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Manmohan Evades Real Problem
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has held his much awaited press conference. What he conveyed was that he will not quit despite the criticism leveled against him; that there have been shortcomings in governance which need to be rectified; that there has been corruption which is being probed; that despite the slow progress due to following correct legal procedure the guilty will not escape; and that the admitted shortcomings in the performance of his government may be traced to the compulsions of coalition politics that sometimes necessitate compromises.
The Commonwealth Games scam does not relate to coalition partners. It involves questionable decisions by Congress leaders. It was Congress Political Secretary who met Hassan Ali. The progress of investigation in these scams has been even more dilatory than it is in the other scams. A PM need not be as inhibited in dealing with coalition partners as the present incumbent is. The heart of the problem lies elsewhere. Unless it is addressed the performance of the UPA government will continue to flounder.
The problem is the systemic flaw under which this government functions. An extra-constitutional centre of power exists that is more powerful than the Prime Minister. Such diarchy of power renders confused and self-contradictory governance. The relationship between the government and the party organization in any democratic system works well because the lines of responsibility are clearly demarcated. The party is responsible for adhering to its agenda and to the government performing within the parameters set by it. The government is solely responsible for executing policy within those parameters. This arrangement does not obtain within the UPA setup.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi is not only the President of the Congress Party; she is not only the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council specially established against precedent to advise the government on all policy; she is also the head of a dynasty that is so powerful within the party that she could single-handedly appoint the Prime Minister before ascertaining the views of the party. And she achieved that because Dr Manmohan Singh accepted the post of PM in these humiliating and undemocratic circumstances. As a result the entire Congress Party membership as well as its UPA coalition partners is aware where real power resides.
It is Mrs Gandhi who is approached for approval of all key decisions while the PM remains a passive stander by. The PM seems content to aspire for a global Indian role while he remains marginalized as a nonentity in all matters of governance. Because of this monumental compromise that allowed him to become PM he is accountable for decisions not made by him. Because of the enormous power wielded by Mrs Gandh she can exercise power for which she is not answerable.
This arrangement is unnatural, undemocratic and unworkable.
Either Sonia Gandhi should become PM, or Dr Manmohan Singh must behave as a PM should. Either the PM must call the shots or Sonia Gandhi must face the heat. Unless power is accompanied by accountability the democratic process does not work. The present patchwork arrangement is tattered beyond repair. It has to be discarded. Otherwise the drift will continue. The debate will continue. And the decline will continue. That is the bald truth Congress leaders must recognize.
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