United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leaders and their supporting communist parties are using a lot of imagination to defend their Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil. It is another matter that they always look unconvincing.
For few, if any, believe in the arguments offered by them; and, invariably, Patil'sbackers end up eroding their own credibility. The reason is that the UPA'sPresidential nominee has not been able to wash off stains of grave financial irregularities in the bank she founded, and she is decidedly superstitious; she believes that the dead can talk.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, dismissed the stories about Patil'sdisreputable past as ?mud-slinging.? Here is a man who is widely regarded as honest and good and he indeed is one. In fact, one important reason he was chosen for prime ministership was his clean image. But, by defending Patil, what has he ended up as? An apologist of misdemeanour and obscurantism.
The case of the communists is even more curious. These are the people who go into the minutest details of the transactions that have a bearing on public money. For instance, they raised a stink over the wild and absurd charges of favouritism hurled at the privatisations executed by former Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie; they demanded CBI probes in deals which were perfectly okay. But here is a case of financial bungling and gross misconduct; and the commies have turned a blind eye to Patil'sfiduciary shenanigans.
At the recent Central Committee meeting of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Patil'sbanking past was not even discussed. According to the party'swebsite: ?The Central Committee endorsed the stand taken by the Politburo to support the UPA nominee, Smt. Pratibha Patil, for President. The CPI(M) is especially happy to support the election of the first woman President in the country.? Notice how cunningly the party does packaging: venality enveloped in women empowerment.
The CPM'sclose ally, the Communist Party of India (CPI), used a different ruse: it tried to sell a minor conspiracy theory. CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan supported Patil by asking why the allegations against her had taken so long to come out. ?If there was a genuine case, they would have filed a case. Why has all this come out now?? he asked.
And then came an even more brazen defence of the lady. ?They are not aware of the cooperative movement and its ups and downs. Why should only one sugar mill be singled out?? he asked. It is like the lawyer of a man accused of five murders asking for the acquittal of his client on the ground that Dawood Ibrahim has murdered 5,000 people and yet he has not been punished! The arguments of Patil'sdefenders are an affront to decency, common sense and reason.
And they are an affront to those who have suffered because of Patil'sfinancial irregularities. Take the case of Mangalabai Sahebrao Choudhari (40), a vegetable seller, which was reported in a newspaper. ?I deposited my money in the bank with hopes of giving my children a better future. Now Pratibhatai will be President, what about people like me who have been cheated?? she asks.
Choudhari has got her deposit insurance but has lost Rs 17,000. ?I also had to face angry relatives, including my niece, who invested money on my advice. How can a widow like me fight these powerful people?? says Choudhari. So much for women empowerment. By the way, ?Women are power? is the slogan of Pratibha Patil'sbank. Never before was fraud more pompous and hypocrisy so brazen.
According to a new report (The Indian Express, June 29): ?An estimated 250 depositors, who had deposits of over Rs 1 lakh, now have little choice. They have got just the deposit insurance of Rs 1 lakh with no word on if and when they will get the balance. Most of them are uneducated?some don'teven know how much they are supposed to get?and their deposits were the savings they and their relatives had put away over several years. Many of them do not wish to be named fearing they may not get their arrears.?
The Pratibha Patil episode also exposes the hollowness of the patently Leftwing concept of empowerment. Intellectuals have created a meretricious mythology around this concept; and they have sold it to a gutless political class and a credulous media as a panacea for all the ills the nation is suffering from. In the same fashion as they once sold the idea of communism all over the world?thus concealing its barbarity and depredations, its slave camps and famines.
The truth is that the illiberal and fraudulent concept of empowerment can only catapult the Pratibha Patils to prominence. But it does everything in style. As Albert Camus said, falsehood is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.
(The author works with The Political and Business Daily.)