Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 12:16 GMT
India arms scandal: Should the government step down?

India's Government continues to reel from an arms bribery scandal, despite the resignation of the defence minister.

The departure of George Fernandes has only served to galvanise opposition parties, who are disrupting the work of parliament and calling for the whole government to step down.

The scandal broke when an Indian website released secretly filmed video footage implicating senior officials in corrupt arms deals.

Is the whole Indian Government guilty by association? Should it resign en masse? Would that be enough to restore confidence in India's politicians?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

They do not see it as corruption

Anil, UK
All politicians and government officials behave like demi-gods in India. Power, they believe, entitles them to be corrupt except they do not see it as corruption. The politicians, the bureaucrats and the police are of the opinion that there is nothing wrong in getting bribes. The Congress party which ruled India for for most part since independence allowed and indeed promoted corruption. The price is being paid by the common citizen of India. BJP should not resign, but the guilty must pay. At least set an example and prove that the politicians etc are not above the law. Failure to do so means that there is no one fit to govern India.
Anil, UK

This "scam" bears all the hallmarks of a political conspiracy. Assembly elections in five states are round the corner and the Congress party had no issue to fight on. By not allowing the parliament to function and behaving in such an irresponsible manner when the government has removed the people allegedly involved and also declared an enquiry at the highest level, is totally unjustifiable for the Congress Party. Incidentally the biggest scams took place under the aegis of the Congress Party and we did not see them resign or even take any action against the accused.
Himmat, India/Hongkong

The destruction of the Buddhas seems minuscule compared to the bribery scandal in India. The Taliban have destroyed treasures of art but the fundamentalist Hindu BJP have destroyed something that cannot be measured and that is "trust". Trust and faith of the Indian people.
Krishna Das, USA

Do what all democracies do

R. Khan, England
Indian government resign - why? Do what all democracies do. Set up an "independent" enquiry staffed by your clones and brush everything under the carpet! Isn't that already happening in India now?
R. Khan, England

No, the Government does not have to resign. In fact, it must not. Rampant corruption is a problem that probably was, and is, endemic to all Indian governments. Corruption has to be dealt with by making government processes simpler and more transparent. If the present government addresses corruption as an issue and changes the system, it would do the country a great service. Quitting will only reduce the pressures to change the present system. As a result it may bring in a new government that may remain as corrupt as ever before.
Sudhir Marathe, India/USA

This whole thing is absolutely ridiculous: Generals and top government officials duped into accepted "bribes" from "arms dealers" who turn out to be tabloid journalists! An Opposition that is just as corrupt embarking on self-serving moral posturing to gain power for itself! And all in one of the poorest, most divided countries in the world - the question of our government's legitimacy has been answered yet again.
Pranjal Tiwari, Hong Kong

Corruption is common to all mankind. At least in India we have a free and bold media that is ready to capitalise on the follies of the politicians. Corruption is not "endemic" to Indians (as someone on this board has mistakenly said), but is to a certain section of the entire world's population. Haven't we all heard of the "Watergate" scandal in US and ""Hinduja passport row" in UK?
Rakesh Chandra, India

It would be news if people were held accountable for once

Vinod M, USA

The George Fernandes' action to resign is admirable. Not since Menon's resignation following India's pathetic showdown with China has any defence minister owned up to his failing with such forthrightness. But Fernandes is quite obviously not the man with his hand in the till. And his action is meaningless, if the real culprits are not brought to justice and held accountable. It has been over a decade since the Bofors scandal broke - but we are no closer to discovering who really benefited from that deal. It is common knowledge that corruption is widespread in India. It would be news if people were held accountable for once. And for starters let's begin with the Congress coming clean on the Bofors issue.
Vinod M, USA

Should the present government resign? Not unless it is proven that the whole government was party to the scandal. Law and politics should be allowed to take their course; otherwise we would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, US

The question should be that what should the parliament do to rectify the corruption problem in India, which has been a part of the popular culture. "Throw some cash around and the work will be done", is the belief, and is not far from the truth. I am not doubting the sincerity of Vajpayee, but it takes more than one person to run a country. Resignation of the government at this time will not bring about any drastic change in the mentality of the offenders, as we know they reside by the hundreds in every political party. The people who have done wrong should face the consequences.
Sumer, USA/India

Corruption is universal in India.I don't think it can be eradicated in India. What bothered me most was the fact that the very people responsible for protecting the country have been dumb enough to keep talking to agents of a fictitious company. How do we expect these people to deal with countries like Pakistan and China?
D Ramaswamy, USA

The government shouldn't be dismantled because some of its elements are corrupt. Those found guilty should be brought to justice. We shouldn't try to replace the brain because there is a tumour in it. Lets get rid of the tumour.
Narayan, USA

A national government should be formed immediately

K, Italy
Given that the whole affair is linked with the defence ministry, I think that the government should resign and a national government should be formed immediately.
K, Italy

Indian democracy suffers from extremes. It is the widest known fact that politicians in all political systems are corrupted by their power. The Indian system has the strength to expose its embarrassing failures, and yet will now suffer the dangerous consequences of those actions that sensationalise half-baked allegations based on information from immoral people. The Indian people alone should exercise their right to "throw the rascals out" through constitutional means. Chaos in parliament, and on the streets make Indian democracy a sham.
Pradeep D, USA

India's first priority is stability. India can not afford an election right now. Also it is not a question of removing bad government and bring a good one because its a selection between bad and worst! I think they should punish whoever was involved instead of bringing whole government down.
Rajesh, USA

Corruption is endemic to Indians and politics is no exception. However you cannot help but feel that there's room for change, no matter how late or how little. I'm always very optimistic that things will get better. It's now or never, it's a beginning. OK, we learn from our mistakes -- the lessons are learnt hard. But so be it. This government has no ethical right to remain in power. One might argue, if not the BJP, then what? The Congress party is no less corrupt. But sorry, that is not an excuse for a party to continue to trade corruption as it has. The buck stops here.
Indi, UK

Oh dear, oh dear! Imagine that, corrupt politicians! How fortunate we are to be able to look at the Palace of Westminster and see what fine, upstanding and total incorruptible people we have running our country! The words "Throwing stones" and "Glass Houses" spring to mind...
David Coe, Netherlands (ex-pat)

Vajpayee government must quite immediately. The proposed enquiry commission is only an effort to get some more time for his so called alliance making more money. Let them give way for younger generation.
Mathew V.I, UAE

I think there has been more corruption scandals in Italy. Where governments changed more than fifty times and there has been no discussions like this. Why for India?
V Raj, Netherlands

What the people are and should be more interested in, is in the guilty being brought to books. There is absolutely no need for taking any draconian steps like making the government to resign. Corruption is all-pervading in this world and targeting any one party for it is senseless.
Rakesh Chandra, India

India needs stability right now, not a political vacuum

R. Gupta, Indian in UK
For anyone who knows anything about Indian politics, this event should not come as a surprise. I think the correct move should be for the Government to stay in power until an independent investigation is complete. After all, a different Government would not be any less corrupt. I am also quite disappointed by the behaviour of the opposition parties. All parties should take this opportunity to rid the political system of corruption. Instead they have already rejected any kind of investigation and are more interested in snatching power themselves. India needs stability right now, not a political vacuum.
R. Gupta, Indian in UK

This problem is not going to be solved by playing musical chairs with the Government. It's only going to be solved when Indians put their petty differences aside and work to foster an atmosphere where people can spend their energies improving their standard of living through legal means - rather than grafts and bribes!
Ashish, USA

Mr Vajpayee is one of the stalwarts of Indian politics and the best man to root out all that is bad in the Indian political system. The roots of corruption are too deep and they cannot be cleansed overnight. And I think resignation of all the tainted ministers and suspension of involved officials proves Mr Vajpayee's sincerity.
Mayank Shah, UK

The Government should not step down. With 1 billion population and different languages/ races/ sects/religions, the PM of India is the toughest job and Vajpayee has so far done well to manage all aspects. If he goes, who will be the next "PM" for India??
S. Suresh, India

Let's say they step down. Who will head the next Government? Take a wild guess. Yes, of don't have to be a rocket scientist to answer this one. And the answer is - another bunch of corrupt crooks, disguising themselves under the banner of the flag of the Indian National Congress! Come on, if it's going to be a game of yo-yo between two corrupt parties, in the interests of saving some valuable money and time, I'd say, let the BJP run its term.
Sriram, USA

To believe that bribes and corruption in government would vanish is wishful thinking

V. Anand, UAE,
To believe that bribes and corruption in government would vanish is wishful thinking. While not tolerating corruption, Vajpayee should rightfully cleanse the system as promised. Among the crop of politicians that we have got, Vajpayee is the best to see this through. To ask Vajpayee to resign at this stage is uncalled for.
V. Anand, UAE,

The goverment should not step down. Corruption is endemic in India. Any alternate government is unlikely to be any less prone to corruption than the present. A solution would be for the judiciary to intervene. The Supreme court could set up an investigative committee on corruption. Along the lines of the Senate investigatory committee for Clinton's alleged pardon fraud.
Mohit Sabharwal, India

I am at a loss to learn this episode. How come such smart people got into this scandal for such small sums of money? It should be thoroughly investigated and the guilty punished to maximum. I have no sympathy for corrupt people but let us take a deep breath and let the complete truth come out in public. In the end truth will prevail.
Nand Mehta, USA

India's politicians should take tips from Bill Clinton on how to remain popular and corrupt at the same time. That way, there is no question for people feeling any need for changing the government.
Mohit Sabharwal, Indian in Palo Alto, California

Not at all. Asking for the Vajpayee government to resign, is the most stupid of things. The government has acted responsibly and seems to be honest with the whole business. It has now ordered for a judicial probe under the chair of the country's top court. This government is still better than what we had in the past.
V. C. Patel, USA

How long we Indians accept this kind of corruption by our politicians

Andy, USA
How long we Indians accept this kind of corruption by our politicians. Our country is choking on poverty, while millions of dollars are looted every day by corrupt government agencies. Look at our elderly senior citizens going without proper health care or basic human dignity which is at least a free food coupon or housing shelter. We Indians do not love our country. If we loved our country with our natural and technical resources we should be a rich and prosperous nation. We do not have a single leader who could come even close to Mahatma Gandhi.
Andy, USA

The government should not resign until the guilt is proved and only those persons should be removed from the government who are found guilty.
Ashok Duggal, India

The amount of interest generated shows that nobody cares, the Indian system is rotten to the core. The BJP is no different to any other party, civil servant or judiciary in India. The new generation is born of a corrupt system in a corrupt way. India is slowly but surely going to the wall.
Sian, UK

The average Indian is sick and tired of these everyday scams and scandals

Vivek Sharma, Canada
It is a stigma on India's face that even after 51years of Independence we have not been able to put our house in order. In the present circumstances it is the full responsibility of the government to step down immediately and pave the way for stronger leadership to lead the nation. Today we need people like Gandhi or Vivekanand to lead this nation full of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. We need a leadership who can broom the ailing politics of India and cultivate confidence in the people. The average Indian is sick and tired of these everyday scams and scandals. The bug of corruption is slowly and steadily eroding the roots of Indian democracy and the soul of the nation.
Vivek Sharma, Canada

India's web of corruption has integrated itself into the system for over 50 years. Is the BJP, who came to power only in 1998, supposed to eliminate corruption which has sadly become a part of everyday life? Think of how much progress has been achieved and how much we have to lose by seeing them off. Now the call comes for change, the BJP should capitalise to ensure that this decadent system of bribery should be dealt with strongly.
Praneet Nanduri, Botswana

This government is still better than what we had in the past

Rishi, Canada
I don't see a reason for the government to resign. People fail to see that no defence deal has been okayed as yet. Money being given to politicians happens everywhere - U.S. & U.K being the prime example. I only say that even the most prolific scandal like Bofors has not legally brought those 'big guys' to justice. The government's involvement is yet to be proved. All I can say is this government is still better than what we had in the past.
Rishi, Canada

The sooner the communalist BJP - our Indian Taliban that includes members who are charged with the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Senior Ministerial positions - and their allies are out the better. A new government must return the country to the ideals of secularism and an anti-nuclear policy.
John Pinto, Indian resident in the UK

The solution is not a change in the ruling party, but a people's inquiry into the life of politicians

Jyotsna, India
The resignation of the government is no solution to the problem of corruption. I heard the self-righteous comments of the congress leaders, Pranab Mukherjee to name one, and thought let him who is pure throw the first stone. Congress leaders have amassed huge wealth at the expense of the country including the Nehru-Gandhi family by virtue of being in power for generations. One of their own, Narasimha Rao, stands charged for bribing MP's in order to win a confidence vote in Parliament and they have the righteousness to ask the government to resign. Two wrongs though do not make one right. Those guilty of corruption must be punished and quickly. It is well known that most politicians in all parties are not free of corruption. Yet, they are able to get away with it with impunity because the press which should be the watchdog for the people lets them get away with it. The system at present is such that it is difficult to not either be corrupt or aid and abet it. The solution is not a change in the ruling party, but a people's inquiry into the life of politicians and expunging those from public life who are found guilty of moral or monetary corruption. The only problem with this solution is, India may not be left with enough people willing to be in public life to fill all the seats in Parliament.
Jyotsna, India, presently in USA

The government has lost its moral right to govern, they must resign. When film producers can be arrested just on the tapes then why not politicians? They all should be arrested and kept in jail (preventive) till the enquiry ends.
M Khalid Khan, India

Don't people get a government they deserve?

Ramesh Braroo, USA
I am not surprised at what has been discovered. My pain comes from somewhere else. We have inherited a land on which once Ram, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Nanak, Gandhi and likes of them have walked. Guru Nanak was imprisoned by Babar, Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded at the behest of Aurangzeb and Guru Gobind Singh's children were buried alive. Kashmiri Pandits have been killed and turned into destitutes in their own land. More Hindus in India are getting killed at the hands of other caste Hindus and Pakistan gets a bad rap. God knows that I am living in the USA because I feel so timid and helpless in the land of my birth. My father was let die in AIIMS hospital in the middle of the night, and to have his body moved to the ambulance, I had to pay a bribe. What must happen before we realise that we as a race are in a tailspin? There is corruption in every neighbourhood in our country. Don't people get a government they deserve? Why blame politicians? When will we learn to take responsibility and start blaming ourselves first? All I can tell my country folks is please don't let India die - not without a fight anyway.
Ramesh Braroo, USA

India is just trying to match its style to that of America. No one criticizes the Bush dynasty for doing the same thing, do they?
Chris Cormier, Canada

This government is the only government that did something for Hindus in 50 years of so-called "freedom". Congress is losing it's grip from ruling India, so it's paying people to play games and take this leadership out. There are some bad people in the BJP. But still I am so happy with their work so far - no need to resign!
Birju Rajput, USA

There should be a thorough inquiry. The guilty must be punished, not like the inquiry into Bombay communal rights.
Salim, England

Vajpayee as such is a very honest man

Ravi, USA
What happened is nothing new. It has happened in multi-millions in the past. But this kind of exposure is required for the Indian politicians, so that they will thank ten times in the future. As far as the government's resignation is concerned: It is not required at this stage. As this government which is proved of taking 11 lakhs (about $2400) goes, the next which took 64 crores (multi million$) will come in to power. Vajpayee as such is a very honest man.
Ravi, USA

The BJP government should accept its misgivings courageously. It should accept the sins and faults of its government. They should call for a new mandate by the Indian people as they have seriously lost their credibility. The damage has been done. What the Tehelka people did is an eye opener for the Indian defence apparatus. If this could be done by two journalists then any foreign spy agency can make inroads into the Indian defence establishment with ease. If two naive guys could purchase sympathy of the BJP president by a meagre amount of one hundred thousand rupees then the same could be purchased by one hundred thousand dollars.
Dr. Ali Ahmed Rind, Pakistan

In the tapes, nowhere Bangaru Laxman has asked Tehelka to give money for the party. It is only Tehelka saying it wanted to give money for party fund. As a common man I don't find anything wrong. Even if you are running any welfare association and somebody is giving it as a fund you will accept it. Also the questions are with specific intent asked by Tehelka like "Do you accept for this?" which can have any meaning.
Raghav Venkat, India

I am plainly disgusted with this BJP or NDA Government, by whichever name they want to call themselves. They came to power riding on the wave of religious bigotry, screaming shameful slogans like "Garve se kaho, hum Hindu hain". But what kind of Hindus are they? They have disgraced the good name of Ram and Laxman. And they greedily grab bribes privately for national security and defence, while on the other hand publicly tout their greatest strengths as the same national security and defence. They make our great India a laughing stock in front of not only the world but also Pakistan across the border. They are the greatest bunch of crooks and thugs who use Hindu Sadhus and the Hindu religion to win elections by using the backdoor methods. Bangaru Laxman is supposed to be the pillar of the BJP and is its Party President. He should be debarred from using the name Laxman. His name should be Badnam Bangaru. They should resign en masse and resign now. The BJP party stinks.
Thakur Singh, India

The only institution which I trusted in the whole of India was the defence institution

Sundar, India
The only institution which I trusted in the whole of India was the defence institution, now it has been affected by cancerous corruption. First of all, the root cause of corruption in the armed forces is really sickening and those responsible and few others hiding uncaught should be sacked and heavily punished. To my knowledge, George Fernandes is one of the honest and great defence ministers in the history of the Indian army who is loved and respected by almost every guy working in some defence organisation. I have few of my friends working in defence organisation who say he is a humble, honest person who thinks and acts for the country's defence. Since some corrupt party leader and officers got some money he has been forced out of the government, it is a shame. Justice in its essence is to bring out the truth, save the genuine guys and punish only those who are guilty. The same can be told about Vajpayee who is honest, but the same cannot be told about few of his party men. Even if you topple the BJP government the only other nationalist party will be Congress which is the most tainted and is the prime accused in the biggest defence scandal (Bofors). And the wife of the culprit is heading the party. So an independent enquiry should be held and the cancer tumour in the defence should be removed instead of tearing the government apart.
Sundar, India

Indian politics and civil service are riddled with corruption. It seems now that even the armed forces have been corrupted.
Surya Kayani, United Kingdom

The faith of the people in democracy and in the BJP is at stake. Vajpayee should resign.
Winfer, Saudi Arabia

No need to resign. Investigate the matter and get the culprits. Both parties now come together on a debate on how to get rid of the corruption. Also, the opposition should act more maturely.
John, USA/India

Definitely not. Those posing as arms dealers should be arrested and charged for impersonation. Money was offered to the BJP Party, not to an individual. Impersonation to encourage anyone to commit a crime should be an indictable offence.
Roop, Canada

Asking for the Vajpayee government to pack-up, particularly with respect to the Tehelka episode - is the most stupid of things. The government has certainly acted responsibly and seems to be honest with the whole stuff. It has now ordered for a judicial probe under the chair of none less than the top of the state's court. A guy with some sense of reason and logic would wait for the findings and not rush to swift conclusions. Not just that, he would also doubt the veracity of the so called Tehelka "findings"! These folks giving Rs.100000.- (hardly approx. US $2100, pittance), for which in return they were receipted too, and then calling it corruption is ludicrous and also clearly indicates their motive to make a case out of nothing, but only to serve an ulterior motive. If every other shady guy comes up with something like this, and if ministers and heads of parties are going to bow out, the result could only be chaos and not governance.
Halasyam Mohan, Sweden

The system of bribes and favoritism, best described as 'controlled anarchy', has to be abolished

Somdev Roy, USA
The resignation of a government will not change the system. The system of bribes and favoritism, best described as 'controlled anarchy', has to be abolished. I am very happy that has come up and has started exposing the corruption. I only wish that the message will reach the millions of illiterate people who make up the majority of the voting population. At last the internet has done something real good for India.
Somdev Roy, USA

Resign for what? Let the inquiry be finished! This isn't Saudi Arabia. Did Tony Blair resign for the passport scandal? Please look at your own country, Jeff Scholey.
Naveen, India

The BJP has no moral right to continue to be in power. This was the party which threw mud on opposition parties for corruption and it is a pity that it finds itself deep in corruption. And that too in the Defence Ministry which is the heart of security and integrity of any nation. Clean your house before you throw mud on others, Mr. PM.
Suresh, USA

All of us have to share the blame for what has happened

da Costa, India
This incident calls for self introspection. I have to admit that all of us Indians, myself included, are corrupt in some way or the other and one of the primary reasons is that we grow up in a morally corrupt and greedy society. As the saying goes "Charity begins at Home". Let us start by improving ourselves. All of us have to share the blame for what has happened. We elect our representatives who have no character. The way out of this mess is have a pre-election scrutinizing body who has to screen the candidates background namely formal degree education, criminal record, health, etc. before giving the no objection certificate. The reason for this is that most politicians file a false affidavit and get away. Have a look at our Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha, full of criminals and cheats (people who have given wrong domicile to get elected to RS). The other thing that has to be implemented is an Ombudsman. This body should be able to swiftly punish/ disqualify the elected members of Parliament/Assembly for Corruption, Disturbing Law and Order, etc. Ministers and Politicians should not be allowed to get away because they have the required strength and muscle power.
da Costa, India

The whole political and government system in India is corrupted

Ashok Patel, USA/India
The whole political and government system in India is corrupted. It's in everyday life. It's everywhere. It is very, very difficult to correct the corrupt system. My personal belief is that India has to come up with a very strong leader a total different party whose primary goal is to get rid of corruption. Though Vajpeyee himself is an honest man he is supported by all kind of distrustful people.
Ashok Patel, USA/India

I really don't care if this government resigns or not. I want every on of those found taking money on the tape hanged. Probes and change of government will only bring misery to the people not the truth.
hkr, USA

The tapes disclose corruption is endemic and permeates the whole ruling class. The Vajpayee government has lost its political mandate (whatever the legal arguments may be) and must go.
mohansingh, india

This is the price a coalition government pays when it has a conglomeration of several small parties not having a similar ideology. I do not think the government should step down. Look what happened in the UK. Because of the hasty unsubstantiated revelations of the British media, Tony Blair forced Peter Mandelson to resign. Now Blair looks a fool. Vajpayee should not have requested or accepted Fernandes' resignation. The government should hold on until a quick inquiry is completed.
Ponn Thangarajah, Burbank, USA

All I can say is well done BJP, this scandal could not have happened to bigger hypocrites.
AbdulK, England

All faith has been lost and the damage is irreversible

Jeff Scholey, UK
The whole affair is a disgrace, and the Government should resign 'en masse' immediately. There has been a strong stand made against the Government by all the opposition parties and the people of India. All faith has been lost and the damage is irreversible.
Jeff Scholey, UK

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

16 Mar 01 | South Asia
Arms scandal paralyses India
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories