Dr Jay Dubashi
The Maharashtra government is going through one of those crises which beset all coalition governments from time to time. The State’s deputy chief minister, Ajit Pawar, who calls himself Ajitdada, and who happens to be a nephew of Sharad Pawar, the food minister at the Centre, has resigned in a huff without consulting anyone, neither his uncle nor his chief minister, after being charged by one of his engineers of involvement in a huge scam. There is now a case against him in the court, but that may not be the real reason.
There are several cases against ministers in the courts, but nobody resigns and walks away from lucrative posts – lucrative in every sense of the word – because of them. When Ajit Pawar was minister for irrigation, he is said to have jacked up the value of contracts by 200 to 300 per cent, without consulting anyone and awarded the contracts to his favourites. And he did this in three months flat, gifting a cool Rs 20,000 crore, no less, to his buddies. The calculation was that half the money would eventually go to his party, and God alone knows how much of this half, that is, Rs 10,000 crore would accrue to him personally and perhaps his family. When a newspaper broke the story, Pawar’s goose was cooked, but many people believe that there is something more to it than this, of course, nobody is talking.
There are all kinds of dynasties in India, and Pawar dynasty is one. Just as the Nehru-Gandhis promote their brood, the Pawars in Maharashtra, like the Mulayam Singhs in Uttar Pradesh, are not far behind. Sharad Pawar has an ambitious daughter who is doing her best to replace him, but Ajitdada has been in the business for nearly fifteen years and is not going to give up his claim that easily. Sharad Pawar is, in a way, a failed politician. He used to fancy himself as an up-and-coming prime minister, but has never gone beyond food and agriculture. He has realised his days are over and has a convenient successor ready to take over from him. It is doubtful whether he will succeed in this, with Ajitdada at his heels. It is therefore more than the usual scam; it is a civil war in the dynasty, which can go either way.
What has dynasty to do with corruption? Simple. A dynastic society is almost by definition a feudal society, and a feudal society is always a corrupt society. India is supposed to be a democracy, but if it is one, it is democracy with small ‘d’, not capital ‘D’. In fact, I have strong doubts whether we are at all a democracy, even one with small ‘d’. Ours is actually a feudal society, as was the case before and during the British days, and the system has continued even after Independence, because, we Indians, despite all talk of modernity, etc. remain essentially a feudal lot, always kowtowing to persons above us, and treating with contempt those below us. This is what our rulers did in the past, from Akbar to Lord Curzon to Lord Linlithgow, and this is how we continue to behave now.
In a genuine democracy, apart from its other attributes, political parties have a proper election system. In the Unites States, the Democratic and Republican parties hold their own elections which decide the candidates for the presidency, through a long, tough process that lasts over six months. There are proper candidates, in which they have to fight their own battles. Mitt Romney, a rank outsider, who has never held a post in Washington, though he has been a state governor, had to fight his way through state-wise polls, proper polls with proper candidates, and a proper system laid down for such polls.
Romney was not chosen by a so-called High Command sitting in Washington, as candidates in India are chosen. Actually, he was chosen by registered voters of his party in each state, and he had to collect cash from his friends and well-wishers, not from contractors and sundry black marketeers, as is the case in India. He has to keep proper accounts and submit them to auditors, and work according to rules and regulations laid down in the book.
The candidates thus selected, or rather elected, go on to fight the main election, where the rules, for obvious reasons, are even tighter. The whole procedure is transparent and according to rules, and nobody can pull levers and cook up the results.
It is the same thing in Britain, supposed to be the world’s oldest democracy, although it is actually a monarchy. The parliamentary candidates are duly chosen by party members in each constituency, after which they fight their rivals for the parliamentary seat. I remember Clement Attlee, who was at the time deputy prime minister, fighting for his own seat, going from place to place in his own old car, driven by his wife, helped along by young men like us, who carried his soap-boxes from meeting to meeting, and fed him sandwiches. This was in the 1945 election, immediately after the last war.
This is also how Margaret Thatcher fought her election five or ten years later, and it was her husband who drove the family car. Very little money was spent because there was no money. Like Attlee, Mrs. Thatcher too subsisted on cold sandwiches and coffee, and both became prime minister, under their own steam and without godfathers.
What happens in India?Here the candidates are chosen by the so-called High Command, and it matters a great deal whether you belong to a dynasty. If you are a Nehru, you are selected, if that is the right word, automatically. If you are a nobody, and most of us are nobodies to start with, you have to bribe your way in or find a godfather. And the godfathers charge their pound of flesh!
Who made Rajiv Gandhi prime minister? He was chosen by a gang of ji-hazoors, who put him on the throne, although he had no experience and could not have made it on his own, if he did not belong to the dynasty. Sonia Gandhi also would have been prime minister, but good sense prevailed, and a person, with no link with India except that of marriage, was stopped in her tracks in the nick of time.
There are now attempts being made to foist yet another Gandhi on the Congress, and Congressmen, as supine as ever, are bending over backwards to welcome him, in a true feudal style. Shameless pressmen even call him Yuvaraj, as if he was a real blue-blooded royal. What has the man done to deserve the top post? He has not done a proper day’s work in his life and failed miserably in everything he has attempted. Yet congressmen, including former Congressmen like Sharad Pawar, are prepared to have him as their boss, merely because he comes from the Nehru dynasty. This is feudalism with capital ‘F’, and this is responsible for almost all our ills, as a society, and also as a nation.
Feudalism breeds corruption, as muck and dirt breed flies. In fact, the single major source of corruption is a feudal society, which is why it has been growing under the Nehrus. The Pawars are small fry. It is the Nehrus we should be more concerned with!