India’s ‘Mr Clean’ PM damaged by arrest of activist

NEW DELHI, August 20, 2011 (AFP) – There is no small irony in the fact that India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, known for his probity and integrity, now finds himself fighting for political survival with an anti-corruption activist. When the Congress party won elections in 2004, its decision to name Singh as premier was partly based on his unblemished record as the “Mr Clean” of Indian politics.

After a thumping re-election in 2009, Singh was more popular than ever and there was never any doubt that he would retain the post for another term.

But in the past year his reputation has taken a battering with a succession of high-profile, multi-billion-dollar corruption scams involving some top government officials.

More recently he has been locked in a damaging battle of wills with the hugely popular campaigner Anna Hazare, who has triggered a wave of public fury over corruption that has left Singh, 78, struggling to respond.

His administration has made some crucial blunders in handling the Hazare phenomenon, including arresting the 74-year-old in a bid to prevent a planned hunger strike aimed at forcing the government to draft stronger anti-graft laws.

“The PM’s credibility was severely damaged by the decision t