Sunday, June 23, 2024

Street politics: Cleansing the politics of dirt


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By Phrangsngi Pyrtuh

Events in the last one month have shifted the spotlight from an ailing economy and the gloomy projection of different institutions such as the PC, the RBI, the World Bank to even more gloomier revelations that borders on the lines of déjà vu. At the outset it cannot be denied anymore that the robust India growth story since liberalization has provided ample opportunities for corruption to seep deeper into the system, a fact acknowledged by none other than the Prime Minister when he declared that economic reforms have indeed spawned corruption. A lot of interesting work has come up to dwell deeper on the relationship between crony capitalism and the rampant growth of corruption opportunity ever since liberalization (and hence the accompanying privatization) of the economy started. The PM for one favors a separate anti-graft law to cover the private sector. Now back to the events that are causing increasing distress to the political circles. We owe this one to the new guy in town Arvind Kejriwal and his India Against Corruption (IAC) group. What I called as street politics or politics of the common man has already created a lasting migraine on both the government and the main opposition party. Its invisible boundary captures the dynamics of everyday subjects that impact the common man. It does bank a lot on the very mechanism that was perceived to empower democracy such as RTI, freedom of the press etc.

Starling revelations on secrets deals and shady business engagements of Sonia Gandhi’s son in law Robert Vadra have shattered the invisible boundary of the holiest, touch me not ‘family’ in India and pushed the Congress party to the last remaining lifelines of holding on to dear life. Arvind alleged that the Haryana government run by the Congress had a role to play by acting as a facilitator for concessions made to Vadra. This murky deal if true exposes the underbelly of a corporate-state nexus by completely short-circuiting rules and regulations for certain beneficiaries which mostly constitute the political class and their family circles. We have known this to exist for a long time but they seldom reached public glare as there exists a code of honour among political parties not to rake issues that concern families of their leaders. However, this revelation comes at a time when the country is looking at some kind of closure to the intermittent disclosure of scams that has become a sideshow of UPA politics which however does not seem to be ending soon. And to finally nail the first family of Indian politics which is still smarting from the acquittal of Rajiv Gandhi from the Bofors case is surreal and unexpected. The nation is shocked while the opposition parties such as the BJP were working out a strategy to exploit the situation. This was not to be, as Arvind fired a salvo that decimated the opposition as well. Nitin Gadkari the self proclaimed ‘social entrepreneur’ is probably not as clean as his cleverly maintained image is sought out to be. His Purti Group is embroiled not only in bogus deals but was he was also accused of alleged misappropriation in Vidarbha with help from the government.

With the Parliament’s winter session approaching, the two parties would have to work out a deal to save each other’s skin. It’s a break it or make it scenario. Both being at the receiving end the Congress and the BJP may just see eye to eye this time around to wade through a turbulent winter session through strategic alliance and partnership. A bipolar stance among these two rivals against the one man Army Arvind Kejriwal (no pun) will be remarkable since the sword of Damocles has been hanging on the government’s head all the time with the BJP relentlessly fuelling fire to completely checkmate the government on various policies especially reform policies.

A twist in this unfolding drama would, however, put any thriller movie to shame. Kejriwal accused the Corporate world (Reliance Industries Ltd) to have played an important part in the recent cabinet rejig when the Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy was stripped of this portfolio. Reddy has been a constant hurdle for Reliance and on the day his ouster happened, Reliance’s shares rose. The private sector has always stood the high ground of ethics and professional values and therefore seldom recognized or accepted that there is weakness in the system at least as far as accountability and transparency is concerned. And this view is quite robust in India with India Inc showing disdain and disapproval for corruption scandals when it itself tries to circumvent government rules and regulations by influencing or buying out government functionaries which occur both at the centre and the state. The expose, though, may merit serious investigations on how deep the Corporate-state nexus has resulted in loss of unaccounted public and natural resources all in the name of development and growth. When Rajat Gupta- the brand ambassador of India Inc who made it big at Wall Street, was convicted for insider trading just the last fortnight involving security fraud and conspiracy while as a Director for Goldman Sachs, India Inc fretted, while eagerly awaiting his sentencing. He was given a lenient sentence to which India Inc sighed with relief since according to them he is a good man who made a judgmental error never mind that he has subverted the very system he claims to have helped him in his meteoric rise to fame and authority.

Street politics may find a hard time rubbing shoulders with regular politics. This kind of politics serves the common man who encounters injustice in the system or the lack of accountability and transparency. It is crass and rustic but it serves the purpose well when the political class is hand in gloves with the corporate sector to undermine the entire system. Damning revelation of the CBI and indictment of the so far respectable madam of Meghalaya politics Ampareen Lyngdoh may call for introspection of the kind of activism we have engaged as civil society or the mass media. We should not be cowed down no matter the threats, just like Arvind Kejriwal who proceeded to organize a protest rally against UPA law minister Salman Khurshid in his own constituency Farrukabad though the Minister threatened Arvind’s life. I salute those nameless vigilantes for exposing Ampareen Lyngdoh and I wish there are more because to me it’s the only way we can cleanse the system. Its time to get dirty!

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