Saturday, January 01, 2011

No year is an island

Byline by M J Akbar: No year is an island

No year is an island. A sequence of events will always demand its consequence, without respect for something as transitory as a calendar. Neither time nor logic pauses on 31 December and takes a holiday on 1 January. Sleaze was the theme of 2010; it has already oozed into the building drama of 2011. The link is Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s brief statement on the eve of 2011: to “cleanse” governance. New Year resolutions, traditionally, are known to have a short life. If the Prime Minister thinks that this too is a promise designed for amnesia, then his government will have an equally short life. Indians are angry. So far this anger has not turned destructive. Beware the day it does.

The cynic has a right to ask: what was the Prime Minister doing for six years? He talks of cleansing the government, but who has been in charge of this government? Surely Dr Singh was not referring only to Opposition governments and handing out good character certificates to his own coalition? A revealing aspect of “sleaze 2010” is that the bulk of theft has taken place in Delhi, compared to which Mumbai and Bangalore are really small potatoes. Why did Dr Singh permit wholesale loot by UPA ministers? He has been in power from 2004; bandits became billionaires under his watch.

Dr Singh’s statement is a sort of confessional, but the Indian voter is not a Catholic priest, who will forgive colossal sin just because the penitent has bared his heart in confession. The voter wants accountability in political life, and has seen nothing but tokenism. The much-vaunted raids against scam-scarred politicians were little short of another scam, since the culprits have been given more than sufficient time to destroy the evidence and fudge the clues. “Let us,” says the Prime Minister, “dispel the air of despondency and cynicism.” But who and what is the source of the Indian’s despair? It is the Government of India that has made the Indian cynical.

This cynicism inevitably also became the prevailing mood in government. We watched, in 2010, a deeply fractured system turning upon itself. Some people at the highest levels of authority leaked what are now famous as the Niira Radia tapes because they could not stomach, anymore, the smug satisfaction on the faces of highway robbers. The Opposition had very little to do with any of the revelations that have shaken the Singh administration to the edge of instability. It was a wing of government that provided details of the colossal and wide-ranging malfeasance in the Commonwealth Games to the media. How can you read about the various levels of loot, from construction deals to toilet paper, and not become cynical? It was the vocal Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who halted the Lavasa township project despite the fact that Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is closely connected to Lavasa. Sharad Pawar has said publicly that Lavasa is close to his heart. His critics believe that Lavasa is close to his wallet as well. Once again, it was not the BJP or the Shiv Sena that put Lavasa at the centre of public discourse, but a UPA minister.

Dr Singh is sincere in his intentions; but is he capable of delivery? The people have had enough of good intentions. They want accountability and insurance against further loot. The contradictions in the Prime Minister’s stance are evident. When he waves his big stick, he must first strike against his own colleagues. Can he do that and hope to survive? He is, of course, trapped. His personal image has raised expectations which he has not been able to fulfil, at least as far as corruption is concerned. If he does not act, the last chance to save his reputation is gone. If he acts, his government could be in serious peril. There is sudden momentum in the drawing rooms of Delhi, as politicians discuss new options in an uncertain Parliament. The government has, foolishly, gifted a disunited Opposition the opportunity to unite over the demand for a joint parliamentary committee investigation. The JPC is slowly becoming a symbol of government’s evasion. It is not widely known that Dr Singh would have happily agreed to a JPC. He has been prevented by his party. In the process, the Congress has weakened its own Prime Minister and strengthened the Opposition.

The government should consider itself lucky that the people are only cynical. They are increasingly linking exorbitant inflation, which the government has been unable to curb, to corruption as well. What is mere cynicism and anger today could become rage tomorrow. Democracy has inbuilt valves for the release of rage, but it is unwise to test the tensile strength of these valves too often. If government behaves like an immovable object, the people will, sooner rather than later, turn into an irresistible force.


Anoop Verma said...

“If government behaves like an immovable object, the people will, sooner rather than later, turn into an irresistible force.”


Wow! Even by M J Akbar’s lofty standards, this is a great statement of Biblical significance, both literally and metaphorically. I hope our beloved leaders will pay heed to the underlying message of this excellent article.

The truth is that everyone admires the personal virtues Shri. Manmohan Singh. But we don’t like is onions at 60 rupees a Kilo, we don’t like tomatoes at 40 rupees a kilo, we don’t like the fact that the price of all essential commodities are at sky high levels, and we certainly don’t like the intense stench of corporation that is emanating from the corridors of power.

The middle class is the worst sufferer in this regime of ever-rising prices. What the government fails to understand is that that today majority of Indians look at themselves as middle class folks. No political party can afford to antagonise the middle class and get away with it.

cptrivedi said...

Respected Shri M.J. Akbar sahib,

No year is Iceland, in this reference no scam should be Iceland with change of the Govt. ? In India it is a common practise to capture the power with exploiting the scam through media to divert the public on their side. You have drawn the attention in its right perspective.
Supreme Court has pointed out 90% corruption in the country but I feel that the rest 10 % have been overshadowed by the 90 %, resulting into 100 % atmosphere of the corruption. You have rightly pointed out that Why did Dr Singh permit wholesale loot by UPA ministers? since the culprits have been given more than sufficient time to destroy the evidence and fudge the clues.

It has encouraged the level of corruption. Generally media with his influence high light the same. It is only to create political instability in the country.
The same type of plot was there against the clean image of late former P.M. Shri Rajeev Gandhi in Bofor’s scam to have political power with political instability. The political instability and mid term poll is became the joke?

The opposition is demanding JPC inquiry in the spectrum scam, the media is unknowingly a party with the influence of the fabricators of the scam? On the contrary the nation will be pushed in dark with political instability. How far the political parties will carry out the divide and fool policy on the name of reservation, secularism, and corruption, they can act only as tranquilizers for the poor public, others enjoy the fruit.
If we are serious about the corruption and scam, than why we are not demanding the political stability in the country?

Rahul said...

You are the last hope of concerned citizens of India to voice public opinion. Corruption has reached intolerable levels. I am a Dr Manmohan singh's supporter but believe that I dont care about his personal integrity and the fact that he is honest. If he is the captain of the team of cabinet minister, he in my opinion is CORRUPT. If you have saved your seat by compromising your values, dont tell me you are honest...Thanks for your continued integrity and pl do not take any call from certain Ms Radia.

Dinesh PC said...

Targically Mr Akbar doesn't fail to make the customary, adulatory remark on "Honest Singh" 's, well, 'personal honesty'.


Don't you think you are taking your readers to be a tad foolish too, Mr Akbar?

Cause if Mr Singh is indeed Honest, then in fact you imply that he is a poodle that just understands licking up to his master.

That is, perhaps, even worse for the new generation of confident, self-respecting, young Indians.

Manish said...

Since last 10 years Indians are facing one more British Rule .... Country is ruled by Indian Babu like Manmohan Singh and supervise by Sonia and company running parallel PM office . Thank god Cristal Corruption attempt of MR. Shahi Tharur was disclosed non other then Lalit Modi ( a Patriot) why he has not been treated as Tata , Mittal, Man who borught the glory to the Indian Crecket , Billion doller investment in Sport... I have no hasitation to support Modi who has create wealth and enjoy right to retain some wealth just like other business man.... but look at Shashi Taharur has no business to built but looking for free money to pleased his second... third... G F.. Congress , Sonia and now poster boy Rahul made Indian leadership a joke... We Indian must be lead by quality people proved their mettle before they lead not by tom dick harry... or wife son... please please its time to wake up don't be your country first even more then your God

satsingh said...

us din se daro jab magne wala cheen lega, vaar se ya hathyiar se