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Corruption in Politics, Politics of Corruption

June 5, 2012

POINTING out the instances of corruption in recent past will be difficult. There are so many cases of graft, big and small that invariably one will miss some cases. However, the major ones that come to mind are the 2G scam, the CWD scam, the Adarsh Society scam, The NRHM scam of the UP government, illegal mining in Karnataka and Goa and the latest, coal-gate where the prime minister is directly targeted by Team Anna. Politics and corruption go hand in hand is a given. This is true for parties from both side of the aisle.  The case of the stupid Bangaru Laxman caught taking bribe is still fresh in the minds of the people. George Fernandes too was alleged to have taken kick backs in a defense deal in the early part of this decade. Mulayam Singh Yadav is facing a disproportionate assets case. Lalu Yadav is yet to get exonerated in the fodder scam. Jagan Mohan Reddy is alleged to have made a fortune in a short span of time – cases have been slapped against him. Then there was that outrage where it was alleged that parliamentarians were asking for money to ask questions in the House.  Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MP Shibu Soren was forced to vote for the Congress in an inebriate condition which saved the Narsimha Rao government. What epitomizes corruption in this country is the Bofors scandal which saw the fall of the government. Bofors became synonymous with corruption and Rajiv Gandhi was ousted by VP Singh.

The reason for graft in politics is because there is no system to fund political parties. That is not to defend graft in politics but to understand the reason for such widespread malaise of corruption. What is required is electoral reforms but somehow the political parties are not too keen on drafting the rules of the game which will bring transparency to the political process. I will dwell on this in future. Be as it may, the problem of corruption in politics is omnipresent and a fact no one can deny.

If there is a problem there will be people who will give solutions. Enter Team Anna. A motley group of activists and Left wing radicals who have raised the pitch of anti-corruption crusade to levels never heard before. These are NGO’s and Magsaysay award winners who under the garb of activism have a political agenda . There are a few distinguished lawyers too, most notably the father-son duo of Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan. Their panacea for the problem of corruption is the one and only Jan Lokpal which they have drafted under the banner – India Against Corruption.  This is a draconian law which gives extra-ordinary powers to the Lokpal under whom the office of the PM and his Cabinet will fall. I have written earlier on this and it will be futile to waste precious space and repeat what I had said. Suffice to say that Team Anna and its members are desperate to get the Janlokpal Bill passed in the parliament. Anna Hazare had earlier captured the imagination of the people and there was a huge rally for the Janlokpal Bill. The Mumbai rally which Team Anna had organized anticipating a surge from Maharashtra, the home state of Anna Hazare however did not elicit any response and the old man was left talking to empty spaces in the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai. Team Anna became desperate. They had earlier rejected and lampooned Yoga Guru turned political activist Baba Ramdev as he came from the other end of the spectrum.

Baba Ramdev and his Patanjali Yogpeeth have captured the imagination of the people and the man has been able to bring Yoga into the lives of millions of Indians. The man has a certain charisma and Indians of a particular hue swear by the man. Baba Ramdev has travelled extensively and has organized Yoga camps in towns big and small. The man is a maverick and a good orator.

The one thing that is common between Anna Hazare and his team and Baba Ramdev is that both want to fight graft – or so they say. Team Anna had earlier rebuffed Baba Ramdev. The Mumbai debacle however forced Team Anna to rethink their strategy. They decided to embrace Baba Ramdev who it is said is close to the RSS, VHP and other right wing organizations.  This just goes to show how desperately Team Anna wants to get the JanLokpal Bill passed. Baba Ramdev  on his part had the bitter experience of security forces barging into Ramlila Grounds where he was having a Yoga camp in the middle of the night and he and his followers were badly beaten up. One lady follower of Baba Ramdev, Rajbala lost her life in that gruesome attack on Baba and his followers. Baba realized he needed others to join him. He also understood that extreme Left had enough clout to ensure his security and that he could further his mission of getting billions stashed abroad which he believes if brought back into the national economy will transform India. An insecure Baba Ramdev swallowed his pride and shook hands with a group who had been calling him names not so long ago. Team Anna wanted to show they had the masses with them which someone like Baba Ramdev could ensure. This is a marriage of convenience and one that fits like a glove at least for now.

Team Anna did something audacious. They released a set of documents where fifteen Cabinet Ministers including the prime minister have been shown to have been complicit in graft directly or indirectly. The audacity of the act was that they did not spare even the prime minister and sent him a copy of the ‘evidence’ of graft that they had gathered. The list of the 15 ministers reads like a who’s who of Indian establishment and includes the Home Minister and men like Farooq Abdullah. They have alleged that the Prime Minister though upright personally had allowed graft right under his nose when the ministry that he had retained had pawned precious coal mines to innocuous characters for peanuts even after the coal secretary had repeatedly suggested that the coal blocks be auctioned. Remarkably, these documents suggesting graft by 15 Cabinet Ministers was released right after the Budget session of the parliament. Obviously, Team Anna did not want the BJP to reap political mileage out of these revelations. They went to the media and with a flourish unleashed a set of documents that they thought gave ample evidence of graft. But even here there was a catch. Team Anna was not too keen on getting the Cabinet Ministers to resign or bring them to book. The thrust of their argument was that such charges must be examined and pursued by an independent agency. When the government suggested the CBI they rejected it outright saying CBI’s could not conduct an unbiased inquiry as it was directly under the government. They went on to say that had the JanLokpal Bill been passed with an investigative agency of its own such a problem of credibility would not have arisen. It was a roundabout way of pointing out the need for the passage of the JanLokpal Bill. Remarkably some of the charges were based on a CAG report that has yet not been tabled in the House! How Team Anna got hold of the draft CAG report is something that the government needs to look into seriously.

Team Anna understood that even with all the documentation and prima facie ‘evidence’ against the top ministers they would be unable to pressurize the government into getting the JanLokpal Bill passed. They needed a show of strength. Enter Baba Ramdev. Clearly, from the ultra-Leftist Team Anna’s point of view being seen together with Baba Ramdev was equivalent to supping with the Devil. But as said earlier they had to swallow their pride and set aside their ideological moorings for a ‘higher goal’ – that of getting the JanLokpal Bill passed any which way. So there was a day of fasting by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev together at Jantar Mantar. The saffron clad Baba Ramdev delivered. Anna’s repetitive rhetoric did go down well but surely the star of the show was Baba Ramdev. The man has oratorical skills and an ability to communicate with the masses. He is also pigheaded about his cause which is to get back the billions stashed in tax havens abroad. The UPA government realized that the threat was more from Baba Ramdev while Team Anna could be tamed. Next day after the daylong satyagraha, Baba Ramdev was slapped with a Rs 5 crore notice of non-payment of service tax. The incorrigible Yogi nevertheless went from leader to leader asking them to sign a petition to get back monies stashed abroad. Congress and the UPA were shell shocked when Nitin Gadkari on whom the Baba had called to sign the petition touched the Yogis feet and endorsed all that Baba had to say. This was a political coup of sorts and went down well with the people of India. Congress increased the rhetoric against the Baba in the media to quell any fallout. Congress is in a Devil and the Deep Sea situation. They cannot take on Team Anna upfront, the two have too much in common and Congress has used their acolytes for long to target the BJP and its leadership. Yet they cannot accept all that they want for obvious valid reasons – that will be to accept India as a police state. Till Baba Ramdev is under the Team Anna umbrella they cannot touch him either. A rehash of the Ramlila outrage, while very much on the table is impossible till Team Anna is on Baba’s side.  Did someone talk about corruption? This is a charade by Team Anna to use all means fair and foul to achieve their political aims. Baba Ramdev is a man with a mission with the naivety of a five year old, believing that he can get the stashed slush monies back home for common good. The government wants the status quo to remain as they believe that that is their best chance to remain in power, besides the democratic institutions should not be touches, and rightly so. The politics of corruption has taken over the corruption in politics and that is as sad as sad can be.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. arun Bhagat permalink
    July 12, 2012 10:01 am

    A complex situation indeed. In this politics of corruption, the aam admi is a mute spectator, though the masses had earlier embraced Anna as their leader, now they are disillusioned. Nothing seems to root our corruption from India. i feel it has very deep roots in our history, when the Britishers used our own people against each other by the power of money!!

    your analysis of the situation is quite right, but you have not specified why Team Anna wish to get the lokpal bill passed when as you say, it is a draconian bill. What is their agenda? I would like to know!!

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