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Checks and balances only way out

Checks and balances only way out
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It is more than a coincidence that the ninth anniversary of the UPA rule fell on the hottest day this summer. The Progress Report presented by Prime...

It is more than a coincidence that the ninth anniversary of the UPA rule fell on the hottest day this summer. The Progress Report presented by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Congress allies in the UPA does not do him much credit. After Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, it is only Manmohan Singh who can claim the credit for sustaining in power for a record number of years. Singh is the first non-Nehru-Gandhi to hold reins for so many years.

The first five years of his stewardship were far better than the last four. In fact, the elections in 2009 at the end of the first term gave the Congress party more seats than its 2004 tally. He certainly cannot hope to improve the score in 2014. Almost the entire second term has been lackluster and painful, what with a slew of scams and policy paralysis that crippled the economy. But the Prime Minister disagrees. He claims to have delivered on his promise of progress.

He says the economy is turning around.In his last progress report before the elections, which sounded like his Independence Day speeches, the Prime Minister has spoken of four key achievements. He claimed that inclusive growth and alleviation of poverty in rural areas have been made possible. The safety of women has been ensured with Nirbhaya Act. The concern of the civil society about corruption has been addressed by the Lokpal Bill.

Inflation and fiscal deficit have been brought down. Singh profusely thanked Sonia Gandhi for her effective leadership. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi sat on the stage approving every word of the report. A Sonia Gandhi, in her turn, rightly said that it was a time to celebrate and also to reflect. She asked if anyone could question the magnitude of the change the UPA had brought about. Sonia spoke about the welfare of Adivasis. But the Union Tribal Welfare Minister Kishore Chandra Deo bemoaned the other day that tribals were being uprooted by multi-national companies in the name of mining, and that the Ministry of Environment had been acting against the interests of Adivasis.

A Sonia also accused Opposition parties of spreading falsehood.A People have their experience to tally with the claims made by Sonia and Singh. A Like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act before the last election, the UPA-II is pinning its hopes on the Food Security Scheme to help it win for the third time in a row, scoring a hat trick. If the results of the opinion surveys conducted by various TV news channels on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the UPA are any indication, the leaders of the UPA are hoping against hope. A Corruption has been increasingly becoming the main theme of public discourse, both at the national level and in the State.

The BJP has intensified its attack on Manmohan Singh, holding him responsible for corruption, inefficiency, and atrocities on women. A Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid and AICC spokesperson Renuka Chowdary did not sound convincing when they tried to rebut the charges leveled by Arun Jaitley and Prakash Javadekar of the BJP. Even as the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was visiting New Delhi, the scandal of spot-fixing in IPL-6 has been sending shockwaves across the country with investigation exposing a new dimension with every passing day.

The latest news on this front is that the ball is now in Bollywood's court.Nearer home, the ghost of YSR government has been forcing Congress leaders in the State to indulge in doublespeak and self-deception. The attack by Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and Finance Minister Anam Ramnarayan Reddy, at a meeting of grass-roots level Congress leaders held at Hyderabad on Wednesday, against YSR Congress party was the harshest till date. Both of them have been criticizing YS Jaganmohan Reddy without directly commenting on YSR's rule.

Anam brothers have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the YSRCP for reasons that can only be guessed. The hypocrisy of Congress leaders is more glaring not only when they attack the son without uttering a word against the father, but also when they call YS Jaganmohan Reddy an economic terrorist while supporting "tainted" ministers. Vijayawada MP Lagadapati Rajagopal held a press conference to argue that the ministers did no wrong and the mining licenses were given by the TDP regime.

The resignation letters given by Home Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy and Roads and Building Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao have not yet been sent to the Governor by the chief minister even on the third day. Deputy Chief Minister Raja Narasimha, who has been waiting for an opportunity to grab the Home portfolio, was getting impatient. The result was Raja's innuendos against Kiran, implying that the latter was not sharing limelight with his colleagues and trying to corner all the glory himself.A Agriculture Minister Kanna Laxminarayana camped in Delhi to escape the CBI net.

The fact that the minister went to lobby with the Congress leaders to influence the CBI decisions itself is a commentary on the independence of the premier investigating agency.All these developments have not bothered Kiran Reddy who seemed very pleased with his government's performance. His boldness in going for local bodies elections in the next few months should be appreciated.

He ridiculed the YSRCP's flag, saying that all the nine welfare schemes shown on the flag are the schemes being implemented by the Congress government headed by him. He advised the YSRCP to have a new flag and new agenda, different from his party.A Kiran also fired a salvo at TDP Chief Chandrababu Naidu who, he said, went 3000 km backwards by walking 2000 km.

Naidu did not lag behind. He repeated in Hyderabad what he had said in Delhi about black money. He claimed that black money in the country amounted to Rs. 70 lakh crore. Naidu said YSR had opened the floodgates of corruption and unprincipled businessmen had corporatized it.A Whatever may be the truth in the allegations traded by politicians, people have come to believe that the politicians in power do indulge in corruption. If a particular leader is not very corrupt by choice, his government would be relatively clean.

If the leader of the government wants to loot, nobody can stop him. The administrative, legislative and judicial checks and balances provided by the Constitution are not in operation. If the top leader is strong, no minister would dare to argue with the chief minister or go against his wishes. If the leader is clever, he would create vested interest for the ministers also and give a share in the booty.

No minister would refuse to sign on the dotted line because all decisions would be approved by the Cabinet and no individual minister would be held responsible. A The pleas of ministers, who put in their papers on Monday, have to be seen against this background. They say all decisions were approved by the Cabinet and so the ministers did not violate the rules. Dharmana went a step further and said even the then Chief Minister was not at fault as the entire Cabinet took those decisions, like allocation of lands, in the best interests of the people.A Like the political class, society too is divided sharply on this issue.

Even before the CBI filed the last charge sheet in the case of disproportionate assets against YS Jaganmohan Reddy and several others, people have jumped to two conclusions depending on which side their sympathies are. One section thought YS Jaganmohan Reddy had amassed illegal wealth to the tune of thousands, if not lakhs, of crores of rupees through quid pro quo arrangement facilitated by his father. The CBI should be given as much time as it requires to investigate the irregularities spread in a number of countries.

They take whatever is put out by the newspapers they read and the news channels they watch.A They are convinced that the son of the former Chief Minister has made huge money in just five years. They cite the houses owned by YSR family and the big businesses they launched to buttress their argument. If any political observer like me comments that the CBI should finish its investigation fast and file the final charge sheet to enable courts to give judgment and that it is not justified to keep the accused in jail for almost a year without filing charge sheet, they seek to label him as a sympathizer of the accused.

A The other section believes, equally strongly, that Jaganmohan Reddy was framed because he defied the most powerful politician in the country; the CBI is being used to keep him in jail indefinitely and the resolve of the top judiciary to act tough with white collar crimes is being taken advantage of; that the CBI is being used by the UPA-II can be proved by quoting the learned judge of the apex court who did not mince words in castigating the former law minister for tampering with the CBI report.

The fact that Ashwani Kumar was sacked by the government goes to strengthen the argument.A This section also asks where Sonia Gandhi thought the money that was sent by YSR to Delhi on a number of occasions in the name of party fund came from. This is also considered as an art of duplicity and hypocrisy on the part of the politicians both in the State and the Centre.A People in general have no doubt that politicians indulge in corrupt practices. They don't deny that YSR was corrupt. But they question which politician is not.

The degree and the magnitude are perceived differently by different people.A Instead of quarreling on that score, is it not better to plug the loopholes in the system so that chances of the corrupt succeeding are reduced to the minimum? A Whoever may come to power, there is scope for repetition of the same phenomenon. The best way is to enforce checks and balances.

The Constitution, in Article 162 to Article 167, has given enough powers to the Governor to check the executive. Ways and means to make individual ministers responsible for their sins of omission and commission could be found. The legislatures have to be made more responsible. Legislators indulging in tantrums wasting the time of the House should be publicly censured by the media and civil society.

The vulgarity on display during weddings in the families of politicians has to be openly talked about and condemned. Silence on the part of the people would be tantamount to complicity in destabilising the democratic edifice that our forefathers have so assiduously built.

A It is not a question of one party coming to power or another going out of power; one politician becoming chief minister or another losing the mantle; it is a question of consolidating the gains we have so far achieved and passing A them on to future generations. People have to insist that checks and balances have to be brought into operation and no politician is allowed to loot in future.

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