Bribery scandal scars Lok Sabha vote
Saturday, 26 July 2008

One of the striking features of Indian Democracy is that the politicians will continue to rule India either from the ruling party or from the opposition bench.  The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won a crucial trust vote in parliament, but Indian democracy took a huge beating. The mud slinging ahead of the vote that culminated in opposition lawmakers waving wads of money in parliament, which they said were offered to them as bribes to buy their support, has scarred the Indian polity forever. The deep wounds inflicted by the political developments triggered by differences over a nuclear deal with the United States will take a long time to heal. The battle for power at any cost, has shamed not only Indians but also all advocates of democracy. The battle was between Singh's ruling coalition, which considers the civilian nuclear deal as the prime minister's biggest legacy, and its former allies, the communists. Such was the acrimony that millions of Indians remained glued to television as they watched their political representatives battle for power in parliament. A parliament committee will now investigate allegations of bribery by opposition lawmakers after some of them waved bundles of cash worth more than $700,000.  None of India's major political parties can wash their hands off the responsibility of pushing the country towards a political precipice at a time when the focus should be on addressing bread-and-butter issues such as price rise, poverty and reforms in a trillion-dollar economy. The need to pull sick lawmakers out of their beds and temporarily releasing those held behind bars on criminal charges to vote in parliament shows the desperation and moral bankruptcy of Indian political parties. The deal with the United States would allow India access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel provided New Delhi complies with safeguards framed by the International Atomic Energy Agency This is supposed to support India achieve its goal of generating 25,000 MW of power from the nuclear plants. The deal could also potentially unlock $40 billion in investments over the next 15 years. More importantly, it is not clear whether Singh and his Congress party would win the general elections scheduled by May next year. If the bribery scandal sticks and his government is unable to deliver on much-needed economic reforms after winning the trust vote, Singh might not have much to talk about as legacy.

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