THE Sonia-Manmohan regime in Delhi reminds one of the stunning opening episodes in the popular Chanakya serial telecast by Doordarshan in the early nineties.
The finance minister Acharya Chanak of the decadent Nanda dynasty in Magadh, catches a thief who was stashing away sacks of gold coins from the treasury. The Mahamatya (his title), the minister, and the father of young Chanakya confronts the thief, threatening him with death penalty for stealing from the royal treasury. The thief, trembling like a summer leaf, confesses that he was only following the diktats of his beloved emperor Dhananand. He was not guilty, the thief claimed. Mahamatya could not believe what he heard. Why should the emperor steal from his own treasury, who was he hiding the gold from, when the entire empire belonged to him? So the honest minister does not leave it there. He holds the thief prisoner, and takes him to the court for an encounter with Dhananand. The emperor, unable to face the truth, throws up a tantrum, gets hysteric and livid accusing the minister of cooking up a cynical conspiracy to defame and unseat him. He orders the arrest of the minister and puts him behind bars for life. Dhananand, who epitomized insatiable greed, pomp, pretence and perfidy was the last emperor of the Nanda dynasty.
How much money has been looted out of the country in the recent past? The estimates may or may not be correct. But all agree that huge amounts have been spirited away to safe tax havens. The Supreme Court has repeatedly pulled up the government for its deliberate inaction in punishing the guilty and raiding the secret route to get back the looted national wealth.The general belief is that the expose will totally discredit the top most power centres in the country. The apex court has now set up a special investigation team to monitor the progress of the inquiry. The centre is squirming. Why? Has it got so much to hide? Or like Dhananand is it the real thief?
Corruption doesn’t end with the black money trail or the thriving havala racket with clear political-terror nexus. In seven years the Sonia-Manmohan regime has earned the infamy of being the most corrupt in India’s history. This is not a deliberate political canard being spread by the opposition. This is the general perception. In recent years all national journals have come out with damning stories of corruption involving the top most people. Only that the people involved are quite sanguine about them. There is a clever, rather frightening disdain about this issue in the UPA despite the intense national will to fight corruption and punish the guilty. See the manner in which the centre is dragging its feet on the Lokpal. How it tried to muzzle using brute force Baba Ramdev’s campaign? It has put its entire might to defame and discredit all activists who tried to expose corruption. Instead, it should have been in the forefront in this war — taking it as a national mission.
The UPA is giving the impression that it has more to hide and protect. There was no other time in our democratic history of the last six decades when so many ruling alliance leaders were cooling their heels in Tihar jail. There was no other government which had to sack so many ministers and chief ministers on corruption charges. There was no other time when so many skeletons of scams tumbled out of the ruling party cupboards as now. And many of them involve such humongous sums of money that sound mind boggling for the common man. To top it all, at no other time an Indian prime minister looked so lost, inadequate, indifferent and unfazed as Manmohan Singh. And his party chief and the real person who wields power is so brazenly insensitive, secure and remote from public scrutiny.
This situation has brought the stage, where the general perception dominantly is to lynch the entire political class. The custodians of power whoever they are and whereever they hold the reins look unmindful of public opinion. This is no place to recount all the scams that have come to light in the recent past. But most have their origin in the first tenure of the UPA. The success in the 2009 election made the ruling dispensation increasingly self-serving, reassured, it became unmindful of the fast approaching nemesis. The prime minister and his ministers pretended as if everything was honky-dory. But for the alert media, opposition and the judicial intervention most of it would have still remained under the carpet.
What really cooked the UPA goose was the stubbornly high level of inflation and food price rise. There is a direct bearing between the price rise and the burgeoning black economy. The presence of large cache of unaccounted money in the possession of a few is one of the main reasons for the unprecedented price rise of essential commodities. There is no sincere effort to fight corruption.
People in general feel helpless and they have lost faith in the political class. This is politician’s own making. Witness the unanimity of the political class to protect their perks and privileges. Under every government in the last one decade the MPs have raised themselves their, salary, constituency and sitting allowance, conveyance, loan, pensions and other facilities. Have there been any corresponding increase in the living standard of the voting class? Politicians get concessions, subsidies and facilities that are denied to the people. Their electricity charges, phone bills, air and train travels, health facilities are all paid for from the tax payers’ money. They enjoy the best of residential facilities in the country at rents and costs that are laughable. These benefits are given to them not just during their tenure in parliament or assemblies but all their lives. While the central government abolished pension to its staff since the early nineties.
Even during the time of such towering and popular leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao there were splits and rebellion in the ruling party, mostly the outcome of ideological differences or public resentment. In some cases these were the results of personality clash. Why is it that now under such minions as we know there is no rebellion in the ruling party. Despite the boiling resentment among the voters as reflected in the opinion polls and the support crusaders like Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare have succeeded in garnering? The so-called young MPs in the UPA are too cosy in the set up. Even they don’t reflect the youth unrest. Is it because politics constitute the clan, corporate, crony, cohesion—as thick as thieves? The club class mindset of the politician has undermined the voter’s fight against corruption, black money and his aspirations of a better tomorrow. The public impression is that even those in jail will one day return and go scot free.
Politics now has ceased to be a medium of service. It has either become business by another name or a hugely profitable career option. Large number of ruling party politicians derive their position not from their record of public service, but pedigree. Politics now is also a family business.
To say that there was always corruption in the corridors of power is like saying the human beings have always suffered from tuberculosis. Corruption in smaller measures, involving a smaller fry in the government will not create the kind of revulsion in public. By a general consent, the demand for a powerful Lokpal, that even supersedes the democratically elected institutions, has become a battle cry of the people. There is no escape for politicians from this intense national angst. Who but the ruling party is at fault for creating this dismay?