Perception, politics and precept

Arvind Kejriwal’s allegations of corruption against politicians may or may not be true. But even though his charges have not been proved true in a court of law, one thing is true –the overwhelming public perception is that he is right. The average person is not going to take the trouble of collecting proof on corrupt politicians and taking it to court, but he is already convinced that politicians, almost 100 per cent of them, are corrupt. Of course, this conviction of the average person amounts to nothing and may be dismissed on the ground that it cannot be ascertained who this average person is and how many such persons there are, but there is no mistaking that the general view is that politics in India is of the corrupt, by the corrupt and for the corrupt. If India by and large associates politicians of practically all shades with corruption, it is an unhealthy and alarming situation by itself, irrespective of whether this view gets validated in a court of law.

The widespread view that politicians are corrupt could not have developed without justification, though politicians have rarely been proved corrupt in courts. If all corrupt politicians in the country have not actually been proved guilty and punished by courts, it is an indication of the extent to which the justice delivery system is flawed. But the huge number of people who are sure that politicians are corrupt can’t all be accused of merely imagining things. Of course, politicians counter corruption charges by saying that there is indeed corruption in politics, but all of it is in rival parties. Any corruption allegation against a politician is labelled by him and his party as a conspiracy by his enemies to taint him. And so the game continues.

The view of a vast number of people that the political system of the country is corrupt may or may not be proved wrong, but it does upset the equilibrium of the system in a big way. On the premise that every system seeks equilibrium and stability, it can be argued that the disequilibrium in our political system is unsustainable in the long run. Deep-seated disquiet and discontent about anything can’t exist forever. Life is normal in a lot of ways in the country and people are going about their business. But just beneath the surface is simmering anger and frustration about corruption in politics and the way it makes a fool of the common man and adds to his miseries. People hold every corruption case against politicians representative of all kinds of misconduct they believe the entire political class is sunk in. Corrupt politicians are widely considered the prime beneficiaries and masterminds of the virulent corruption in activities other than politics.

There are plenty of things that bring the simmering grouse of people against corruption to a boil. Adulterated food, potholed roads, water logging, floods, droughts, rising prices, crimes, accidents, almost anything gone wrong anywhere in India is linked by people to corrupt politics. Such a widespread outlook held steadfast in the public psyche cannot be said to be without basis and reason. And it is quite unlikely that this vehement and vitriolic indictment of the political class, though not frequently manifest and expressed, will go unresolved and unregistered. This unrest and disquiet in the public mind, which is only growing every day as corruption in politics is seen to spiral and take its toll on the nation’s health and wealth, has the latent power to enforce developments that establish public faith in the political system. How and when that will happen cannot be predicted. Earthquakes too cannot be predicted but there seem to be some signals before a tremor not sensed by human beings that animals respond to, perhaps because they are more integrated with and tuned to nature than human beings. The grumbling and growl heaving perpetually below the public consciousness against corruption in politics can be taken as a sign that a correction will have to take place to make people believe that things are right with the political system.

In a healthy judicial system, justice should not only be done but also seen to be done. Justice needs to be seen being done to make people have faith in the judicial system. There is a saying in Hindi that duniya vishwas par kayam hai (the world is based on faith). This saying applies to not just the judiciary but to every field of activity. A bank will collapse if people, even without any genuine basis, come to believe that it will not be able to give them back their savings. People don’t just invest money in banks; they invest faith along with their money. The faith that the bank will return their money when they want it back.

It is a separate debate whether the Indian political system is fair and healthy. It is very clear, however, that it is widely considered to be grossly corrupt. This lack of faith in the political system has the potential in itself to bring about changes that will make people believe in its overall integrity.

Dushehra is just past. It was a time to remember Lord Ram. Time to remember that he is considered in Hindu belief to be the ideal man, upholder of morality and his reign, Ram Rajya, is hailed for its righteousness. And Ram for the sake of his Ram Rajya took a drastic step involving a huge sacrifice by his wife Sita and him, the exile of Sita from his kingdom. Ram took this step because the opinion of a lone subject of his kingdom mattered to him, even when he knew that the opinion amounting to an aspersion on Sita and him was entirely baseless.

Amit Shekhar is a senior journalist and columnist
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