By accepting responsibility for the decision to appoint PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) following the apex court’s ruling that the appointment was illegal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has exhibited statesmanship of the highest order. In doing so, he has sent out a strong signal that if a mistake is made, it is best to admit it rather than hide behind bureaucratic notings. The PM has finally shown that the buck stops with him and that he, like any other citizen, had no hesitation in accepting the verdict of the highest court.
Equally commendable is the immediate response from the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, the shadow prime minister, that the matter should be closed and one must move on. Swaraj was also on the panel to appoint Thomas though she disagreed with both the prime minister and the home minister on the choice of the nominee. Her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, though wants some clarifications on the issue. Given the prime minister’s candid admission, the matter could blow over in Parliament.
However, the appointment has several lessons for the ruling party. In future, there should be proper scrutiny of every person nominated for a sensitive position, particularly the offices that directly deal with corruption. Singh’s admission of his mistake and his subsequent comment that the appointment was not a result of coalition compulsions indicate that Thomas was shortlisted by elements within his own party.
Singh, who was in the eye of a storm after expressing helplessness in dealing with some corruption issues at a press conference last month, has redeemed his image with this. He is also perhaps the first PM to accept a mistake upfront. He has tried to scotch speculation that since many decisions were taken elsewhere, his government could not be held accountable. He has shown that if there is a decision taken, even if at the behest of those in the party, the government will not shirk its responsibility for any error of judgement that it may make. It’s also an indication to the party that it shouldn’t push for issues or cases which may not stand up to judicial scrutiny.
The apex court has come out with flying colours by upholding the rule of law. In that context, the quashing of Thomas’s appointment must be seen as a victory for democracy rather than as a defeat for the government or a triumph for the opposition parties. There are certain issues where individual parties take secondary place since it’s democracy and our values which emerge stronger.
Singh’s action also proves that had
PV Narasimha Rao accepted his responsibility for the demolition of the Babri masjid, the plight of his party wouldn’t have been so dismal in the years that followed his exit from government. Mulayam Singh Yadav, by dissociating himself from Kalyan Singh after the 2009 parliamentary polls, also accepted his mistake in not putting his Samajwadi Party on a secular course. Similarly, Sonia Gandhi overturned the Congress thesis of going it alone in August 2003 to forge a coalition, which finally came to power in 2004. She realised that going it alone at that stage was a mistake and that the Congress had to reinvent itself in the coalition era. Her judgement yielded many political dividends for the party.
Politicians should not always have colossal egos. They must own up to their mistakes. They are not gods and should act with humility. While there could be many question marks regarding the future of the present government in view of several scams, it is heartening to note that the PM has realised that he is the last port of call. Between us.