The whole world is laughing at us, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told newspersons today in an apparent reference to the opposition-created chaos in parliament. “Opposition should allow Parliament to function. We are making a mockery of the system,” he added.
He’s absolutely right. The opposition has played its role in making parliament dysfunctional, and deserves its share of brickbats for this situation. Whether it is the 2G scam or coal blocks allocation or something else, the opposition, instead of cornering government in parliament, has decided to block debate and made a spectacle of itself.
But when the PM says “the world is laughing at us”, he is surely off the mark. In no country will opposition parties ever be held more accountable than the government, especially in democracies. Opposition may disrupt and try to discredit government, but it is the actions of the government that count. For governance is in government’s hands.
Consider just three things that the government is doing wrong even now.
One, the CBI has told the Supreme Court that the Law Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office had gone through its report on the coal scam – something the court specifically forbade. At the very least, this suggests that the PM is nervous about how his role in the coal blocks allocation scam (Coalgate) will be seen by the courts and the world. He has refused to allow the Law Minister to resign, but continues to blame the opposition for disrupting parliament over this issue.
Two, at the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), the entire effort is to ensure that the prime witness, Andimuthu Raja, is not allowed to depose. Since this is to protect the PM’s image – for Raja has been saying that the PM was informed of all his decisions – the image we get is of a PM afraid to tell us what really happened in the run-up to the scam. In fact, the PM’s credibility is now inextricably linked to Raja’s.
Three, the current standoff with China on the latter’s incursions into Indian territory in Ladakh has drawn little comment from the PM, except from some mumbling about it being a “localised problem.” But is it? Does the PM really believe that it is a localised problem, and the Chinese would deliberately get into a situation from where there is no option but for one player to blink and lose face? While one does not want empty rhetoric or war-mongering statements from the PM, surely the wrong message is being sent by deciding to send the External Affairs Minister to China without any kind of assurance from the latter. This is not how a future superpower behaves.
Dr Singh, the world is laughing not at the opposition, but the UPA government and you.
And this has been visible in most global assessments of India during UPA rule over the last few years.
Not just media, but even rating agencies have realised that Manmohan Singh’s government is a double-headed failure. It noted: “The division of roles between a politically powerful Congress party president (Sonia Gandhi), who can take credit for the party’s two recent national election victories, and an appointed Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh), has weakened the framework for making economic policy, in our view,” Standard & Poor said in a report which asks: “Will India Be the first BRIC Fallen Angel?”.
Nor is this assessment of Manmohan Singh sparing of Sonia Gandhi or her son.
A Wikileaks document quoted a US embassy cable of 7 Novermber 2007 as saying this about Sonia Gandhi’s decision-making abilities (or inabilities). “With the future of Indian foreign credibility hanging in balance, Sonia Gandhi has been unable to show principled leadership even when it might benefit her party at the polls and reveal Prakash Karat (CPM General Secretary) to be the extortionist he is. Mrs Gandhi never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” This was in reference to the Congress dithering over the Indo-US nuclear deal.
About Rahul Gandhi’s recent excursion to the CII, The Economist, despite noting his earnestness, could not but observe that he had nothing to offer. It blogged: “At one point, to bemusement in the audience, he argued that if you can succeed in business in India then you will flourish anywhere, “even on the moon”. India, after two terms of Congress rule, evidently does not have the conditions right for its economy to flourish.”
We can go on and on about what the world thinks of the UPA and it various players.
Dr Singh, while the opposition may be doing unspeakable things, it is the government that has to act to ensure that we do not reduce ourselves to a joke.