The belated loquaciousness of retired Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju over the appointment of a corrupt judge in the Madras High Court has at least one big virtue: it forces us to re-evaluate all the lies we have been told, or the ones we have been telling ourselves, about the benign nature of the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh partnership in 10 years of UPA misrule.The biggest untruth we wanted to believe in was this one: that Manmohan Singh was an honest man caught in the tentacles of coalition dharma (or rather adharma) and that he was single-handedly trying to keep the flag of economic reforms and probity flying in difficult circumstances. So we dismissed all evidence pointing to the contrary, which showed his tacit, if not explicit, permission for corruption. In the 2G, Coalgate and CWG scams, we blamed others and assumed that Singh was forced to look the other way. Comrade Katju's dirty-linen washing act tells us otherwise. It now appears that Manmohan Singh openly batted for a corrupt judge, now identified as the late S Ashok Kumar. In a letter dated 17 June 2005, according to The Times of India, the PMO sent a note to the law ministry about this corrupt judge. The note said: "The Prime Minister has directed that clarifications be sought by the ministry of law and justice as to why the names of Justice S Ashok Kumar and Justice NR Kannadasan have not been recommended (for confirmation as additional judge). The proposal be resubmitted (to the collegium) with the clarification".Now, this is no sin of omission or about Singh looking the other way when bad things happened. This was Manmohan Singh's direct handiwork - a sin of commission in asking a reluctant judiciary to extend the services of a corrupt judge. This is evident from then Chief Justice RC Lahoti's note, which, inter alia, said: While the opinion of the collegium is clear....however in view of the sensitivity in the perception of the government, the matter can be postponed for being further enquired into. Justice S Ashok Kumar may be given an extension for a reasonable time as additional judge." (Italics ours). A Prime Minister piles on political pressure through the Law Minister HR Bhardwaj, and the judiciary bends to serve him. In this case Manmohan Singh's hand clearly was the one that fired the gun, and not merely the shoulder from which someone else did the firing.The obfuscating assumption that Singh was forced to do things despite his "honest" inclinations is clearly one we must question. Singh was not forced to write this letter. Even if his party boss wanted him to do this, he could have asked the law minister, the ever-willing-to-oblige Bhardwaj, a Gandhi family loyalist, to do the dirty work himself. This would have given the PM plausible deniability. But the PM did it all himself and Bhardwaj became the emissary.One can only speculate about why Justice Lahoti obliged. The fact that Manmohan Singh was seen as an honest man could not but have helped him justify his decision to wave Ashok Kumars extension through despite his misgivings.The unravelling of the "honest PM" claim helps us debunk a second and related lie: that Sonia Gandhi spurned the prime ministership because she did not lust after power. In fact, we now know that she not only wielded full power despite being only a party head, but wielding it was possible only with Manmohan Singh as PM. The projection of Singh as the honest saint was what enabled her to consolidate power and get everything she wanted done without anyone raising a note of protest.If we hark back to every scam, every dubious move of the government, and especially the ones the Dynasty was directly interested in, Congress spokespersons always pointed to Manmohan Singh's spotless record to debunk charges that the UPA was encouraging corruption. When allegations of corruption were flying thick and fast against Manmohan Singhs government in the heat of the Anna movement, Sonia defended Singh: The manner in which Opposition and some anti-Congress elements are, as part of a conspiracy, levelling baseless allegations against the Prime Minister, the UPA government, the party and some of our colleagues, is a matter of regret.Last year, with elections in sight, Sonia defended Singh even when her own son Rahul insulted him by calling the ordinance to protect convicted legislators from disqualification as nonsense. She said: They (the BJP) make fun of our party, they make fun of our Prime Minister. The whole party stands behind the Prime Minister.This was obviously stretching the truth, for the whole party was not behind Singh, but it emphasised Sonias deep investment in Manmohan Singh and his honest faade.By putting up Singh as mascot, the UPA government could allow all the scams to take place, including the coal blocks allocation scam in which Singh himself was the minister in charge. It also allowed Law Minister Bhardwaj to allow Sonias friend Ottavio Quattrochi, a beneficiary in the Bofors payoffs, to walk free and unfreeze his booty (read here and here). If Sonia had been PM herself, she could never have distanced herself from this. Ditto for the scheme to take over a Rs 2,000 crore property the Herald House real estate in a private trust where she and Rahul were the main shareowners. They used Congress party money to get this done.The art of using honest people to get dubious deals done has been used by the UPA political dispensation even before. Like Manmohan, former Defence Minister AK Antony is another honest Sam, never accused of taking a rupee anywhere. But under Antonys watch, defence scams were popping up everywhere. The biggest, and most hushed up one, was a Rs 10,000 crore deal done with Israel Aerospace Industries which involved the payment of Rs 600 crore as business charges. Nobody knows where these business charges went, and what their purpose was. But Antony could not be accused of any wrongdoing. So there was nobody to attack.Clearly, both Sonia and Manmohan Singh knew what their bargain was: Singh gets to be PM, and he allows all that she wanted done whether in the interests of managing the coalition, or securing her own dynastic interests.The third lie was debunked earlier this year, when the widespread belief that there was a dual power structure agreed between Sonia and Manmohan. Manmohan Singhs former media advisor Sanjaya Baru, in his book The Accidental Prime Minister, quoted Singh himself as admitting that there was only one power centre - Sonia Gandhi. Singh told Baru: I have to come to terms with this. There cannot be two centres of power. That creates confusion. I have to accept that the party president is the centre of power.The victims of this prime ministerial accident were the citizens of the country, once the easy growth years of UPA-1 got over.The larger point is this: since it is nobody's case that Manmohan Singh was a simpleton who had no idea he was being used by the dynasty for their own dubious political purposes, it follows that he was complicit in many of the sins of commission and omission committed during his watch.Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were one and the same person. We have to stop telling ourselves lies about what honest Manmohan Singh was all about.
Around 50 percent of over 3.6 million voters cast their ballots Wednesday in the bypolls for two Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka, an official said.
Political leaders cut across party lines on Friday to condemn the gangrape of a photojournalist in Mumbai.
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP N Harikrishna has resigned from the Rajya Sabha to protest against the formation of Telangana.
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Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said the Centre was neither concerned about the economy nor the falling rupee but only worried about saving its chair.