The ulterior motive behind Sonia's defence of Manmohan in the Coal scam

The solid show of strength supporting Manmohan Singh, now Accused No 6 in the coal scam case involving the allotment of a mine in Odisha to Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Hindalco, is intended to send several messages. With all top Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, taking to the streets, it is clear that the former PM is now getting the kind of support he never got when he was PM.

“We are outraged. We offer our unstinted support and we shall fight this not only legally but with all means at our command. He (Manmohan Singh) is known not just in India but throughout the world as a person of integrity and probity. We have no doubt whatsoever that he will be vindicated,” was how the Hindustan Times quoted the Matriarch, while on the march to Manmohan Singh’s house.

 The ulterior motive behind Sonias defence of Manmohan in the Coal scam

Congress leaders march to Manmohan Singh's house

Parse the statement for its hidden or implied meanings, and this is what you really get.

First, the most farcical statement is the first sentence: “We are outraged”. None of this outrage was visible when the treasury was being looted by some of her own ministers and those of the coalition (2G, coal, CWG, etc). There was no outrage even when the Supreme Court castigated the CBI for showing its report on the coal scam to the law minister, who finally lost his job. There was no outrage when her own son insulted the PM by calling the ordinance to protect convicted legislators “nonsense.”

This is not about outrage, but feigning support to Manmohan Singh so that he does not say anything out of turn during his court deposition.

Second, she said “we shall fight this not only legally but with all means at our command.” Can responsible politicians fight a court summons by any means other than legal? Or is this an implied threat to the judiciary, asking them to lay off or watch the consequences when the Congress comes back to power? Or is the message meant for the government? Clearly, Sonia sees this battle as political even though it was the court which ordered the CBI not to close the investigation. The CBI twice told the court that there was no prosecutable case, but the court refused to accept its decision.

Third, Sonia talked about Singh being known “not just in India but throughout the world as a person of integrity and probity.” This red herring has been repeatedly used not only by Sonia, but all Congressmen, in the past to deflect corruption charges against the UPA. The fact is Manmohan Singh, for reasons best known only to him and Sonia Gandhi, did not do what he was supposed to do: He allowed himself to be convinced that opaque and arbitrary ways of allocating spectrum and coal mines were fine, even though his better judgment was against it.

Put another way, he allowed the loot to happen. The meaning of the above statement is thus clear. Manmohan Singh’s own clean reputation will be used as a shield to prevent inquiries against the rest of the corrupt.

However, it is worth pointing out that “integrity and probity” cannot only mean not taking a bribe; in Manmohan Singh’s case this was what it was reduced to.

Fourth, Sonia tells us that “we have no doubt whatsoever that he will be vindicated.” This is another red herring. In one innocent statement, she has essentially confirmed to us that Manmohan Singh is the accused, and hence he will be vindicated. This is a clever way to avoid the real accusation: that Manmohan Singh did what he did to oblige the party high command.

The court has probably done Sonia Gandhi a favour by choosing the Hindalco case to accuse the former PM of showing undue favours. If this case falls through, the Congress will claim that there was no mala fide involved in the entire coal scam.

The Hindalco case is unlikely to stand up to legal scrutiny. Reason: the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report talked about the opaque process of the Screening Committee, but in the Hindalco case, the Screening Committee’s decision was overturned and both the coal ministry and the PMO gave their own justifications for why the mine should be allotted to Hindalco.

At best, the court may find that it was a flawed decision, but mala fide will be difficult to establish as the PMO has already released all the files and letters relating to the decision. It has explained why it allotted the mine to Birla.

No court can find an executive decision, arrived at after application of the mind, mala fide, unless there is proof of some hanky-panky – which the CBI did not find, and hence wanted to close the case.

By bringing in the PM into the accused category, the court has given Sonia Gandhi a huge reason to claim vindication for the entire coal scam if nothing is found finally against Manmohan Singh. And she can allege political influence in bringing Manmohan Singh’s integrity into question.

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Updated Date: Mar 13, 2015 17:35:26 IST