Monday, August 8, 2011

Congress does a trick, BJP stages a farce – and corruption is assured a free run

It is now clear beyond all doubt: The Congress and the BJP are equally uninterested in fighting corruption. Actually both are interested in continuing it because both are beneficiaries of corruption. All talk about ending corruption and punishing the corrupt is just talk, meant to fool the public.

The Congress showed its anti-anti-corruption state of mind by subverting the public demand for an effective Lok Pal bill and presenting a draft that was only slightly different from previous drafts. Ten bills were introduced between 1969 and 2008. None of them was passed. No further proof is required to establish the malafides of successive governments in power.

There was some hope that the Lok Pal bill presented to Parliament this time would be different. For one thing, popular expectations were high because Justice Santosh Hegde had given to the institution of Lok Ayukta what T.N.Seshan had given to the Election Commission – credibility. For another, a historic groundswell of public opinion had rattled the Government which was forced to consult civil society leaders in drafting the bill. But the wily Government tricked the people and came up with a draft that was essentially old wine in old bottle.

A Lok Pal – or a Lok Ayukta – can be meaningful only if it has independent powers to investigate and prosecute. If it can only forward its recommendations to a “competent authority” for action, then it is a dead Lok Pal. The bill presented by the Government does not provide for a public grievance mechanism or penalties for corrupt employees. Only 'Group A' officers can be probed, which leaves out some of the biggest bribe collectors of the land such as police sub-inspectors, sub-registrars and checkposts clerks. The conduct of MPs inside Parliament is beyond the Lok Pal's jurisdiction. Which means honourable MPs can go on charging money for raising questions.

Politicians would not be resorting to such deviousness unless they have a vested interest in continuing corruption. Money is the most powerful vested interest. Money is prized by individual politicians who love the good life and by parties that cannot conduct even a byelection without spending several crores. Power secures this kind of money. Hence the readiness of parties to keep corruption going.

The show the BJP put on in Karnataka fits into the pattern. It asked Yeddyurappa to resign over corruption charges. Then it put him back in power with another man's face masking his. So what happens to corruption? Nothing. Just as the Congress did with the Lok Pal bill, the BJP made a monkey of the public with the Yeddyurappa removal farce.

By all account the new chief minister, Sadananda Gowda, is a decent sort. But isn't that immaterial when he is hoisted by the tainted previous chief as a mukhota and accepted as such by the High Command? Other tainted BJP brass may also be kept officially out of the cabinet because of the Lok Ayukta indictment. But they too will carry on wielding power as Yeddyurappa does. Karnataka will continue to be drained of its resources and the people will continue to be swindled.

Power blinds politicians. Otherwise the BJP bosses would have seen that Yeddyurappa's victory was in fact the BJP's defeat. Yeddyurappa threatens to get back to power in a few months. He may well do that. But that won't be because of the BJP's popularity or Yeddyurappa's intrigues. It will be because of the incompetence of the Congress. This party has a handful of credible leaders, but the old guard and the mafioso will not let them come up.

A Congress leadership with reasonable imagination could have scored high in the context of the discredit the BJP has brought upon itself. Instead, the Congress scores selfgoals. Hariprasad, a party flunkey from Delhi, recently berated Justice Santosh Hegde for not ending corruption in Karnataka. How depraved can a politician get. Congressmen like this are the real secret of Yeddyurappa's success.