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Tainted leaders back on political stage
Induction of tainted leaders in House panels may sound the death knell for the UPA government
By Sunita Vakil
Yet once again, the Congress led UPA government has strirred the hornet’s nest. If the government thought it was sending politically correct messages to the public by rehabilitating tainted party leaders, the facts tell an altogether different story. By appointing A. Raja, Kanimozhi and Suresh Kalmadi- accused in the 2G and Commonwealth Games scam– as members of Parliamentary Standing Committees on Energy, Home Affairs and External Affairs, the UPA government has indeed sent a clear signal that it is not serious about tackling corruption.

By nominating MPs involved in scams to plum posts, the UPA government has set a bad precedent. Undoubtedly it is a wrong signal to the public and is bound to backfire. It seems that the ruling party has now embarked on a stupid suicidal phase with its arrogance and unpopular decision making to convince alliance partners.

The latest move by the UPA government is more amusing than shocking. All the three MPs have criminal cases pending against them although they are yet to be proved guilty of corruption. The trio spent time in prison on corruption related charges before being bailed and are awaiting trial. Mr. Kalmadi, an accused in Common Wealth Games scam has been appointed to Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. Mr. A Raja, a former Telecom Minister and member of DMK has been given a place on an Energy Committee. He was arrested last February in connection with alleged rigging of Spectrum licensing in 2008. That’s not all. M. Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK Chief Karunanidhi, an accused in the 2G case, has been nominated to Parliamentary panel on Home Affairs.

The decision to make such tainted leaders members of the parliamentary panels has raised serious questions over the government’s propriety, ethics and morality. It almost seems that in the UPA government to have criminal cases pending against them is a valuable qualification for these MPs which will be considered for their inclusion in Parliamentary Committees. The reason for such a blatant action is not far to seek. The government is in desperate need to keep its Southern ally in good humour for its own survival. But the move will eventually prove counter productive.

While it is true that a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. But even though the charges against these Congress leaders have not been proved yet their inclusion in panels to devise policies for good governance has raised serious questions about the government.

Surely, getting bail is not tantamount to getting exonerated.As we all know, Suresh Kalmadi was suspended. Then how come he was offered a high profile Parliamentary role? Indeed, the reinstatement of these scamsters in responsible and coveted positions is a direct insult to the judiciary which punished them for gross misdemeanor and a challenge to the common man.

It is indeed disgusting to see the government rejecting the anti-corruption mood across the nation by defending such dubious political ethics which give a fillip to the culture of patronizing corruption.

By promoting corruption as well as the corrupt on the plea that MPs have a right to be part of committees, the Congress has displayed its utter disregard for ethical values in public life Congress spokesman Mr. Chacko’s statement that it is simply a privilege of every MP to be a member of some Parliamentary committee and that the party has no role in it is also highly irresponsible. What message is Congress-led UPA sending to the nation? That it is okay to be corrupt as long as charges are not brought forward? Shouldn’t the government have dissuaded these leaders, who are yet to be absolved of charges against them, to stay out of important House panels? Does it face a shortage of members to fill its Committees? It might have been wiser for the government to have distanced itself from people who face allegations of corruption.But the very fact that UPA has elevated the accused to plum posts clearly indicates that it has no respect for public opinion. That the three MPs have agreed to be on the committees before clearing their names is worse.

While the Congress saw nothing wrong in the controversial nominations, the same drew flak from the BJP which said it showed the Congress-led UPA was not serious about fighting corruption. In fact, the move has been slammed by the BJP. “It is a standard joke. The UPA government is acting as a protector of corrupt. The Congress is not serious about fighting corruption”, a BJP leader is reported to have said.

Amid all this, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s leadership has come under a cloud especially with questions having been raised over rampant corruption the party has spawned in high places. Some recent events have ruthlessly exposed the hollowness of UPA’s claim to check corruption that has spread to every nook and corner of the country.

The arrest and incarceration of Kalmadi and his associates as well as Kanimozi and her associates notwithstanding, the shameful manner in which they traumatized popular sentiments speaks volumes about the intentions of the party stalwarts on fighting corruption. Beleaguered by a multitude of corruption scandals, the UPA government has earned the reputation for being the most corrupt dispensation independent India has seen. And rightly so.

Those guilty of plundering the nation have been afforted full protection by the Congress led ruling party. The manner in which the UPA has been protecting its parteners in loot, leaders of DMK, the SP and the BSP, from prosecution on long pending charges blows huge holes in its claims of “fighting corruption being its top priority”. The party’s tolerance for corruption is badly out of sync with the standards of governance that India today expects from its government. It is clear that the Congress favours carrot and stick policy managing the uproar around corruption with placating, vaciltating and punishing. Linked to this is the Congress’s arrogance and its criminal indifference to political disquiet simply because it seems to be drunk on power. For the same reason it has elected to become one with the hooligans who perpetrate the party ranks.

Obviously, the comman man feels that he has been cheated and the trust he had reposed in his elected representatives has been completely betrayed. That is why people have now literally come out on the streets to express their anger. This has also given public figures like Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare the opportunity to mobilise large sections of society on the basis of the anticorruption agenda which has caught the nation’s attention in a big way.

Not only does the Congress look hopelessly out of sync with the realities faced by the common man, its record of governance has also been far from inspiring. Besides, the recent spate of megascams and the party’s inability to rein in corruption has done immense damage to its image. But there is still however a chance for the government to salvage this situation. With still some time left in the UPA’s second term in office, the coalition indeed has much to accomplish if it is to go back to the electorate with confidence . There is a dire need for corruption to be reined in and accountability to be sharpened at various levels. The economic reforms too require a much needed impetus. Of course, taking the lead by withdrawing the tainted members from the House panel would be a test of the government’s intent. It would be apt to use the words of Daniel O’ Connel “nothing is politically right which is morally wrong.” The Congress has to get its plot back especially when it is facing probems on many fronts.

The writer is a Delhi based senior journalist and can be reached at:
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News Updated at : Thursday, October 11, 2012
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