article on the recent scams titled “Rotting from the head.”

 

The first two paragraphs of the article, given below, sums up how outraged he feels about what has been going on:

 

“There is an overpowering simplicity to the scams that surround this Congress-led government. Projects and plans are, it seems, created and implemented with the primary intention of gathering loot. If some benefit accrues to ordinary citizens from governmental initiative, it seems incidental. And if this is the case, the duo of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh would appear to have charted a new course in the admittedly murky waters they took charge of six years ago.

 

Let’s consider the facts. Sufficient evidence surfaced a year ago to suggest the involvement of the Telecom Minister, A Raja, in the 2G spectrum scam. Taped conversations didn’t reveal just a smoking gun; they established a gigantic fraud perpetrated on the state by political and corporate players.”

 

The Fourteenth Lok Sabha polls were ordinarily due in September 2004. But in October 2003, elections held in three major states, -Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, till then comfortably held by the Congress- gave us impressive victories. It is these results that prompted the NDA to think in terms of advancing the Parliamentary polls.

 

After discussing the issue first within the BJP, next within the NDA, then with some of our other allies like the TDP, Prime Minister Vajpayee decided in early 2004 to recommend dissolution of the Lok Sabha, and fresh elections.

 

The political mood in the country seemed very positive in favour of the NDA. Vajpayee’s own popularity was at its peak. The economy was on the upswing. When NDA’s Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha had spoken about a GDP target of eight percent growth, Soniaji had tauntingly dismissed it as ‘Mungeri Lal ke Haseen sapne’ (pipe dreams of Mungeri Lal)! But true to NDA’s promise India’s GDP Growth in the second quarter of 2003 was recorded at 8.4 percent. The fruits of several pioneering initiatives such as construction of a nationwide network of world-class highways, were becoming visible and fetching rich encomiums for the NDA. Because of the remarkable progress made in the information technology sector, India was being lauded around the globe as on way to becoming a ‘software super power’.

 

I hold that we lost the 2004 polls mainly because of overconfidence and consequent complacency. Also during those six years in office our organisational network had become loose. Considered statewise, the worst affected from this angle was the largest state of the country, Uttar Pradesh, a state in which we fared poorly both in 2004 as well as 2009.

 

When some time back, Shri Nitin Gadkari assumed steward-ship of the party, one of his early statements spoke regretfully about colleagues who had contributed greatly to building up the party, but who shortly before his coming on the scene had parted company. He spoke to me and said it was desirable to bring them back. He specifically discussed with me two names– of Jaswant Singh ji and the second of Umashri Bharati. I spoke to Jaswant Singh ji, and he is back in the party, as active as ever.

 

Nitin ji himself talked to Uma ji. Uma ji spoke to me, and on my advice, agreed that she would concentrate hereafter on strengthening the party unit in Uttar Pradesh, which as I have mentioned earlier had become greatly enfeebled. She said she would like to contest also from Uttar Pradesh. But she has sought some time from the Party President before plunging headlong into the fray.

* * *

I was first elected to Parliament in 1970. But as a journalist I have been a  close observer of Parliament’s functioning since 1957, the year I was asked by Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya to shift from Rajasthan to Delhi to assist Atalji in his parliamentary work.

 

I remember how in those early years, the strongest form of parliamentary protest against Government’s actions or utterances used to be a walk out. Things have changed radically since the seventies. A really vigorous protest has come to mean disruption of the House’s proceedings. Often, according to the media, a walk out may be described as a “tame’’ protest.

 

But if a protest of this kind went on for several days, public pressure would start mounting on the protesters to let the House run normally. And such pressure would always force the opposition to withdraw its protest, even if the Government had been unreasonable on an issue. 

* * *

In the history of the Indian Parliament, this year’s Winter Session has been a total wash out.

 

Question Hour was held normally on the first day, but when the Opposition sought to raise thereafter the issue of the three scams− the Spectrum Scam, Commonwealth Games Scam, and the Mumbai Housing Scam, the entire Congress Party was on its feet and shouted down opposition members including the leader of the Opposition.

 

It is thus the Congress Party’s protest against the Opposition’s demand that the scams be probed which triggered the disruption process. That has continued day after day. Periodically, members have been hearing reports sometime from Ministers who are expected to know, that a Joint Parliamentary Committee is about to be announced. But the last day of the session has arrived and this has not happened.

 

No J.P.C., daily declares the Ruling Party!           

No J.P.C., no Session, daily declares the Opposition!

 

What has been really surprising for us is the fact that from both the people as well as the media the pressure this time has been: Let not the Opposition relent, government is in a tight spot; don’t let them off the hook !

 

 

L.K. Advani

New Delhi

11 December 2010

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