Budgeting for scams

Rs 2 lakh crore fodder to opposition ahead of parl session


Prasanna Mohanty | February 8, 2011

In the season of scams, one more has come to the fore. This time, it is biggest of them all. According to the Hindu report, the CAG is investigating spectrum allocation of 70 MHz in the precious s-band to a private company, Devas Multimedia Private Limited, by the department of space (DoS), without auctioning. CAG’s preliminary estimate suggests a loss of Rs 2 lakh crore to the exchequer, as against a projected loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in the 2G spectrum allocation.

This is a windfall for the opposition parties who, in any case, have threatened to boycott the budget session on the issue of the 2G scam. The opposition had, in an unprecedented move, boycotted the last budget on the issue of price rise. There have been a series of scams since then: 2G, CWG, Adarsh society, IPL, CVC etc. Not to forget the runaway inflation. The prospect of a complete washout of the budget session stares in the face.

One more development has taken place in the recent days to completely erode the credibility and authority of the government: the judiciary questioning the legitimacy of government’s actions in public in several cases like the 2G scam, appointment of the CVC, food policy and the lack of inclusive growth.

On Saturday, supreme court judge AK Ganguly tore into the prime minister’s move to shift Vilasrao Deshmukh from the ministry of heavy industries to the rural development in the recent cabinet reshuffle. He said at a seminar in Mumbai: “It is sad and shocking to see how the government allows and appreciates such ministers. Not only that, it also gives them a Cabinet post. It is not a dignified act and I would call it a shameless act.”

Weeks earlier, the supreme court had severely criticised Deshmukh for personally protecting, as chief minister, a moneylender accused of exploiting farmers in the suicide belt of Vidarbha and fined the Maharashtra government for Rs 10 lakh. Look at the irony. The prime minister made Deshmukh the minister in charge of rural developments days later.

On Sunday, CJI Justice HS Kapadia lambasted the government at a public function for its failure to provide food security to the needy and the poor and lack of inclusive growth.  The prime minister, who was present on the occasion, was left pleading with the judiciary not to erode government’s legitimacy. But it is the prime minister, more than anybody else, who has eroded the legitimacy of the government.

Not only has he not failed to check the runaway inflation for three years in running, he has been justifying his government’s failure on the plea that this was the price of growth we must pay. He has been shielding the corrupt and incompetent ministers like A Raja and Sharad Pawar. His economic policy has come to be seen as promoting crony capitalism and as clearance to the Posco project establishes, he is on the side of the corporate greed, rather than protecting the aam aadmi.

No government has gone into the budget session, not at least in recent memory, with such a loss of face. And given the drift in the government, no government has managed to survive for long. In a fortnight from now, we will know the fate of the prime minister and his government. It is hard to imagine that both will survive without a drastic surgery.



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