The government hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory in the way it has handled the latest WikiLeaks revelations. True, it’s possible the cables from the US embassy are based on hearsay and unsubstantiated allegations. That is precisely what the government has contended in Parliament. It has also pointed out that an investigation by a parliamentary committee into the allegations had already taken place. Under normal circumstances, therefore, a denial by the Prime Minister on the floor of Parliament would have been sufficient.
But these are not normal circumstances. The government has been mired in allegations of corruption in very high places. Public disenchantment with politicians is perhaps at an all-time high. A debilitating cynicism is all-pervasive. Given this environment, the WikiLeaks allegations were a heaven-sent opportunity for the government to have seized the initiative. It should have immediately offered to hand over the case to the investigative agencies, despite it being certain that there had been no wrong-doing. That would have, at one stroke, taken the wind out of the opposition’s sails. It would have gone a long way in repairing the government’s image, which has taken a battering after the spectrum and Commonwealth Games scams. If the government is sure that the allegations were bogus, the gesture would have cost it nothing and would have earned it a lot of goodwill. Instead, it chose to counter the opposition’s arguments by inanities, such as the claim that its being returned to power in 2009 was proof the public had rejected the charges.
Unfortunately, the government’s attitude is entirely in line with its dithering on a variety of contentious issues, whether it’s the 2G scam or the CVC appointment. In each of these instances, the perception has been the government has acted only when its back is to the wall. That is a great pity, for there was a lot of goodwill when the UPA came to power for the second time. No longer dependent on the Left, it was hoped it would push through much-needed reforms that would enable the economy to achieve double-digit growth. Instead it has allowed things to drift. The most telling example of this is that, after all these years, even the raising of the FDI limit in the insurance sector to 49% hasn’t been done. Nor, for that matter, despite all the talk of being for the aam aadmi, has the government done much to raise productivity in agriculture, which would ease supply-side inflation.
So far, the India story has been a very attractive one for investors, but there are signs that the attraction is slipping. If it is not to fritter away the India premium altogether, the government must regain the initiative.
Has the government frittered away its goodwill? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org