By Shashank Chouhan
It took more than 10 days for the chief of India’s ruling party to react to the ‘Coalgate’ episode that has tainted Manmohan Singh’s government and blocked parliamentary proceedings in the monsoon session that limped to its close on Friday.
But what was the reaction of Sonia Gandhi to alleged irregularities in coal block allocations that might have cost the treasury billions of dollars? Here’s what Gandhi told her party’s lawmakers at a meeting: “Let us stand up and fight, fight with a sense of purpose and fight aggressively.”
Instead of reprimanding her lawmakers over corruption allegations, she goaded them to take the fight to the enemy camp — the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Media reports about her speech said she made it clear that the Congress party must respond to the “negative politics” of the BJP in upcoming state assembly elections.
The Congress-led coalition government, now in its second consecutive term, has been unable to work out a fair, transparent method of coal block allocations. And when the country’s auditor smelled a scandal, Congress resorted to the easiest reaction: attack the opposition. Manmohan Singh preferred to keep silent – again — dismissing the auditor’s findings much like his government did in the 2G telecom scandal. Add to that the sheer absence of floor management in parliament, and what we get is chaos in a noisier, less productive parliamentary democracy.
Not that the BJP can come out of this unblemished. Its obstructionism points to its desperation. In fact, when corruption fighter and media darling Anna Hazare had raised his voice, the BJP closed ranks with the Congress, saying nothing was above parliament and its power to legislate.