Sunday, December 2, 2012

Secularism Is ‘Brahmastra‘ for Corrupt Politicians To Remain IN Power

From FDI in retail to corruption, secularism is an invisibility cloak

(collected from The First Post )
The shortest route from anywhere to anywhere else in Indian politics is through Secularism Avenue – as DMK president M Karunanidhi demonstrated on Tuesday.
Your entire political career may have been driven by the most vile caste-based identity politics, you may have given moral legitimacy to political assassins, your party may be monumentally corrupt, your daughter may have served prison term (and still face trial) on corruption charges, and even though you are a wheelchair-bound geriatric, you may need to perform agile gymnastic contortions to explain your political flip-flops.
But in the end, there is one ‘brahmastra‘ that you can pull out to explain away your polygamous politics: you want to defend ‘secularism’, whatever that means.
Likewise for the Congress: it  may have been caught with its  hands in the till in the many corruption scandals that have come to define its term in office, the government it heads  may have been reduced to a lame-duck, minority arrangement, it may have itself played the most perverse communal political games. But in the end, it can always count on its allies to bail it out by invoking the shibboleth of ‘secularism’.

M Karunanidhi plays the ‘secular’ trump card to cover up his polygamous politics. PTI
In that sense, ‘secularism’ is an ‘invisibility cloak’ worthy of Harry Potter. When you have it on, you can do whatever you want, and your dirty deeds will have a ‘secular’ legitimacy.
On Tuesday, Karunanidhi played his ‘secular’ trump card yet again to explain his decision to support the UPA government (of which his party, the DMK, is a constituent. The DMK opposes the contentious move to permit FDI in multi-brand retail, he said, but even so, it had decided to support the UPA government in Parliament on the issue solely in order to prevent “communal” forces from coming to power.
“When this discussion comes up in Parliament, though there may be thousands of differences (between the UPA and the DMK on the issue), thinking about the unfavourable incidents that may emerge if this government falls at the Centre, it has been decided to support the UPA with bitterness,”  Karunanidhi said in a statement.
If anything happened to the UPA government, he added, it would only benefit the BJP. “We have to think of mosque demolitions, kar sevas, anti-minority measures and similar other communal atrocities if the BJP or a communal government it supports assumes power at the Centre,” he added.
But beneath this seemingly high-minded charade, the reasons for Karunanidhi’s doing back-flips to explain his political fecklessnes – in opposing the proposal for FDI in retail and yet voting for it – aren’t hard to trace. His daughter Kanimozhi is still undergoing trial in the 2G scam cases, and to the extent that the Congress is still  the puppet master that yanks the CBI’s strings, it still determines the DMK’s political destiny. The case against Kanimozhi,after all, will be only as good as the prosecution wants it to be.
Nor is Karunanidhi alone in invoking the ‘secularism’ card to bail out the Congress. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav too touted much the same reason when he stepped in after Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee withdrew support to the UPA government over the issue of FDI in retail and the diesel price hike.
Soon after Mamata Banerjee walked out, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav (who is Mulayam Singh’s brother) noted that although the Congress was guilty of a number of governance failures, the Samajwadi Party would perhaps have to step up and prop it up  in the interest of stopping the BJP.
“This government would have fallen long ago. Many parties share our view on it (corruption, price rise and unilateralism in alliance). But we cannot forget the Gujarat riots and how the state sponsored them. We have seen that face of the BJP. So, we have to think twice before taking a step lest it helps such forces in coming to power,” Yadav had said at that time.
But such specious reasoning notwithstanding, the Karunanidhi’s and the Samajwadi Party’s alibi for their stated intention to bail out the  government merely reflects the debasement of political posturing in India, where anything – including monumental corruption, such as the UPA government has overseen in the past three years – can be defended in the name of upholding “secularism” as defined by opportunistic invocations of that slogan.
Like Karunanidhi, Mulayam Singh too is susceptible to political blackmail – to the extent that he too faces charges of having acquired assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. The Congress has the capacity to abuse its power and taint him – or allow him to walk free.
But the cynical politics of playing the ‘secularism’ card may be close to its sell-by date. The taint of being seen to be joined at the hip, in the way that the Congress and the DMK are (as coalition allies), will recoil on both of them – in the way that it did during the 2011 Assembly election in Tamil Nadu. Which is perhaps why neither of them can stand the stench emanating from the other, but gamely march, hand in hand,  down Secularism Avenue – in the hope that their ‘invisibility cloak’ will mask their perverse politics. But when their magical cloak loses its invisibility powers, their naked politics will be on glorious display for the world to see.

No to sycophancy, corruption

Both the Congress and the BJP are battling a crisis of credibility. While no Congress leader dares to question the party’s ‘first family’ even when it is involved in controversies, the BJP’s central leadership is under constant attack from within the party on issues of propriety
Then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic oration, articulated in wonderful language in Parliament, “At the stroke of midnight hour…”, was indeed most inspiring. We derided Winston Churchill’s usual anti-India diatribe, “Power will go into the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters… They will fight among themselves and India will be lost in political squabbles.” We dismissed his outpourings as the ravings of an imperialist who found it difficult to reconcile himself to the loss of the jewel in the British Empire. Sixty five years later, his derisive remarks have acquired a ring of bitter truth.
Two observations by our great leaders of the past, C Rajagopalachari and BR Ambedkar, need to be pondered over. Rajagopalachari wrote, “Elections and their corruption and tyranny of wealth and inefficiency of administration will make a hell of life as soon as freedom is given to us. Men will look regretfully back to the old days of comparative justice and efficient, peaceful and more or less honest administration.”
A democracy cannot function without elections but it must be so conducted that corruption, money power or administrative inefficiency are kept out of the election process to the maximum extent. Jawaharlal Nehru took the bold step to introduce universal suffrage in one go while Western democracies took a century and more to do so. The world watched with amazement how this could succeed in a country where the overall literacy rate was below 10 per  cent. This succeeded in the early years of our independence because of the mettle of our leaders and the respect they commanded.
The quality of leaders changed in successive generations. Leaders lacking in stature and respect have resorted to corrupt practices like using money and muscle power to build vote bank on caste and religion basis. A failure to introduce electoral reforms has compounded the situation further. Today, elections have become the fountainhead of corruption that is eating into the nation’s vitals.
Ambedkar’s was a perceptive warning when he stated, “Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul, but in politics bhakti or hero worship is a sure road to degeneration and eventual dictatorship.” This has manifested itself in the courtier culture that has crept into our politics severely compromising self respect and the basic tenets of democracy — liberty, equality and fraternity.
Today, the first family at Delhi has taken the lead in establishing one-family rule at Delhi. Several regional parties have followed suit. This has grave implications affecting national dignity and giving a fillip to sycophancy. Family rule is a sure prescription for inefficiency in administration. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Absolute power for generations is worse still. Parliamentary election due in 2014, may be held even earlier. And the contenders for power will be the Congress-led UPA, BJP-led NDA and the regional parties.
Congress, the grand old party of India, since the Himalayan debacle of 1962, has been steadily going downhill. Never has the image of a Government been sullied so much as during the present Congress rule. Scams involving mind-boggling amounts in 2G, Commonwealth Games and Adarsh have surfaced. We have now entered the era of Coalgate, Vadragate — and now what is called Heraldgate.
To top this has been the Congress-led UPA Government’s abject failure to control rising prices and downslide of the economy. UPA2 is surviving on life support from alliance and outside partners. Despite the media hype of the Gandhi scion being a youth icon, his performance in managing recent Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elections, has been disastrous.
Despite its frailties, the Congress has several assets to tip the scales in its favour. It has money power, it holds the reins of governance and knows how to use it to its advantage. The party is united under its top leadership. And none dares stake a claim for the top post. Cabinet Ministers compete with one another to show total loyalty to the party supremo. The sycophant brigade acts as a strong phalanx to protect its leadership.
The main Opposition party on the other hand, is ridden with squabbling leaders and is not free from the taint of corruption. BJP was a party with a ‘difference’ with its disciplined cadre of workers. Today, it is a party with ‘differences’. It has a surfeit of talented leaders but these leaders are unable to put their act together to be seen as a credible Opposition.
The party’s efforts to attack the Congress on corruption issues have been undermined by corruption among its leaders. Its former president Bangaru Laxman has been handed a jail sentence on corruption. Mr Nitin Gadkari’s tenure as party president has not been inspiring. He failed to act against former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa when concrete evidence was available of the latter’s corrupt activities. In doing so he jeopardised the party’s chances of coming to power at the Centre. Mr Yeddyurappa has been blackmailing the party and is reportedly quitting it.
Mr Gadkari gave a Raya Sabha ticket from Jharkhand to an NRI moneybag with no political credentials. This caused turmoil in the party. The NRI had to withdraw his candidature. During the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, he inducted BSP rebel Babu Singh Kushwaha into the party, despite his criminal record. While the BJP’s constitution was being amended to allow Mr Gadkari a second term, allegations of corruption against him were made by social activist Arvind Kejriwal.
Mr Gadkari’s initial reaction, asking for investigation into the allegations, was a refreshing contrast to what the Congress had been doing to block investigation in such cases. But he lost a great opportunity by not stepping down till the investigation exonerated him, like Mr LK Advani had done in the Hawala case.
Allegations of corruption and bickering within the party have severely besmirched the BJP’s image. A common feeling is that on the issue of corruption there is little to choose from between the Congress and the BJP.
Though there are capable leaders from the BJP in Parliament ,like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Yashwant Sinha and some of its Chief Ministers,  they do not have a mass following or the stature required for becoming Prime Minister. The only two possible prime ministerial candidates are Mr Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr Advani, with the longest political experience, has successfully held the office of Deputy Prime Minister. He is a person of impeccable integrity and high moral values. The other possibility is Mr Modi, who has achieved a virtual miracle in the development of Gujarat. He is a charismatic leader who connects well with the masses. But the sustained anti-Modi propaganda over the 2002 Gujarat violence, makes him unacceptable to the ‘secularists’ even among the partners of the NDA. If the BJP is unable to get a clear majority on its own, Mr Modi being Prime Minister in a coalition is highly unlikely. It would be advisable for the BJP to choose its leader for the top job wisely.
There are a number of regional parties. Some leaders from these parties, with prime ministerial ambitions, have been trying to form a Third Front. A conglomeration of these parties may manage the required numbers, but chances of this happening are remote. They may form an alliance with one of the two national parties to come to power, but such a coalition may have a short life, like the Governments led by VP Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Deve Gowda and IK Gujral did.
Let us hope that the party which comes to power makes an honest attempt to take the nation out of the morass of corruption, nepotism and inefficiency, that have become the hallmarks of governance today. For this, we need a Prime Minister who has impeccable integrity and the ability to take hard decisions

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