Acting blind

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that he is ‘dead serious’ about tackling corruption and “bringing to book all wrongdoers regardless of the position they may occupy” rings completely hollow. Had he in his interaction with the media on Wednesday at least conceded that the underpricing of 2G spectrum involved corruption and the government was determined to set it right, one could have hoped that he had taken the issue seriously. Sadly and shamefully, he did not. He chose to liken the underpriced sale to subsidies given for food and water. If the prime minister is unwilling to even describe a scam as a scam, what action can we expect from his government against those engaged in the brazen looting of public money? Evidently, nothing.

The Congress leaders have blamed the soft handling of Raja on the compulsions of coalition politics. This was a claim Singh reiterated on Wednesday. A fortnight ago telecom minister Kapil Sibal claimed that the government had incurred ‘zero loss’ from the 2G scale. The prime minister took this whitewashing further by giving the multi-crore spectrum scam the respectable gloss of a ‘subsidy.’ The interaction was an opportunity for the  prime minister to tell the nation that he was equally concerned with various cases of corruption and his government would take every possible step to punish the guilty. Instead, he engaged in obfuscation of the truth. He chided the media for creating the image of ‘scam-driven country’, conveniently ignoring that it is his indulgence of corrupt ministers that has resulted in scams on a scale not seen before. Singh is widely regarded as a clean leader. But by allowing others to loot the national exchequer, the prime minister has failed in his main responsibility of providing clean and good governance.

The prime minister clearly dented his own image by claiming that  the question of spectrum allocation “was never discussed with me.” By making such a statement, if he thought he can distance himself from the scam, he is sadly mistaken. A mere Cabinet minister being allowed to take such a major decision involving huge financial implications without his knowledge, amounts to dereliction of duty cast on him as the prime minister. He can now salvage his reputation and that of his government only by prosecuting the guilty expeditiously and putting systems in place so that no individual minister or his backers can indulge in day-light robbery and get away with it.

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