The way Budget Session has started clearly indicates that the Central government facing all-round attack will have to confront a very challenging session. Under pressure from public opinion and opposition, unwilling acceptance of UPA government to the formation of Joint Parliamentary Probe has encouraged the BJP, which considers it as a victory for its acceding demand. This is obvious because the Centre is struggling to tackle 2G Spectrum scam, Commonwealth Games scam and Aadash Society Scam alongwith black money issue in an efficient manner.

All these matters sensationalized by media have made the corruption a pertinent issue. Perhaps, the Central government is not able to understand that the nation has become very sensitive as far as corruption is concerned. Once the corruption was accepted as a part of day today life, but now several political and non-political organizations have launched a crusade against it. Due to this, the Lokpal Bill being introduced in Parliament along with Centre and its probe agencies would on criticism from common people. Since the CBI probe has knocked at the door of the DMK, alliance partner in the Centre, regarding the 2G Spectrum Scam, the government appears to be under pressure.

The manner in which BJP leader, veteran journalist and former Telecommunication Minister Arun Shourie has exposed the involvement of former Telecommunication Minister Dayanidhi Maran in the 2G Spectrum scam, the government and the DMK may face to face in coming days. However, it will depend on whether government is willing to probe seriously into the spectrum scam or not? Like DMK, NCP is also feeling the heat as Managing Director of DB Realty, Shahid Balwa, is stated to be close to a few NCP leaders.

The opposition has maintained its edge because Prime Minister himself had admitted that he failed to take tough action against corruption due to coalition compulsion. The glimpse of opposition’s severe attack was witnessed in Parliament when the leader of opposition, Sushma Swaraj, launched a scathing attack on the government during a discussion on the formation of the JPC. The government failed to give direct answers to her questions. The Central government also confronted fresh trouble as the CBI is inching closer to Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of the Organising Committee of Commonwealth Games. Kalmadi’s demand to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe into corruption in the Commonwealth Games has unnerved the Congress party itself. As the noose around Kalmadi is tightened, he is becoming more radical and is putting forth questions to vex the Congress party. The questions of Kalmadi has not only created problem for the Central but also for the Delhi Government.

Not only national scene but international scenario is creating problem for the Central government. Uprisings in Arab and African nations have also led to increase in petro-prices which may further add to dearness. If this happens, it would directly affect not only common man but also Corporate world. Off late, the share market is also indicating at negative trend. Although Economic Survey has expressed that the rate of economic growth will maintain its pace, the hike in petro-products and edible items will further add to price rise. It is being felt that in such a scenario, the government in its coming budget will try to give a respite to common people and also to improve its image in public. Like Railway Budget, this is almost certain that Union Budget will also be pro-people and would be having plenty of schemes so that common people may feel the relief. However, the government is not going to tread on a smooth path, as it has failed to exhibit its tough stand against corruption. Although in the Presidential speech it has expressed its desire to fight against corruption, this scant hint is not enough to remove the negative impact.

If the Central government tries to improve its image through pro-people announcements in the Union Budget, it will repeat the mistake it has already made in past. When the negative trend and condition are prevailing and common man is suffering from price rise, it becomes imperative for the government to take harsh decisions to bring positive direction in reforms. Besides, there is also a need to push forward the steps pending in political, social, administrative and economic sphere. Such reforms should be given priority which will help in making positive condition. For example, the government should make a move in the direction of labour reforms. It will improve its international image and will also give the advantage of foreign capital. There is also a need to take harsh decision for developing basic infrastructure in education and agriculture. These tough decisions can be taken only with the expression of political will. One step ahead and two steps backward in reform programmes will only express the weakness of the government.

As far as corruption is concerned, the root lies in politics. Irony is that the government does not appear to be ready to discuss the political reforms. Everybody knows that contesting polls has become a costly affair and black money is used profusely in it, but government is yet to take courage to make nominal increase in the poll expenditure for Parliament and legislative assembly seats. The expenditure limit of Rs 40 lakh for Lok Sabha and Rs 16 lakh for assembly seat is not going to end the role of black money in politics.

It seems government is shying away from electoral reforms despite knowing all about its follies. Actually, this is the reason it becomes difficult to believe that the government has gird up its loins to fight corruption. The battle against corruption can not be waged with sluggish steps. The need of the hour is to sort out the fundamental reasons. If the Central government is not ready for it, neither will its image improve nor will existing negative impact go away.

 

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on February 27, 2010 translated by the English Editorial)