Finally, on Monday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted himself in an uncharacteristically blunt fashion. The occasion was a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and the context was that of unrelenting attacks by the so-called civil society groups, some of them on him.
“Every day one hears of astronomical sums of black money that can be brought back in one stroke. It is alleged that in every area of its activity, our government has swindled unbelievable amounts of money. Nothing can be farther from the truth,” Singh said.
The Prime Minister added: “The truth is that our government is fully committed to tackle the menace of corruption in public life and bring about transparency and accountability in the work of government authorities. And we have proved this by taking action on multiple fronts.”
A file photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In these cynical times, anyone reading the statements together will be less than convinced about the government’s attempts to tackle corruption. Clearly, the Prime Minister’s stand has misfired. When contrasted with the claims of civil society groups—however outlandish they may appear— the Prime Minister’s statements are unlikely to have the desired impact. The question is not about the claims of the “Team” Anna and Ramdev groups, nor is it about embroiling the head of government in a controversy (the so-called “Coalgate”). This issue is about political communication or the lack of it. The government refuses to understand that its legitimacy is rock bottom today. One report after another from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) points to huge losses due to misallocation of resources. One can debate the quantum of losses but that is not the issue at hand.
What the country wants to hear from its leaders are not bland denials of “no wrongdoing has occurred” but reasoned explanation as to what has happened. On that score there is absolute silence. It is this lack of communication that is providing ammunition to opposition parties. Merely saying that opposition parties are being unfair or are exaggerating the magnitude of corruption, etc., will not help the government. Some honesty and direct communication with citizens will. There is no sign of that.
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