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Polluting parliamentary democracy

When the Prime Minister of India commits himself to something publicly, the nation expects him to abide by it. Let us therefore see how Dr Manmohan Singh has fared on the principle of ‘prime ministerial accountability’.

Written by Sudheendrakulkarni |
July 20, 2008 2:08:28 am

When the Prime Minister of India commits himself to something publicly, the nation expects him to abide by it. Let us therefore see how Dr Manmohan Singh has fared on the principle of ‘prime ministerial accountability’.

Speaking about the Indo-US nuclear deal in the Lok Sabha on July 29, 2005, the PM had said: “We shall undertake the same responsibilities and obligations as the United States. We expect the same rights and benefits as the US…India will never accept discrimination.” This assurance stands flouted in the draft safeguards agreement between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The draft does not recognise India as a Nuclear Weapons State on par with, and having the same rights and obligations as, the USA, Russia, Britain, France and China. In other words, India, with its strategic autonomy compromised, would have an inferior status in the global nuclear order in perpetuity.

Here is another broken assurance. On July 20, 2005, two days after he and American President George Bush issued a joint statement on the nuclear deal, Dr Singh addressed a press conference in Washington. “Mr Prime Minister,” a reporter asked, “will you seek a parliamentary consensus or approval to the new direction you seem to be taking in foreign policy?” The PM replied, as a prime minister should. “Well, the Parliament in our country is sovereign,” he said. “It goes without saying that we can move forward only on the basis of a broad national consensus.”

Today, can any sane person claim that there is “a broad national consensus” in the country justifying the PM’s decision to go ahead with the deal? The resistance from his erstwhile Left allies and the BJP began as soon as the joint statement was issued. How a manipulative PM betrayed the Left, forcing it to withdraw support to the UPA Government on July 8, is well known. Equally well known is how he violated the public commitment given by his own

Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, that the Government would go to the IAEA only after securing the vote of confidence in Parliament. But the nation must be alerted against a new conspiracy afoot to commit another betrayal. The Telegraph of Kolkata carried a front-page report on July 15, titled, Sink or survive, deal done. Quoting highly placed official sources, it said: “The nuclear deal is ‘done’, whether the UPA survives the trust vote or not. The deal will happen because the Government is clear that it is in the supreme national interest. If the Government has to go in the process, let it go.” An official source put it even more arrogantly: “As far as India is concerned, the deal has fled our shores. And India does not have an extradition treaty with Austria (its capital Vienna is the headquarters of the IAEA) to bring it back.”

The very next day, Rahul Gandhi tacitly endorsed this report, which has not been contradicted by the Government yet. “The nuclear deal is more important than the Government. If the Government falls while acting in the national interest, so be it.” In other words, as far as the PM and the Congress leadership are concerned, the deal is now a fait accompli. The trust vote is irrelevant vis-à-vis the fate of the deal.

Consider the enormity of the fraud being committed on the people and Parliament of India. In July 2005, the PM had said, “Parliament in our country is sovereign.” In July 2008, he is in effect saying, “The verdict of Parliament does not matter. I am accountable to President Bush, not to the Indian Parliament.”

How Dr Singh has viewed a deal between two sovereign nations through the prism of his personal relationship with George Bush — a relationship in which he sees himself as a junior partner — is evident from the dialogue between the two in Japan, on the sidelines of the G-8 summit earlier this month. After Bush congratulated him “on your leadership at home”, he said, “I’m very happy to report to the President that our relations have moved forward handsomely since our first meeting in July 2005.” Notice the words “I’m very happy to report to the President…” Is the Prime Minister of any self-respecting democratic nation expected to “report” the President of America? Would

Dr Singh care to report to India’s Parliament, when it meets tomorrow and day after for a special session to determine the fate of his government, what assurance he gave to Bush in Japan?

We do not know what is going to happen in the Lok Sabha on July 22. However, one thing is widely known.

Dr Singh’s government, unsure of its survival, has been desperately trying to stitch together a majority by indulging in the worst kind of horse-trading New Delhi has seen, thereby setting a dangerous precedent in national politics. In his obsession to secure the nuclear deal at any cost, the “incorruptible” PM has blessed dozens of corrupt deals — to ensnare independent MPs and smaller parties, to poach bigger parties, to get criminal MPs out of jail, to pollute parliamentary democracy, in short, to mock the Republic of India.

The apolitical PM, who has never won a Lok Sabha election, may not care, but his party should know that there is a heavy price to be paid for his wrongdoings in the next parliamentary election, whenever they are held.

Write to: sudheenkulkarni@gmail.com

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