The demand for Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s resignation is growing and with good reason. The PM’s accountability as Minister concerned for the corruption unearthed in the Coalgate scam cannot be ignored. However that does not quite explain the current outcry against him.
Were even the most basic democratic norms observed the PM’s resignation and the ouster of this government was long overdue.
After all even the most rudimentary democratic norms do not demand that the PM must resign only if he is caught with his own hand in the till. There is such a well established convention known as one of constructive responsibility. Indeed as iterated in these columns the PM’s direct abetment along with that of his senior cabinet colleagues had even been established in the 2G scam. Indeed, as was pointed out, arguably the evidence available on that scam rendered senior cabinet ministers including the PM open to prosecution. But there was no demand made for his resignation earlier. Why now?
Can it be that the real impulse for his removal does not come from the vociferous opposition leaders but from the silent depths of the PM’s own party?
Consider some odd features related to the current controversy. In entirely unprecedented fashion CBI Director Mr. Ranjit Sinha informed the Supreme Court (SC) monitoring the Coalgate probe that he had shared information on the report during its preparation with the Law Minister and officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). This naturally created an uproar leading to allegations of probe interference by the government. The Law Minister and the PM went on an overdrive to state that neither would resign. If the Law Minister were to resign the demand for the PM’s resignation could become unstoppable. So both must swim or sink together.
The CBI’s refreshing and unprecedented commitment to independent investigation by his decision to inform the SC about the Law Minister’s indiscretion did not end there. After the government offered lame explanations that there was no proof of interference in the probe even though the Law Minister had overseen it during its preparation, the CBI struck another lethal blow. The CBI Director even gave to the SC an annexure to the report it had submitted listing all changes introduced in the original draft by the Law Minister as well as by officials of the PMO. Now the SC will wrestle with this information before arriving at its decision.
The question naturally arises whether the CBI Director’s remarkable and most unusual display of courage by any officer of his agency was in any way strengthened by a tacit official nod. The CBI submitted its report on the Coalgate scam to the SC on last Friday. One day earlier on Thursday the Director held a meeting with Minister of State for Personnel Mr. V. Narayanasamy. The latter is attached to the PMO and directly oversees the functioning of the CBI. Would the CBI Director have appraised his immediate superior about what he was going to submit to the SC the following day or not? If connected in any way to the Coalgate probe, was his meeting with Mr. Narayanasamy any less appropriate than his meeting with the Law Minister or the PMO officials? Asked by media about the purpose of his meeting Mr. Narayanasamy, the CBI Director defiantly said that he would meet whoever he wanted to meet.
If Mr. Narayanasamy knew what the CBI Director functioning under him was going to submit to the SC it would seem that he was fully aware about the embarrassment about to be caused to the PM and the Law Minister. Readers might recall that earlier when the CBI publicly embarrassed the cabinet by raiding DMK leader Mr. MK Stalin a day after his party withdrew support to the UPA government, thereby inviting public criticism from both the PM and his Finance Minister, there was a curious confluence of approach noticeable between Mr. Narayanasamy and Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. This was understandable since Mr. Narayanasamy’s unflinching loyalty to the UPA boss is well known.
One may only speculate whether CBI Director Mr. Ranjit Sinha kept his immediate boss Mr. Narayanasamy in the loop regarding his submissions to the SC, and if so whether Mr. Narayanasamy kept his boss UPA Chairperson Mr. Sonia Gandhi in the loop about what the CBI might have informed him.
Perhaps the PM may have a lot more to worry about than criticism by opposition leaders.