If misfortunes never come singly, who should know it better than a party and government whose fate through the past four years has been to lurch from scam to scam, crisis to crisis? Not only have the scandals around the Congress and Team Manmohan acquired a Terminator-like ability to morph and resurface, each new day seems to bring fresh allegations — against one or another minister with the Prime Minister barely escaping the heat. All of last week, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar was in the dock for interfering in the CBI’s status report on coal block allocations. The government was still fending off the Opposition and Supreme Court onslaught on that accusation, when corruption charges hit, of all people, the soft-spoken Pawan Kumar Bansal. Although there is no direct evidence connecting the Railway Minister to a bribe allegedly received by his nephew to facilitate a key Railway Board appointment, the relationship is close enough to raise questions. More so because the nephew, Vijay Singla, who has been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation, oversaw the minister’s constituency interests in Chandigarh.
The ruling establishment has brushed off the Bansal bribery charge with typical nonchalance. But the denials have become too routine and too practised for anyone to buy them. Indeed, it is not so much this case as the fact that it has been raining scams in the Congress-government backyard that has allowed any and every new accusation to stand in the face of refutations. The reconvened Budget session of Parliament had started riotously enough with explosive new angles emerging in the handling of 2G and coal block allotments. The Bansal case has added further to the image of a government corrupt beyond redemption and arrogant to boot. To be sure, the government has been able to weather the storms partly because the Opposition offensive has not resulted in the ruling numbers being tested on the floor of the Lok Sabha. So much so, Parliament has been reduced to a charade with the Bharatiya Janata Party incessantly demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation, and the latter treating the warnings and threats as if they were of no consequence. Sushma Swaraj recently went on record to say that the government had no business to stay even one more day in power. That very day the BJP walked out of the two Houses, allowing the passage of the Finance Bill. Regardless of how events turn out for Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Bansal, one thing seems certain: The BJP has too much on its own plate — for which read Narendra Modi and alliance troubles — to bother with dispatching a government it claims is on its way out.