NEW DELHI, India: The Indian press and the opposition reactions to the resignation of the Defence Minister Mr. Vishwanath Pratap Singh was that there was no place for an honest man in Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government.

The ‘Indian Express’ in its front page editorial said that no Prime Minister had confirmed the worst allegations and suspicions about his probity as Mr. Rajiv Gandhi had by his own conduct since January. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the newspaper said, came to office on the promise of cleansing India’s public life. The one person in his government who was doing so was the Finance Minister, Mr. V.P. Singh, on the apprehension that he had gone too close for comfort, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi and his associate conjured the miasma of “Pakistan amassing troops on the borders” and shunted him to defense. Here, the paper added, Mr. VP. Singh came across a scandal that until it was aired would have been beyond the imagination of most. An agent had been paid Rs. 300 million for some equipment purchased by India for its defense. The payment to an agent was clear violation of the government’s stated policy.

The sum itself, the “Express” said, was of a fantastic order. The conventional commission for large orders was around one per: cent. The conclusion could not be resisted that the recipient of the seven per cent was fictitious nominee, the newspaper observed.

The ‘Tribune’ also in front page editorial said that instead of building institutions and decentralizing power and authority, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi had chosen to rely on the advice of an unidentifiable caucus. In the process, he had distanced himself considerably from the political machinery and the party system.

“You can inherit charm. You can inherit power. However, political acumen and experience are not bequeathed by genes but acquitted by conscious practice and application” the Tribune observed.

“The forced exit of an honest and efficient minister”, the Tribune commented, “could not do good to the image of the government or the morale of the party.

The Janata Party deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Mr. S. Jaipal Singh showed that there was no room at all for an honest man in the government of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi had decided to give up even many skeletons other than arms deal. It was evident that Mr. Gandhi had decided to give up even pretensions of cleanliness, Mr. Reddy added.

A number of other newspapers and opposition leaders made similar comments, reacting on the resignation of Mr. V.P. Singh.

They included Mr. P. Upendra, leader of the Telugu Desam in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. K.P. Singh, General Secretary of the Congress (S), Mr. H.N. Bahuguna, President of the Lok Dal, and Mr. Hashu Advani, a Bombay Bhartiya Janata Party leader.

Article extracted from this publication >>  May 8, 1987