One government, two cabinets, and no governance

It is an open secret even in the Byzantine passageways of Delhi that the jholawala cabinet is more powerful than the cabinet of Manmohan Singh and will have its way.

The jholawala cabinet or J-cabinet – also known as National Advisory Council (NAC) – has many ideas to empty government coffers and bleed India with a thousand free-goods cut.

This J-cabinet has powers but no accountability while the cabinet headed by Singh has accountability but no power other than periodically confessing to having committed errors of judgment due to lack of information.

In the process, we find almost all institutions getting emasculated and headed by leaders whose collective thoughts can be published on a postage stamp.

In Rajasthan, a minister is sacked for saying the current president owes her position to cooking and washing vessels in Indira Gandhi’s household in the post-Emergency days.

Close relatives of the former chief justice of India [and current chairman of National Human Rights Commission] are being investigated for amassing wealth running into crores when he was the chief justice.

The Supreme Court has sacked the chief vigilance commissioner since institutional integrity was compromised and PM told parliament that he did not have the full CV of the person appointed as CVC.

A cabinet minister is arrested in the 2G scam, CBI questions heads of dozens of telecom firms, and the government provides partial truths about the quantum of loss.

The unaccountable jholawala cabinet is on the rampage and wants to empty the exchequer in the name of solving India’s poverty problems.

It wants to push through the food security bill at any cost. Two weeks before the budget, Dr Amartya Sen and other leftists and civil society groups, calling themselves the ‘Kolkata Group’, stressed the “right” to health care, education, and removal of poverty.

I have been trying to locate for many years a word called “duty” in all the writings of Sen, but in vain. Basically, the Kolkata Group, which has common members with NAC, wants to nationalise families a la European model, wherein the government cares for the elderly, woman and children.

The jholawalas are against any direct cash subsidy and insist on enlarging the public distribution system.They do not seem to have read the economic survey [2010-11], which, on page 38, says that anywhere between 40-55% of the food grains sent through the public distribution system are diverted.

This ministry of finance survey states: “The fact of the matter is the leakage that currently takes place is far too high. Once we give a legal guarantee to people about the food that they are to receive, if we try to deliver on this promise using our current delivery mechanism, we shall have to send twice the targeted amount of grain towards the targeted population.”

But the J-cabinet does not care since someone has suggested that enlarging food leakages is a good vote-catching mechanism, even though it could swell our budget gap and empty the treasury.

NREGA is another jholawala mission that has leakages and is an unaudited and corrupt mission.

Singh’s cabinet is in the grip of domestic and global big business. In spite of the possible pauperisation of crores of retail traders, they are going ahead with “retail revolution”, which will let Wal-Mart run amuck in our country.

The “2G spectrum business” clearly established crony capitalism; other major “reform measures” will further open the floodgates of mega-corruptions. They will take place before the elections are held, possibly by the yearend.

The apparent cabinet runs like a rudderless ship and the real J-cabinet is running amok to empty the treasury.

It is unfortunate that the options available at this point are between jholawalas and crony capitalists, a leftover from our socialist legacy.

It is still possible to visualise a functioning cabinet that asserts its position, cleanses the system, and re-establishes the principles of integrity and transparency in decision-making. That cabinet will be able to close down the J-cabinet, whose existence is predicated on the shenanigans of the main cabinet and complete abdication of governance.

Unless the head of the apparent cabinet asserts himself and establishes good governance, the onward march of Stalinists cannot be stopped.

The sooner he does it, the better off he would be in dealing with the remnants of the Soviet-era Stalinists, who are an albatross around the neck of the entire nation. Will the Singh [lion] in PM at least roar, if not maul?


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