As August 15 looms into the calendar for the 64th time since Independence, it would be an understatement to say that the nation is passing through an extraordinary phase. All the usual stories of poverty, death, disease, despair, homelessness, malnutrition, exploitation, inequity, inequality, inflation, etc, still populate our front pages as they faithfully have for 63 independence days before.
But you can hear the faint rumblings of something more seismic.
An avalanche of corruption has rumbled across the nation shaking Congress, BJP and Left governments at the Centre and in the States. Week after week, scam after scam of mindnumbing size and scale tumbles out of the vaults and cupboards. Report after report, from the CAG down to the Lok Ayukta—and stricture after stricture from the Supreme Court—sends shivers down the shameful spines of the corrupt and the crooked.
In such choppy waters, the admiral guiding INS India has stood unmoved and unaffected.
Not any more. Three big bandicoots have cruelly chipped and nibbled away at prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s assiduously cultivated image of impeccable honesty and integrity in recent weeks.
# First, the cash-for-votes scandal (involving Amar Singh, Arun Jaitely, and CNN-IBN) that saved Singh’s government and his pet nuclear deal in July 2008, has come back to haunt him (and the “treasury benches”) with a vengeance.
# Then, his own cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats, like former telecom minister A. Raja and former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, have spoken of how much the PM (and others in the cabinet) knew about the Rs 173,000 crore scam in the allocation of 2G spectrum in which they are disgraced.
# And now, the Commonwealth Games scam has thudded even more dangerously into Manmohan Singh’s court, showing how the PMO looked the other way while Suresh Kalmadi was running riot, with the Delhi government of Sheela Dixit, the sports ministry of M.S. Gill and the urban development ministry of S. Jaipal Reddy for company.
In the midst of all this heavy fire (and the spark of the Lok Pal bill), Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been suddenly rendered hors d’combat, leaving Singh at the mercy of Amar (Janardhan Dwivedi), Akbar (Ahmad Patel), Antony (A.K. Antony)—and Rahul Gandhi—before going off to the United States for treatment.
With Parliament in its monsoon session, this is clearly not what the good doctor would have ordered for Manmohan Singh who somehow survived the S-band scam. Also, with Rahul Gandhi suddenly in charge of the adult Congress, after hand-holding the youth Congress, the writing is on the wall for the old man.
Questions: Will Manmohan Singh survive this session of Parliament? Will he last until 2014? Or is the bell beginning to toll for a change of horse, mid-stream?