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Between the line

Corruption still haunts India
July 27 , 2011


PAKISTAN lost democracy by undemocratic methods. India is endangering it through democratic methods. Political equilibrium has got a jolt and all traditions and conventions have been thrown to the wind. The two main political parties, the Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which are at daggers drawn, are so engrossed in running down each other to the extent that they are not even conscious of the harm they are doing to the polity. They have come to even politicise corruption. It looks as if they are determined to make India a banana republic, if not economically but politically and socially.

Lack of consensus among political elements led to a military coup in Pakistan. The National Assembly and the Senate had lost relevance. Similarly, perpetual fighting between legislators of different persuasion in India both in Parliament and in the state legislatures has put a question mark against the system itself. We have established in the country a system where the will of people prevails through the elected representatives. There is little room either for dictation or for demonization of policy.

Yet the increasing doubts about the viability of the system, although born out of disappointment, are not good for the country’s health. Dissent and criticism are an essential part of parliamentary democracy. But at some stage, there has to be a consensus to let the chariot of governance wheel further. Elections are nearly three years away. The situation cannot remain as it exists today because both the Manmohan Singh government and the system have been battered beyond repair.

It is no use reminding the two parties about the basics. They know what they are. Still they indulge in we-the-holy attitude and transcend the Laksman rekha all the time. It is for the different political parties to see the rot setting in and wake up to corruption which has gone so deep in the administration that honest bureaucrats or, for that matter, politicians can be counted on one’s fingers.

It is their tribe that helped Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediurappa to subvert rules and procedures to begin illegal mining. His corruption was palpable long time ago. But the BJP, his party, kept quiet because he was sharing the booty with some in the high command. Even after his exposure, his reluctance to go is an affront to democracy. The support of the majority in the house is necessary. But of what use it is when the chief minister’s image is that of a corrupt person?

In his report, Justice Santosh Hegde, Karnataka’s Lokayukta (ombudsman), has left no room for Yediurappa to escape the responsibility of illegal mining of iron ore in the Bellary district of the state. Still the chief minister says that he is not guilty. No one can catch him with his hands in the till. Yet Hegde has laid bare the modus operandi of illegal mining going back to the time when the Congress government was in power.

Hegde told me at Bangalore this week that he concentrated on Yediurappa regime because he is more concerned with the present, not the past. However, he pointed out that the illegal mining went on increasing with every new chief minister, Yediurappa reaching the maximum limit. Sadly, Hegde’s tenure is over. Otherwise, he may have gone up back to 2000 when rulers saw the remunerative side of illegal mining because of China’s interest. It offered many a time more price than what prevailed in the Indian market.

The practice of illegal mining was perfected by the two Reddy Brothers—one of them is a minister in Yediurappa’s cabinet—who accumulated thousands of crores of rupees through illicit methods. Their interest in politics began when they found that most members of the state legislature were purchasable, nothing alarming in modern India. They have the credit of converting the minority BJP into a majority party. It won 109 seats in the election but has now 120 members.

The BJP is bound to act against Yediurappa. The party has no face to talk against corruption. The Congress defended its scams on the ground that the BJP had its skeleton like Yediurappa’s blatant corruption in its closet. The party was always caught on the wrong foot.

However, the 2G spectrum scam has hogged the spotlight now. The scam has come in handy to the BJP to ask for the resignation of the Prime Minister and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. Former Communications Minister A.Raja, the accused who played havoc with the licence procedures and pricing, has named the prime minister in the court of the Central Bureau of Investigation of having known everything.

True, an accused says everything to save himself but Raja’s allegations against the prime minister and the former finance minister cannot be brushed aside easily. Raja has talked about his noting he forwarded in letters and files to the prime minister. Since the Supreme Court is monitoring the whole case, it is but fair that the outcome should be awaited before forming any judgment.

What is intriguing in this developing case against Raja is the open support by the DMK, a Congress partner in the ruling coalition. One senior member of the DMK, T.R. Balu, was present this week at the hearing. The Congress cannot take any action against the DMK lest it should rock the government which has the support of party’s 16 members in the Lok Sabha.

The comical aspect is that Yadurappa has said that since the PM does not resign, why should he? What he forgets is that he has been found corrupt by the state ombudsman while the PM has been only named by the accused who has been sent to jail because of proven charge of corruption.

In parliamentary democracy, there are certain procedures which have to be followed. What Yediurappa or his party, the BJP, has been doing amounts to sabotaging the system. Arun Jaitley, the opposition leader, has rightly said that certain issues should be kept above politics and they should be viewed from the national point of view.

But then he is the same person who picks up trivial matters to attack the integrity of activists and human rights workers who have kept away from politics. But Jaitley sincerely believes that people listen to his glib talk attentively. The sooner he comes out of his make-belief world, the better it would be for him and his party. He should seriously ponder over the allegations by Home Minister Chidambaram that the BJP has increased its attack against the Congress because cases against Hindu terrorists are reaching the final stage. The boot is on the other leg.

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