Step up, Mr Prime Minister
(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)
Put aside Lokpal for a moment, how pervasive is the rot in our system that Vilasrao Deshmukh is the person that the Congress sent to negotiate with Anna Hazare. Leave aside whether Team Anna asked for him, is this the man the Prime Minister felt best to represent him and his government on the important issue of corruption?
The Prime Minister says that he isn’t corrupt. That he has given his life for public service. True enough. He has. He has said that a minister in his government is in jail on charges of corruption. Again, true.
But is his government clean now? A year ago, we understand that political compulsions may have been different and the Prime Minister may have had to make tough compromises, but isn’t this the team to clean house. Does the Prime Minister believe that his cabinet is clean now?
I have no idea about the incorruptible cabinet or MPs today, but if there was ever a time where a Prime Minister had writ blank to clean house, then it is now.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta has written eloquently that “having a PM who did not have political power, but more importantly, who was not able to use his office to project political power, has cost us dear.”
Take the Lokpal, Mr Prime Minister and pass it in some form, but do more. Much more.
Anna Hazare has given you, Mr Prime Minister, a unique opportunity. The Lokpal bill will only be a step in the fight against corruption. You can take this opportunity and leave a legacy that will truly have changed the history of this country.
Mr Prime Minister, give us a cabinet of clean, efficient ministers. Women and men whose moral authority is without question and who have nothing but the interest of the nation at heart. Restore your credibility and the public’s faith in the system by using the last three years of your term to change the nature of governance in this nation.
We were blessed at the time of Independence; we had some of the brightest and best minds to lead us. From Nehru to Sardar Patel to Maulana Azad to Dr Ambedkar, we were blessed with a nation with leaders and then a cabinet that helped lay the foundations of this nation. There is talk of a second Azadi movement. That was the talk of the grounds in Ramlila and across the nation.
If not a second Azadi movement, give us a second Azadi cabinet. Give us a Minister of Road and Transport that builds a six-lane expressway across the nation and connects our villages with paved roads. Give us a Minister of Power that removes obstacles and enables business to build the power necessary to light this nation. Give us a Minister of Human Resource and Development that builds a working government school system and unleashes the power of the private sector to train and educate our budding youth. Give us Ministers that work for us, not themselves.
Empower them and let them help you build this nation. This nation is in dire need of good governance. This is the time to give it to us.
So give us a line-up of ministers that inspire this country. Truly, take out the garbage. No one can stop you at this point. You can thank Anna Hazare and Team Anna for giving you the political goodwill to lead this country as you see fit.
I don’t think Team Anna is against you, Mr Prime Minister. Neither do I think is the nation. It is against corruption and poor governance. Team Anna has hit a raw nerve and captured the nation’s mood. Media may have helped, but the frustration of the polity runs deep. There is a mood for change. Mr Prime Minister, pass the Lokpal bill, but use this unique moment in Indian history to bowl frontfoot first.
Leave a legacy befitting your stature. You said in Parliament you have made a “small contribution in my own way to enhance the prestige of this country.” No, you have played a large part. Right now, you have a population that is tired and frustrated. It is willing to be led. Step up, be that leader.
(You can follow Prashant Agrawal on Twitter at @agrawalprashant )