All are naked in this bathtub
Political expediency lies in averting multiple crises erupting at a time. But when they do, there is a cause of concern. The closets of crises are wide open for some time and we are faced with rampant corruption, ethnic violence, minority extremism, regional hatred, uncontrolled inflation amidst political distrust – all at a time. Are these symptoms of disintegration? A tough question though, but avoidance may be perilous. Of late, the series of mass movements against corruption, perhaps a first of its kind in independent India, took the nation by storm. The remedial Lokpal Bill, though, got entangled in cunning political quagmire. Nevertheless, the agitation has helped bring corruption high on the socio-political agenda of systemic reforms. But what followed is a political impasse of sorts. The current session of parliament, in all probability, is going to conclude in a stalemate over the issues of institutionalised corruption unraveled by the CAG report.
While the series of fasts, demonstration on the streets and standoff in the parliament brings the government on the back foot, corruption goes on unabated. Nothing deters the corrupt. From 2G to CAG – there is an incessant flow of scam exposes. Regardless, the government seems to be unperturbed while the opposition appears restless. Eventually, national priorities are being pushed aside. Parliamentarians are not bothered to deliberate on the issues of corruption on the floor of the house, but look eager to outwit each other in the media. Stark reminder of the proverbial saying; all are naked in this bath tub!
Criticising faceless corruption rather than isolating the corrupt faces seems much convenient in the present political ethos. Consequently, the corrupt roam scot-free, flouting all norms, exposes and condemnations. There are different shades of corruption. Karnataka, for instance, has no fund to help its drought stricken farmers but can sponsor millions on its MLAs’ holiday trip to Latin America. All debates on corruption end up proving how my corruption is holier than thou. Can the nation really fight this menace? In the beginning of Anna’s movement one had apprehended that a society divided in caste, religion, regional identity will perhaps continue rallying against corruption till the time the corrupt faces are identified. But the moment this happens a large chunk of the supporters may break away because the corrupt will surely belong to one of their own groups – forward, backward, dalit and minority. Today, which political outfit can dare rise above these and set a new political agenda shunning caste politics, nepotism, communalism regionalism and corruption?
So how can we fight corruption if our sectarian interests prevail over our national interest? We see the taxpayers’ money being mercilessly splurged in erecting monuments and personal statues in the name of dalit pride and identity and any criticism thereof is branded as an attack on the oppressed. A subsidy on pilgrimage from government exchequer is only possible in our democracy. The government being the custodian of the public exchequer can only use it for empowering all by creating equal opportunities of development rather than spending it on personal glorification and the distribution of freebies. Sensing the onset of assembly elections, the Congress Party in Gujarat has made announcements of providing free housing and laptops. Will it not be yet another loot of public exchequer? In the era of coalition governments, how economic packages are being exchanged to buy favours, is an open secret. In turn, they become counter guarantee of stability of the government at centre. All these are happening when the economy is sending panic signals. Inflation is all time high.
Over the years caste fanatics have become champions of secular politics and hence the so-called secular politics has become a natural extension of caste politics itself. The situation is so unrestrained that on the floor of the house a member of parliament suggests a ‘third wave of radicalisation’ among the minorities simply because his own countrymen are up in arms against the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in their own land. But the secularists prefer to ignore. No wonder the country experienced this radicalisation in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan just a few days later. The issue of illegal immigration in Assam has reached a flashpoint. But what is our response? Aren’t we trying to see this problem through the hazy glass of secularism? People understand that the real problem is not the minority; it’s the minority politics pseudo-secularists play. Do we have the leaders who can safeguard minority interest but also caution them against their prejudices?
For, in a real secular democracy majority fanaticism and minority communalism are both equally detrimental. We have examples of both. One radicalised minority outfit creates havoc among the northeast people and makes them flee from the rest of India while another radicalised majority outfit MNS vows to drive out the Biharis from Mumbai. The real sufferer is the nation. Are we prepared to put a brave fight on all these fronts at a time? Differences of opinion in politics are turning into distrust and hatred.
Mihir Bholey is an associate senior faculty and coordinator at NID, Gandhinagar