Getting murkier

Getting murkier

Team Anna has raised the stakes in its fight against corruption. It has brought prime minister Manmohan Singh within the ambit of its anti-corruption campaign.

It has come up with a 79-page case sheet naming the prime minister, twelve of his senior Cabinet ministers and two ministers of state for alleged abuse of their official positions which, according to the Team, invite action against them under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

As such, the Team hasn’t made any allegation against any minister, including the prime minister, which is not already in public domain. In the prime minister’s case, the allegations pertain to the period when he was overseeing the portfolio of coal. Most of the issues of abuse of power raised have either been raised by the media or have been part of the observations by bodies like the Comptroller and Auditor General or the Lokayukta. From time to time, many of the issues mentioned in the Team’s case sheet have also been raised in Parliament. Is it then a case of ‘old wine in a new bottle?’

In this country, however, it is not often that the needle of suspicion is pointed at the prime minister directly. Team Anna has done precisely that by referring in detail to some leaked portions of a draft CAG report wherein the prime minister’s decisions regarding allotment of coal blocs through a non-competitive bidding method to private parties have apparently been questioned.

There is no doubt about the ruling UPA’s contempt for Team Anna. It is therefore, naïve to expect that it will oblige it by ordering a special investigation team inquiry against the prime minister and the 14 other ministers. The prime minister himself gave ample indication of this when he described the allegations as “irresponsible” and “made without confirming the facts.”

Since there is no Lokpal institution yet at the national level, these allegations may never be probed, unless Team Anna takes its case against the prime minister and the other ministers to the courts. For now, therefore, case sheet against them will at best remain part of the Team’s anti-corruption public campaign against the UPA.

Much as the UPA would be well-advised to avoid such a campaign, it may end up facing it in view of its pronounced reluctance to oblige Team Anna’s demand for a probe. But there is no doubt that the national political landscape will get murkier and more vitiated, in the process.

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