Millennium Post

Coalfire will singe all of Singh’s men

Very little is left for the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government to hide behind, now that volatile political memoirs have started pouring fresh fuel into the electoral fire that is raging for past one week. While Sanjaya Baru, former media aide to PMO, has repeated the same old charges what the Indian political fraternity has known for years now – that the prime minister had little governmental authority and that his cabinet ministers deliberately flouted Singh’s diktats, P C Parakh, former coal secretary, has given fresh ammunition to the principal opposition’s already jam-packed arsenal. According to Parakh’s book Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths, the coal ministry, during his tenure, was a hotbed of corruption with ministers acting as ‘blackmailers and extortionists’, and money was ‘openly asked for’ appointment of directors and CEOs in public sector enterprises. Parakh, while acknowledging that the PM himself wasn’t part of the shenanigans that were orchestrated by coal ministers including Shibu Soren and Dasari Narayana Rao among others, has clearly put forward how Singh was resounding failure in curtailing systemic flaws and entrenched corruption within the ministry. Given that the plain-speaking ex-bureaucrat has been in the eye of the storm, his resolute stance assumes greater importance than ever.

While Baru’s book steers clear of any inconvenient, or indeed radical observation, Parakh’s hits the bull’s eye by squarely blaming the ministers for their alleged involvement in coal scam. Not only does this point towards the rudderless ship that the UPA cabinet had become, it also underlines the PM’s ultimate irresponsibility in carrying on at the post when evidently the leash was not in his hands, creating a strange political vacuum right in the heart of UPA government. The staggering extent of coal scam is just one example of how Manmohan Singh failed to rein the rogue ministers, and allowed an inhospitable, downright hostile, environment for honest bureaucrats to fester in the centre of the governmental apparatus. Parakh, who had always batted for open auctioning, competitive bidding and digitisation of transactions for complete transparency in the allocation of coal blocks, has placed grave charges against a slew of ministers, which merit immediate probe by the CBI and central vigilance commission. In as much as the former CAG Vinod Rai and (retired) Justice GS Singhvi have come out in Parakh’s defence, media must now keep up the pressure and analyse what the bureaucrat says about the political executive, bureaucracy and judiciary in his bold and honest book.

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