The Coalgate scam has shaken the nation. But only one person looks unperturbed, and he is the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister maintains silence in the Parliament, outside the Parliament, and keeps his silence even when he is very much expected to talk. Everyone expects him to act but that seems to be next to impossible.
Dr. Singh has long been lauded for his pivotal role in liberalising the Indian economy. But that is in the past. His image is now one of a "dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government." The Time magazine called him ‘an underachiever’. The UK daily The Independent has been critical of him, and called him a ‘silent Prime Minister’. The Washington Post has critiqued Dr Singh's performance as India's Prime Minister, and called him a ‘tragic figure’. The Prime Minister has failed to carry the masses with him.
The recent placing of the SC&ST Bill for Promotion in government jobs shows that the UPA Chief, roused from passivity to activity, is reminding us of one very powerful Congress Prime Minister Indira Gandhi - who used to have a dentist’s policy of solving insoluble problems.
The story of the dentist goes like this. He used to extract a new tooth to make the patient oblivious of the existing pain in a tooth beside it. When Indira could not solve the problems of Punjab, she created a Bhindranwale, when she could not solve the problem of Bhindranwale, she created the problem in the North East. In the present context, too, the new scam is more shameful and painful than the previous one. The new scam overrides the old in its dimension and perspective of corruption. We just start criticizing the government for not taking action for one, and a new one surfaces so that the previous one is forgotten. Public memory is short and the government is taking advantage of that.
Recently, another bill has been tabled to allow reservation in promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government jobs. BJP accuses the government of using this bill to divert attention from its demand that the Prime Minister resign on the coal allocation issue. The BJP is not opposed to the bill but is wary of being seen as helping the government. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said that his party will not give up its demand for the cancellation of the allocations of 142 coal blocks which it says is at the root of the "coal-gate" scam.
In spite of the triumph of the parliamentary system, the King in England, can, at least in certain circumstances, assert himself by virtue of his residuary powers. Even the President of India is in a much stronger position. Conventions have not yet crystallised in order to circumscribe his authority.
Furthermore, India’s constitutional history is quite different. The Constitution has granted him certain crucial powers which, if properly used, can even make him a potentate. In the time of a hung parliament, the President can prove his power and so on. But our present Prime Minister is hell bent on remaining passive and silent at all cost. The importance of being earnestly silent and passive is never recognised as a virtue for person in the post of Prime Minister in India.
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