India Against Corruption



A deafening silence from kejriwal

By PREM CHANDRAN SILENCE, THEY SAY, IS GOLDEN. But, silence is not as simple as one might suspect. Silence can .....

: Oct 2012
: Adur, Kerala, India
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Thumbs up A deafening silence from kejriwal


SILENCE, THEY SAY, IS GOLDEN. But, silence is not as simple as one might suspect. Silence can be deafening; and it’s often pregnant with deeper meanings. That’s why silence scares us – like in the case now of what was once India’s anti-corruption hero and present Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. His silence these days benumbs us. He hasn’t spoken out on a serious charge that normally should have benumbed his senses too. Is this the silence of the lambs, or silence of the grave, or the silence of a hypocrite, a pretender?

When his ministerial colleague Kapil Mishra came up with a stunning statement that the Delhi chief minister took a bribe of Rs 2crore, we were naturally baffled. Could it be? So, what was Kejriwal yapping about all these months and years? We were more baffled when Kejriwal was seen ducking, running away from the issue. His silence meant he has matters to hide. Frankly, his deputy Manish Sisodia only added to the public dismay when he blurted out in an inane manner, words to the effect, “Silly!” and “This does not deserve an answer.” Or, listen to Kejriwal’s own terse and pithy statement, “Truth will prevail.” Really?

Let's face it. Is this all what this anti-corruption movement was all about? In fact, there is little surprise in the way things have turned out to be for the movement. There were a few well-meaning people who were in the forefront of IAC when it started in April, 2011. Reformist Anna Hazare, for one. Magsaysay-winning Arvind Kejriwal for another, mike in hand, holding a crowd in thrall in Jantar Mantar, Delhi. And, there were several others, deeply disturbed by the way India was seen to be looted right and left by the a set of bandicoots – fat cats – in the form of politicians and bureaucrats, men who made hay when the Sun was shining bright in the form of the UPA dispensations.

The situation then was tailor-made for disaster. A “Mauni Baba” Manmohan Singh allegedly acting as a front for a scheming, hand-in-the-honeypot set of politicians patronised by Sonia Gandhi in the form of a Queen running the affairs of the nation from behind, with a personal secretariat of 2,000 staff! The nation paid a big price. Blame is not on Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh, but on a political system that is so loose that it often acts in a callous and irresponsible manner; a system that reposed faith in a greenhorn like Sonia Gandhi to run the affairs of a nation, or a Rabri Devi to run Bihar. What was India all about? Alliance partners competed with Congressmen to loot the nation. 2G Scam, Coal Scam, CWG Scam .... When the political masters were at it, could the bureaucrats be expected to act differently? Underground became a beehive of activity; underhand deals were the order of the day. Not that things have changed much even today under the watchful eyes of a Narrendra Modi!

From this dismay arose the anti-corruption movement, India Against Corruption. Its sanctity lay in the sanctity of Anna Hazare and the like. But, fact is also that a whole lot of hoi polloi and many with vested interests infiltrated the movement. Even the young boys and girls that added grist to the anti-corruption campaign in the streets of Delhi in 2011 were not all idealists of a kind. Most of them were taken in by the glitz of the electronic media publicity to the Hazare show. Many of them – truth be told – were the sons and daughters of Delhi’s corrupt and uncouth bureaucrats. The show in the streets was, for them, a festival of a kind to make mirth in the streets, and they enjoyed every moment of it. A high point of it was the “escape act” of saree-clad, Baba Ramdev, beard, impersonation et al, only for him to be rounded up in what turned out to be a comic interlude. To expect of this crowd – big in size – to take the anti-corruption crusade forward was like asking for the moon!

The anti-corruption movement died a slow death, sooner rather than later. To surmise that Kejriwal’s political ambitions crushed the movement is not wholly incorrect, to the extent that this had led to a parting of company between Anna Hazare and Kejriwal. Former super cop Kiran Bedi, who was also prominently a part of the movement, had shown political inclinations of a different kind and ended up in the BJP camp. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan was an asset to the movement, just as Subramanian Swamy in his own ways has been from outside the Hazare-Kejriwal movement as an anti-corruption crusader. And so was academician and thinker Yogendra Yadav. But, their individual interests reigned supreme over the collective interests of the movement, they could not get along in a group, failed to find common ground and parted ways.

With Narendra Modi heading the NDA government, there is seemingly an attempt to rein in corruption, but the behemoth of an evil that it is, he or his government could so far scratch the surface and not able to make any significant improvement on this count. Half the term of this government is already over. Modi is known for his slow and steady approach to governance. Things are moving forward but without the desired momentum. People still have faith in the Prime Minister, and chances are that he would get another term in office. One would need to keep his fingers crossed as to how much a success he makes himself out of as PM. Will he be able to rein in the evil of corruption and nepotism in this country, and make a positive difference to the lives of the people? A GST bill is good enough, but that cannot be the end al and et al of a government. What more does this government have up its sleeves?

The anti-corruption movement still has the same relevance as it had six years ago. The society, the bureaucrats and politicians remain as corrupt as ever. There is loot of public money from every scheme down to a village ward level. A small set of men are getting richer, and many of these men are creating localised empires, or are funnelling their wealth to safe havens outside the country; or are dumping it in real estate in city after city. New empires are springing up, state after state.

Politics require a cleaning exercise. A Narendra Modi is well-placed to do it; not a pigmy like Kejriwal, considering his limited influence as a politician. What Kejriwal so far had was a halo of being a politician of a different kind. It should now seem there’s life beyond the slipper raj. It is quite likely there is substance in Kapil Mishra’s charge against his CM. Kejriwal was in the forefront some months ago when a similar charge was raised against Modi by Prashant Bhushan and others. Blame is not entirely on a Kejriwal or on other politicians of the day. Thing is, there now can be no politics without money. Systems have been progressively subverted to such a level over the years that politicians’ survival today depends on money power. BJP itself is proving this by spending millions in its election campaigns across the country. Where does this money come from? Certainly not from Amit Shah’s ancestral property or his iconic home in Gujarat; and certainly not from Modi’s salary as PM – much of which he might be using for his designer dresses. Changing politicians from a Sonia Gandhi to Narendra Modi or Arvind Kejriwal by itself will not help India get out of the rut it is in today. Changing the systems is the way forward, or refining the processes, as Sam Pitroda has proposed (The Hindu, May 9).

So, where is Sam Pitroda now? Nowhere! Corrupt India and its corrupt politicians and bureaucrats have no use for men with vision, imagination and drive. They want only dalals and commission agents to run a nation the size and sweep of India in the neighbourhood of a giant like China – that’s focussed, firm and fearless in its forward march, not through communism but by embracing market economy of the capitalist system. Democracy, by contrast is good for India’s irresponsible, indisciplined politicians, as they can keep yapping without performing and keep putting spokes into the developmental wheel with rare zeal. That is communism, too.

Silence can be golden, but not for Arvind Kejriwal. He needs to speak out. The Nation Needs to Know. Else, what will the difference between an Arvind Kejriwal and a Sheila Dikshit?
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