Has India's government lost the plot on corruption?

Baba Ramdev Baba Ramdev has vowed to continue his fast

Has the Congress-led government of India lost the plot?

Going by the events of the past week, it would appear so.

First, in an act which many believe was one of embarrassing pusillanimity, it sent four of its most senior ministers to the airport to receive and talk with yoga guru Baba Ramdev when he arrived in Delhi to begin his anti-corruption hunger strike. Things fell apart quickly and soon, a senior Congress functionary was openly calling the yoga guru a "a thug". If they believe that, why negotiate with him in the first place?

When the negotiations failed, the government accused the guru of reneging on his promises. They then sent in the police in the middle of the night to break up the fast, baton charge and tear gas the assembled supporters and evict the guru from the capital.

In this spectacular tragicomedy the yoga guru tried to flee the ground where he was holding the fast dressed like a woman. But it is the government's credibility, which has become the biggest casualty.

For one, it is clear that most Indians don't believe that the government is serious about cracking down on graft. Talks with anti-corruption campaigners on drafting a strong ombudsman bill have reportedly run into difficulties with the government reluctant to include the prime minister's office under the purview of the law.

The recent highly publicised moves against corruption in India - the Commonwealth Games scam and the telecom licences scandal - have been all been prompted by a vigilant and increasingly exasperated Supreme Court, which has kept the investigative agencies on a tight leash. The government, most believe, has had little role to play here.

BJP leaders protest corruption Critics wonder why the BJP was silent about corruption when it was in power

While the Congress party has been making noises about its intent to combat graft, it has allowed Vilasrao Deshmukh, a minister who was found guilty by the Supreme Court of abusing his authority, to continue and even gave him a key promotion.

No wonder then that most Indians don't believe the Congress party is serious, particularly when it comes to its own people.

And when a government shows little resolve to declare a war on graft and pussyfoots on a strong ombudsman bill, anybody - from gurus to activists - can literally take on the government and be tempted to blackmail it. Meanwhile, many are puzzled that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, the country's two most powerful leaders, have not spoken out on the events of the weekend. Silence is not golden when it comes to placating an increasingly angry India.

At the same time, say independent analysts, the main opposition BJP has also not exactly covered itself with glory by backing Baba Ramdev and now holding protests against corruption. Commentators ask why the BJP government, which was in power for five years, did virtually nothing to act on graft. There are already allegations that the party has "outsourced" it protests to people like Baba Ramdev - who makes no bones about his Hindu nationalist leanings.

With both the ruling and the main opposition party shying away from their responsibilities, Indian democracy could be in peril.

Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh Prime Minister Singh (m) and Sonia Gandhi have been silent

Many ask whether the problem lies with India's politicians. Have they become lazy, content to reach out to people from the comfortable confines of TV news studios? Have they begun to lose touch with reality?

So what can be done now? One newspaper says that the government should immediately convene a special session of parliament and hold a thorough debate on corruption and the ombudsman bill.

The newspaper said the government had "ceded all debate" to street brawls. It is now time, the newspaper said, to return to the parliament for a considered debate on the subject. And if the Congress wants to stop its slide, it needs to show that it is serious about tackling graft. Agreeing to a strong, focussed ombudsman bill would possibly be a good beginning, many believe.

PS: PM Manmohan Singh finally spoke on the crackdown on Monday evening. "It is unfortunate that the operation had to be conducted, but quite honestly, there was no alternative," he said. The opposition demands nothing short of an apology in what is fast becoming an ugly, partisan political spat.

Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    "LOKPAL BILL" is an evolution in Democracy. The system of observation & checks, will bring in fear of being exposed & will deter the most from evil. The details once worked out will be the guide, to all, for fairness in Governance . The whole world will be grateful to Annaji for this intitiative. Mahan Bharat is the birthplace of this evolutionary, people's arm of righteous governance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Add your comment...Neta, Neta

    Yes Janata

    Eating Money?

    No Janata

    Telling Lies

    No Janata

    Open your mouth

    Ha ha ha

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Yes they have lost the plot indeed... India is in desperate need of a pragmatic leader who can make India achieve its deserved potential. This leader needs to come from a neutral ground neither BJP nor Congress

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    The hope that was India is now finito. India is going to collapse into a gigantic hole under the weight of its enormous population and its incessant corruption. The only Indian people to make it in the coming decades will be those outside India who are able to divorce themselves from their home country and its problems. A new India will eventually reemerge but for now all hope is on China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    india never lost the plot on corruption, it knows exactly where its happening and who. Always said that Dr Manmohan Singh is a puppet mask for congress' bad behaviour. he should ideally resign and live a happier life away from politics. Ramdev - please just retire to the forest where you belong and remember why you became a sadu, politics is not for you mate and lady's dress don't suit you!


Comments 5 of 202



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