Files go missing, PM goes in hiding: Is this is the end of UPA?

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New Delhi, Aug 22: UPA ministers said on Thursday that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might intervene to explain the issue of missing coal block allocation files. There is an effort to shield the head of the government from the Opposition's attack. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath even said that the PM is not a custodian of files and he doesn't sit in the store rooms and hence did not require to reply.

The reasoning is so baffling. The missing Coalgate files might prove to be the final nail in the coffin of the fragile and under-performing regime of Prime Minister Singh. It will be difficult for the economist prime minister to hide his face once the legal and political implications of the massive corruption begins to unfold.

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The Supreme Court of India has already backed the CBI to probe into the coal block allocation in full swing and has sought its report by August 25 which will come up for a hearing on August 27. The apex court has clearly said that the CBI has to be extended all possible cooperation by the concerned quarters that it seeks during its probe.

Under the glare of the apex court, the ministers' attempt to play down the serious matter isn't going to help much. On the contrary, if the apex court makes his observation that proves to be against the government, something not very unlikely, then the Opposition will raise more storm in the House ensuring washout of another crucial parliamentary session.

The matter doesn't end with the Supreme Court or the CBI. The Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament led by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi won't allow a breather to the government either. It was this committee that the CBI had first informed that several files it had sought from the ministry did not reach them and was officially confirmed to be missing later. The coal minister has also tried to turn the gun around to the BJP by alleging that files prior to 2004 (when the UPA first came to power) went missing but the later said it was baseless for the CBI said that those files belonged to 2006-07 period. Manmohan Singh was in charge of the coal ministry around that time.

The timing of the missing files could not have been more fatal for the Congress. Jfor just when the party was thinking of making a grand beginning of its last lap before the Lok Sabha elections by introducing the mega-populist food security scheme, the Coalgate made the hell break loose.

Whoever is responsible for removing the files from their place did do a great disfservice ot the government of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. For it has not only jeopardised its food bill plan, but also gave the BJP a reason not to feel guilty while disrupting the Parliament and inflict massive losses to the state coffers. The Congress has a bigger stake in this session but all its managerial efforts were left in the doldrums by the disappearance of files.

The prime minister had said a year earlier that he took the moral responsibility for the corruption charges since he was in charge of the coal minister then. Perhaps the Congress was thinking that such a move would help it hide behind Singh's clean image. But now, the ministers' trying to shield Manmohan Singh when the Coalgate ghost is back across the signal that Singh's moral high ground was a face-saving tactic employed by his party. Or, why isn't he coming forward and reasserting his words again?

Manmohan Singh's deafening silence as the head of the government has harmed his image irreparably. But what is difficult to understand is that even at the fag end of his government's tenure, he is not brave enough to call a spade a spade. This is an appalling low for a leader from whom the world's largest democracy had much expectation.

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