Open letter to PM on scams

By Rajdeep Sardesai
18 December 2010 11:22 IST

Dear Dr Singh,

Greetings! This is my second open letter to you this year. The first was in May when I had again raised the issue of political corruption. To quote from the 28th May letter: "There is little doubt Sir of your personal integrity, but would you concede that it's been difficult for you to check corruption amongst your ministerial colleagues? As a supplementary, may I ask that if the CBI had been investigating a Congress minister and not an ally like A Raja of the DMK, would you have shown the same leniency?"

Unfortunately, I did not receive a response to my query. Now I know why. It has become increasingly apparent as the 2G scam unfolds that the DMK was a law unto itself in your government. While you did write to the then telecom minister in November 2007 voicing your concerns over spectrum pricing and asking him to ensure a fair and transparent auction, the fact is Mr Raja ignored your missive. Yet, instead of dismissing him from the union cabinet for challenging prime ministerial authority, he was 'rewarded' in May 2009 with the same portfolio, only because the Tamil Nadu chief minister staged a minor tantrum. Can there be any greater evidence of the clout which the DMK exercised within the UPA?

Had you acted against Mr Raja three years ago, you might have been able to rise above the stench of corruption that now envelops your government. More importantly, it has perhaps for the first time in your long and distinguished career in public life stained the 'Mr Clean' image which you have so assiduously maintained.

Dr Singh, your life story has been an inspiration for millions of Indians. The story of the rise of a young boy from Gah village, walking miles to his school, studying under the dim light of a kerosene lamp, working his way up through scholarship inspires hope in all our hearts. When you became prime minister, we rejoiced in the belief that at last we had found a leader we could identify with, someone who wasn't a spoilt dynast, but a genuine representative of the great Indian middle class dream.

Critical to this identification process was the knowledge that this was a prime minister who was personally incorruptible. It was a bit like being transported back to the 1970s Amol Palekar era of cinema, where the honest bank manager in a bush shirt touched a chord with audiences through old fashioned values of simplicity and decency. We warmed to stories of how you still owned a 20-year-old Maruti car, how your family members had been resolutely kept away from the trappings of power, and how your lovely wife Gursharan Kaur still went shopping for vegetables in Khan Market.

I am sure that Gursharanjee still keeps a tight rein on the household budgets. But with due respect Sir, being prime minister is not about family budgets, it's about the national treasury which you have been empowered to preserve. A bank manager may well be of 'impeccable' personal integrity at home, but if he allows his clerks to loot the bank, then he clearly is failing in his primary responsibility at the workplace. Sadly, that's exactly what seems to have happened in the UPA cabinet, and your continual hand-wringing is now becoming a sign of impotence.

At one level, there is obvious empathy with the situation you find yourself in. A coalition government is by its very nature a political arrangement based on compromise. Part of the compromise appears to be a readiness to allow every constituent to set its own rules of engagement, including when it comes to cornering the 'ATM' cash-rich portfolios.The NDA which is planning a national campaign on corruption would be well-advised to examine its own track record in this regard.

Frankly though, one is weary of reducing corruption to a zero sum UPA versus NDA political battle. The average Indian citizen is not interested in knowing who is more corrupt - the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra or the BJP government in Karnataka. The Left may have a better track record, but let us not forget that their prime ally in Tamil Nadu is Jayalalithaa who still faces serious corruption cases against her. Taking the moral high ground may work in a television studio debate, it's unlikely to attract cynical voters.

What the aam admi seeks (and presumably the UPA still claims to be an 'aam admi' government) is a readiness to act against the corrupt and make examples of them. Your leader, Sonia Gandhi, claims to her parliamentary party that the Congress has 'acted' against corruption. Can the notion of 'action' be defined please? Forcing a minister to resign is not action, prosecuting him would be. Handing over a case to the CBI is not action, ensuring that the investigation is taken to its logical conclusion would be. The nation is not a set of gullible MPs who will be taken in by rhetorical flourishes. We don't need to become a lynch mob, but the fact is an alert and enraged Indian citizenry will no longer settle for fine words alone.

Here's a concrete suggestion: why don't you amend the Prevention of Corruption act to ensure that all corruption cases involving public servants, be they officials or politicians, are put on fast track? If they are proved innocent, restore their dignity. If they are guilty, have them jailed and their properties confiscated. You may lack political support for your move, but trust me, an entire nation will cheer you on.

Post-script: May I also suggest a brief yearend family holiday to rejuvenate yourself in this make or break fight against corruption. The country needs a re-invented Manmohan Singh who is willing to crack the whip in 2011, not a passive observer of the muck around him. Happy New Year!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Rajdeep Sardesai

One of India’s most respected journalists, Rajdeep Sardesai, has nearly three decades of journalistic experience in print and tv. He has been the founder- editor of chief of IBN 18 network, which included CNN IBN. Prior to setting up the IBN network, he was the managing editor of NDTV 24 x 7 and NDTV India. Rajdeep has won more than 100 national and international awards for journalism, including the Padma Shri in 2008. He is currently consulting editor at the India Today group.

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Dear Rajdeep,

First time ever you have come out of congress’s shadow and written some truth, there for let me congratulate you. Why I say this is because we have seen you always targeting opposition parties and also on any debate happing on your channel we always see you giving more time to congress and least to BJP therefore congratulations.

Secondly but very importantly I assume it that you have missed one point here bout Mr. M. Singh. The point is Mr. PM has offered to resign on the issue of nuclear deal, making it as his personal issue. Today a rampant corruption of Rs.64000 Cr. CWG, Rs.1.75 Lkh Cr. 2G, and Adarsh land scam in all this Mr. PM has avoided to speak, what does this mean, should we say that Hamam may Sab Nange and keep quite as media of this country is? Or ask Mr. PM to answer?

There is one more problem, Mr. PM is not elected by people so how we can ask him, he is nominated by Sonia, only she can ask him but in Congress 83rd Plenary she hasn’t uttered a word about it instead she has fully supported him what does this mean? Again should we say that Hamam may Sab Nange?

Further, 2nd power station of Congress and Rajkumar Rahul spoke a lot about every thing but nothing about massive corruption what does this mean? Again should we say that Hamam may Sab Nange?

Lastly, the biggest joke of all is Congress is saying that they have told to step down Mr. Kalmadi, Mr. Ashok Chawan, and Mr. D Raja this is action they are projecting, but the fact is in spite of our country is looted no single FIR is register against these people. what does this mean? Again should we say that Hamam may Sab Nange?

- Purushottam, Ponda | 20 th December 2010 09:34


Corruption is the root of all problems and the need of the hour is to chop the head off.

If there is no legislation to clear-cut raise funds in a legal way, like in some other democracies to fight elections there is not going to be air out-of- the bag of sustenance of the disease.

Politicians are allowed certain expenditure in thousands under the election code and law but are they able to keep tabs on them? And the code of conduct lasts only for a period of time untill the next elections. So from where do they get the money they are able to hand to people to vote for them believed to be in crores. Are the income authorities blind when the canidates declare their assets and pay income tax less than 10,000 rupees sometimes? It's a farce.

- Ludovico, Old-Goa | 19 th December 2010 13:23


To put it simply these are politics of compulsion, nowadays, Mr. Sardessai. Late PM, Mrs. I. Gandhi, having all the power with a two thirds majority could have done anything she wanted and yet the giant wheel of progress failed to turn the way she wanted it to. "Gai Vasrum" yielded votes in our system, but now things are different, with Congress the single largest party but not absolute in Parliament falling prey to coalition politics. Our system has succumbed to corruption at every level anyone can name. Mr. Rajdeep Sardessai, you are in the know of a lot of secrets hidden inside you but you are unable to get them out the way you want them to. Again compulsive circumstances.

Just reminding you,there is no dearth or lack of laws in India to handle any type of malaise in our system. But what is political will, which is needed.

Our incumbent PM's integrity and honesty is not under question or cloud, but people who know him and respect him, have called him "weak" or under influence of some higher authority playing second fiddle , permit me Mr. PM. So more laws or amending lawsis not a solution, might not bear fruit.

There is that umpteenth Lok Pal bill, which could have come up in the last Session, where no business was transacted, except, saluting our maryrs/heroes, and where even PM's would not escape scrutiny. Both his predessor or our incumbent PM had the magnanimity/audacity, to be included in the purview of that bill.

There was equal responsibility of all including the Opposition, to allow the Parliament to function and not depriving the people of this country to reap what was sown through these people's representatives, elected by them.

If the PM being in an "unique" position could just say a word, that magic word and get things done, then we would next say we are not a democracy.

Perhaps, late PM I. Gandhi, faced a similar situation in 1974-75 which led to an Internal Emergency, which step was again a remedy enshrined in our Constitution. It is the heart, dear Rajdeep, the heart of every Indian, that has to be renewed and not have more laws and more corrections of laws till there are more laws than keepers/enforcers of the law with dignity, honesty and integrity of our opted syatem of government.

- Ludovico, Old-Goa | 19 th December 2010 11:10


Well written article by Mr. Rajdeep!

Nobody doubts the personal integrity of Dr. Singh! But he has to work under the party leadership who has to win elections and for winning elections- lot of funds are needed! How would this money come?

For the Government to present to the outside world a clean face- you need a non corrupt person with integrity and none could be better to suit this than Dr. Singh!

When the situation demands that behind a clean, honest face- allow the loot of public funds and National wealth- may be to satisfy the corrupt regional parties or to make some hush money for the party- what are the options open?

The real tragedy is that a common man taking a bribe of 50 rupees is punished and put behind bars whereas against this- a criminal corrupt occupying high level -and looting the exchequer of thousands of crores- is freely moving with his head up and boasting of being a public servant! The law of the land has the necessary teeth but the implementation is to punish the weak common man and set free the highly placed corrupt! If this is not the exploitation- what is this?

Make the CBI/CVC/ IT fully autonomous and free them from the controls of the bureaucrats and political bosses. Give them the free hand and liberty to nail the corrupt and criminals cutting across the party line-If the PM takes initiative to do this- would he be kept in the chair even for a day?

This is the real tragedy of our democracy. This is the degeneration of the system we have achieved in the last 63 years! The solutions are not easy!

- vishwas prabhudesai, loliem | 19 th December 2010 10:38


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