India Against Corruption



Leaders with feet of clay

LEADERS WITH FEET OF CLAY By PREM CHANDRAN Those who have in the past heard of ‘men with feet of .....

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Thumbs up Leaders with feet of clay



Those who have in the past heard of ‘men with feet of clay’ might have wondered what this species was. Now, there is a surfeit of them in public life; or political life rather, and one need not go far searching for them. What stuff are they made of? What stuff other than the stuff that those like Nitish Kumar, for one, are made of?

They are around us in every town, every village, donning the cap of a politician promoting democracy in this country: men who go any length to serve their individual interests over the national interests. When a dreaded terrorist who masterminded the killing of over 200 people through a series of bomb blasts across the country over a period of the past several months was caught from the Nepal border area, the Bihar police turned their faces the other way and would not touch him. Why? Because their boss Nitish Kumar would not want to lose his precious Muslim vote bank. When terrorists bombed a Buddhist monastery in Bihar and killed a few, the Chief Minister was silence personified. A speeding train killed scores of pilgrims crossing the railway track to the venue of a festival at night, and railway officials said due alert had not been sounded by Bihar officials to the railways about a festival taking place there so that the alert could have been passed onto the motormen leading the trains along the route. Kumar took a beating, but by political instinct he swiftly broke his temporary silence and hogged limelight: that too, in a wily, if not the meanest, way – by calling the railway minister who criticized the failure of his government a “fool.” That melodrama worked with telling effect. People who were tensed up over the official negligence resulting in a massive loss of life looked at each other and laughed away the “fool” remark. Tension eased in the Bihar town and Kumar again emerged as a hero by default. He is waiting in the wings to emerge as the future prime minister of the country, and guide the destiny of the one billion plus population.

In neighbouring West Bengal, the Calcutta high court gave a rap on Mamata Banerjee’s knuckles the other day and scrapped a scheme she introduced which made a provision for state paying monthly honorariums to imams of mosques; but not before as high as 160 crore from the public exchequer was squandered that way. It is one thing to help the poor across the board, from all communities; and quite another to encourage sections of the community on the basis of religion. What about the priests in temples, who are not wealthy too, and who might in course of time demand such a favour from the Indian government. And, Mamata Banerjee set a precedent. There is little need here to go into aspects like the role being played by religious preachers in misleading Muslim youths into acts of communal disharmony and violence; not just here, but elsewhere too, Pakistan included. On the other hand, there is a need to stress that the poor in the Muslim community in this country requires governmental help as much as such help goes to the other sections of the society. But, Mamata Banerjee, or the CPM for that matter in West Bengal, has been on a dangerous course: promoting a vote bank politics in the state, courtesy acting as the messiahs of the Muslim community, through providing them with doles, rather than targeting the poor as a whole in a society and working for their uplift.

After three decades of the Marxist rule, the party’s short-cuts to success formula made the poor poorer in the state, with farm labour wages being kept at the lowest, and the poor being made to eat a humble pie in the developmental process. Mamata Banerjee, the grassroot politician that she is, and no doubt a mass leader unlike the Marxist morons, is happy playing the vote bank politics that may not be in the best interests of the state but serves her survival purpose well.

It was not long ago that the Samajvadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh has taken to task a senior IAS official, a woman officer at that and with considerable integrity to her credit, on the flimsy ground of razing a small portion of the protruding compound wall of a religious place, read Muslim place of worship. Muslim leaders themselves have dismissed the matter as a non-issue, but Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Australian educated son would not. They would have her packed lock, stock and barrel from the post she held. The message the father and son duo sought to send was that their government would brook no nonsense when it comes to protecting the interests of the Muslims. In the process, however, skeletons fell out of the cupboard. The multi-million dollar strong sand mafia in the area, against whom the socially and environmentally conscious officer was putting up a strong resistance, had been scheming to see her out. So, why not egg the official on to go and touch a wall of religiously potent trouble and then drive her out into oblivion, so that the likes of Mulayam Singh gets a few more votes the next time as well? Hindus are a bunch of buddus and can be tricked and exploited by way of caste loyalties, and Muslims can vote by way of other tricks. From father to son to grandson, the dynasty can carry on.

In Maharashtra, a different drama is being played out. Prithviraj Chavan who came in as chief minister two years ago is not able to breathe easy. He is among the rare breed of politicians in this country who wants to go by rules and has shown little interest in amassing wealth. Constantly cutting him to size in every possible way is the Congress’ ally, the NCP, one of the most corrupt parties, ably led by central agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar, who is the deputy chief minister. In tune with the all-too-clear objective of the Nationalist Congress Party, the Pawar clan’s real estate or other ambitions are reaching sky-high, be it in Mumbai, or Pune or the other second-line cities in Maharashtra. That is, however, music to the ears of the Marathas whose unstinted support the Pawars claim. It is for no small reason that Sharad Pawar is satisfied with the relatively less glamorous agriculture ministry. That is where he can go out of the way, “do something”, fulfill the greed of the region’s agricultural community, and ensure a base and vote bank for himself and his clan; how does it matter whether, on the other hand, the people of this country have, therefore, to put up with frequent price manipulations in respect of their essential commodities?

Now, Pawar is said to be more into mathematics. How to turn figures in his favour once the next parliament election results are out? God may not be on the side of the people, but was certainly on the right side of the Pawars and the Praful Patels, with a blinking leadership at the helm in Delhi playing flute for the past many years. Indian exchequer, already faced with a major slump, can hold its breath for now!

Last edited by Premchandran; 09-12-2013 at 10:21 PM
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