The possibility of a mid-term poll may arise if the Congress-led UPA government is unable to take stringent measures against those involved in large- scale corruption not only in the 2G scam but also in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games and the Adarsh Housing scandal in Mumbai. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday that the guilty will not be spared. The assurance will only hold good if some concrete action is seen on the ground.
The credibility of the government is at its lowest and unless the PM is allowed to set things right by all the constituents of the UPA including his party, things may spin out of control. The perception that exists today is that this is the most corrupt government in history and there are only a handful of leaders who could be described as honest. The hope for the government lies in the fact that Singh is among those who are considered honest but his inaction on several issues is often attributed to those who control the party's affairs.
It is a crisis that has several dimensions. One is that the Opposition wants the government to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the spectrum scam. The second is that there is some power play going on within the Congress where some leaders with unfulfilled political ambitions see it as an opportunity to change the leadership in the government. They are prolonging the crisis.
The third is that there is a nexus among corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists and vested interests are coming in the way of a thorough probe. The fourth is that the Opposition, particularly the BJP, is not prepared for a mid-term election and hence there is no move to initiate a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha on the issue of corruption. Some in the BJP feel that the issue will shift to numbers and move away from corruption if a no-confidence motion is allowed.
But it's also commonly felt that a no- confidence motion could put the fear of God into the government and even if it survives, it will have to take strong action against the guilty.
The issue has also affected the standing of politicians as a whole and they are being seen as symbols of corruption. The Congress hasn't been able to come out unscathed and there is no dearth of people who feel that unless the party was involved in the 2G scam, so much money couldn't have been made. It is the Congress alone with its experience that has the strongest digestive system to absorb huge amounts of money and the DMK would have settled for a far lesser amount, it's being argued.
If the government and the party have to face the challenge and come out of it, the PM must be fully empowered to deal with various aspects of the issue. The time has come to settle once and for all that the buck stops at the prime minister's doorstep. For that to happen, all the constituents of the UPA must stop putting pressure on him and allow him to take his own decisions and run the government the way he wants to. The PM must also take a leaf from Indira Gandhi's experience in dealing with corrupt and irrelevant politicians in 1969, which led to a split in the Congress and empowered the office of the prime minister. However, unlike 1969, it's not the vested interests only within the Congress that have to be dealt with but also within the UPA that looks like the Grand Alliance of the 1971 elections at the moment.
Manmohan Singh has started well by putting Kapil Sibal in charge of the telecom ministry. He must snatch the moment to clean the stables and convince his party that his actions are in the interests of the country first and also the party. If that does not happen, this government's place in history will only be for all the wrong reasons. Between us.