The UPA clearly has run out of luck, even the right talking points, to withstand the tsunami of corruption charges that could rob it further of the popular esteem so essential for governing with conviction and authority.
The CAG reports on the power, coal and aviation sectors couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for the battered coalition. Its damning findings have lent ammunition to the Opposition’s fire and that of civil society groups which lately shed pretence of political neutrality to directly gun for the Congress and its top leadership.
The PM’s stewardship of the coal ministry when the so-called coalgate took roots has placed him in the middle of the building maelstrom. He may not be accountable for the alleged astronomical losses to the exchequer. But he’s responsible for the omissions, insisted the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley while asking Manmohan Singh to quit on moral grounds.
The CAG’s calculation of losses might be notional, even exaggerated. The auditor could also have transcended its mandate in dissecting policy the making of which is squarely in the domain of the executive. But the government’s averments on these lines are likely to get drowned in the anti-graft din.
Popular imagination ignited by civil society activists in recent months appeared ebbing out in the latest round of protests by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. But the CAG’s fresh exposes could infuse new life in movements predicated on the 2G scam and the CWG sleaze.
Ongoing monsoon session might well be a washout if the Opposition retains its aggression. If it eventually lets the House function, it wouldn’t let go of the issue in polls scheduled later this year in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh besides three north-eastern states. The Congress will be hard put to smother in poll-bound Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland the ripple effect of mishandling of ethnic violence in Assam. Panic stricken north-easterners who returned home from Bangalore and Chennai could well prove to be the Congress's worst detractors.
In any impending election scenario, it wouldn’t be easy for the UPA to live down the charge of facilitating windfall gains for corporate houses in allocation of coal blocks and land for the construction of the new international airport in Delhi. The BJP will use it to the hilt to debunk the Congress’s Aam Aadmi pitch at a time when low economic growth, poor job generation and inflation are issues as formidable as rampant corruption.
The very tangible crisis of confidence has severely limited the Congress’s political options, one among them being a major overhaul of the government and the party. About time the country's oldest party let its second line take the front seats.