The common people generally perceive political leaders as those getting all the privileges and benefits at the expense of the public exchequer without any accountability for their work. The sense of cynicism about the political leadership reached its peak towards the end of UPA II when many corruption cases broke out even as inflation was sky high. The people felt betrayed by their own elected government.
However, there have been some exceptions to the above commonly held perception. Some people have held former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a beacon of personal integrity even when there were grave allegations of scams against his government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely perceived as honest. However, with PM Modi there is a difference, apart from the credible track record of his government when it comes to having clean hands. This assertion about PM Modi has been validated with pieces of evidence on many occasions in the past. Recently, one more example came to light.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conferred Seoul Peace Award for 2018, he also had received a cash prize of Rs 1.3 crore.
In a related development, “On March 6, the Central Bureau of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had granted exemption under section 10 (17A) (i) of the Income Tax Act to the Seoul Peace Prize for the assessment year of 2019-20,” said an Economic Times report. Thus, the prize money received by the PM Modi was exempted from tax.
But PM Modi didn’t want any kind of exemption and wrote a letter to Finance Minister urging her to reconsider the decision.
According to the same ET report, PM Modi has written, “I have learnt that the Finance Ministry passed an order waiving off income tax from the prize money. Due to Lok Sabha elections and other commitments, I could not write to you earlier. I wish to request you that this prize money should be subjected to the same income tax provisions that are applicable to crores of other tax-payers in the country. The income tax proceeds go into the exercise of nation-building. Hence, I request you to reconsider the earlier order of giving the tax exemption and withdraw it.”
On the other hand, when Dr Manmohan Singh was leaving the Prime Minister’s office in 2014, an order was passed to allow the Prime Minister to get free electricity and water at his residence in Delhi.
An Indian Express report had then said, “The UPA government has ensured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh retires in comfort. As a parting gift to Singh, who has expressed his desire to move into his new house before election results are declared on May 16, the Urban Development Ministry has changed an earlier order, paving the way for free water and electricity for his retirement house at Motilal Nehru Marg.”
The above two examples in case of the two prime ministers of India clearly reflect their priorities and their approaches towards the use of public money.