Congressional Report refers to PM's 'ineffective management style'

Bouquets and brickbats appear in abundance for Indian politicians in the latest Congressional Research Service Report on India. While it goes gaga over Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, words for the UPA government at the Centre are unenviable.

Anant Rangaswami September 14, 2011 15:05:27 IST
Congressional Report refers to PM's 'ineffective management style'

The Congressional Research Service Report on India, titled "India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations", is a goldmine on US views on various aspects of India. Predictably we've sewn together the positive references to Narendra Modi, and published many reports on the high quality of governance in Gujarat.

Interestingly there are many references to corruption in political parties and the ineffectiveness of the Manmohan Singh government, in particular.

Congressional Report refers to PMs ineffective management style

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Image courtesy PIB

“Corruption has long been a serious problem in India. Pervasive, major, and high-level corruption and iniquity is now identified as a central obstacle to India’s economic and social development, and is seen as a key cause of a steep decline in foreign investment in late 2010 and early 2011. November 2010 witnessed a baring of two major Indian scandals that have left the national government largely paralyzed and unable to effectively govern to date. The first involves apparent corruption and gross negligence by officials overseeing the October 2010 Commonwealth Games hosted by New Delhi; the second relates to the government’s sale of broadband licenses at far below market prices, costing the government many billions of dollars,” says the report.

What is interesting is the CRS’ interpretation that corruption “is now identified as a central obstacle to India’s economic and social development, and is seen as a key cause of a steep decline in foreign investment in late 2010 and early 201”.

The CRS report goes on to detail the scams as they unfolded and the consequent arrests and enquiries.

“The multiple scandals have continued to render the Congress-led coalition unable to push through major economic reforms that would require the acquiescence of opposition parties.”

It’s not all bad for the Congress, though, from the US point of view.

“While it has benefitted from the UPA’s woes, the main opposition BJP has not escaped culpability in recent corruption scandals. In July 2011, Karnataka’s ombudsman issued a report implicating the state’s BJP chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, in a $3.5 billion scandal involving the illegal mining of iron ore. Yeddyurappa, accused of receiving a $2 million illicit payment from a mining company and selling state land at an inflated price, quickly lost the support of his party and resigned.”

Both the Congress and the BJP, then, find mention in the CRS Report in the context of corruption – as does the cash-for-votes imbroglio, aided and abetted by Wikileaks.

“In addition to the major incidents of graft and corruptions discussed above, reports of large-scale political bribery sparked much outrage in early 2011 when U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reportedly described an American diplomat’s eyewitness mid-2008 account of being shown chests containing about $25 million in cash that a Congress Party aide allegedly said was to be used as payoffs to secure Parliament’s endorsement of the controversial U.S.-India civil nuclear deal. Although Prime Minster Singh himself denied that his party had paid any bribes or broken any laws, and described the account as “unverified and unverifiable,” the episode has led to at least two arrests in an ongoing probe and provided further fuel for opposition party attacks on the UPA government.”

Amar Singh finds himself in Tihar in connection with the scandal, and it will be for the courts to decide on who is guilty. The CRS report however, suggests a Congress, rather than a BJP, culpability.

It’s the references to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which will worry the Congress the most.

“While Prime Minister Singh is not accused of personal wrongdoing, he has come under fire for an allegedly inattentive management style that, for some observers, facilitated an environment in which corruption could spread. In the face of mounting pressure to act, Congress President Sonia Gandhi acknowledged that problems existed “at all levels” of society, but she squashed rumors of any rift between herself and the Prime Minister, expressing full confidence in Singh’s leadership. Soon after, Singh himself offered to appear before any investigative body, declaring he had nothing to hide about his actions. Yet, as his government continued to be paralyzed by scandals and infighting into 2011, speculation about Singh’s status mounted, and in February the Prime Minister gave a nationally-televised interview in which he defended his own actions, promised to crack down on corruption, and called the related scandals the greatest regret of his term in office.

Days later, Singh dropped his longstanding resistance and acceded to opposition demands for a parliamentary investigation of the telecom scandal in return for an end to their filibuster that had paralyzed the legislature for two months.”

The CRS report is, in the final analysis, largely a collection of many views and opinions based on far fewer facts. References to Wikileaks, for example, are only references to conversations that may or not have taken place. There are numerous attributions to unnamed observers and sources in the analysis rather than to documented facts.

But we must see this as a document to worry about – the report is one that any US Congressman interested in India will take very seriously indeed.

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