Monday, May 13, 2013

The price of ‘corrugance’

The price of ‘corrugance’
M.J. Akbar

Someone described BJP’s drubbing in Karnataka as an innings defeat. This is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. The game has changed.An election used to be a test match. It is now a protest match. 

The fulcrum of this anger is corruption. All else pales. Shed a tear then for poor Suraj Singh Thakur, Mumbai president of the Congress student organization NSUI, who was suspended merely for dancing drunk and naked late into the night, encouraged by the throb of a DJ’s beat at the end of a strenuous three-day conference on ways and means to save the nation. All that Thakur did was dance, albeit drunk and nude in equal proportions. Alcohol is no longer a hanging offence in Congress. For many future stars rotating in the highest orbits, Congress is now a party that begins at sunset. 

Thakur must be bewildered at the Congress definition of crime and punishment. He sees half the Congress Cabinet caught with its pants down, exposed by CAG, CBI, a vigilant Haryana bureaucrat, or indeed the Italian police chasing bribes to Indian politicians in a helicopter deal with more zeal than any Indian policemen has displayed, and sees evasion to protect the mighty. Law minister Ashwani Kumar, who perverted the CBI investigation into the coal mines scam and subverted evidence submitted to the Supreme Court, is forced to resign with the greatest reluctance. Kumar was trying to erase the trail to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the very summit of government, and the government is still in place. It is not until tapes surface of railway minister Pawan Bansal incriminating himself with astonishing abandon that he is forced to quit. Poor Thakur must be wondering, in his few sober moments, whether there is any justice in politics. 

Actually, there isn’t. But there is justice in an election. Statutory warning to all ministers, prime or lower down: voters do not punish young men drunk on student spirits. Voters punish older men drunk with power. The story from Karnataka is of a Congress victory. The moral of this story lies in BJP’s defeat. The humiliation of the party’s former peacock, the chief minister who triggered a selfdestructive avalanche, B.S. Yeddyurappa, is particularly instructive. He imagined he was going to become CM again. He has many years of contemplation ahead. 

He was trapped in a suicidal pincer of corruption and arrogance. The syndrome is so widespread, across party lines, that we might need a word for it: “corrugance” would do. More names keep getting added to a long list: Bansal and Kumar are only the newest. Corruption kills; arrogance insures a long burial. This was fatal to BJP in Karnataka; it will be deadly for UPA across India when a general election comes. The voter is especially unforgiving when governments permit theft of natural resources, the people’s wealth, by cronies. The BJP’s collapse began with the rape of mines in Bellary. 

It was an early scandal of the BJP’s tenure, but people did not forget, just as voters will remember a long UPA litany . UPA sanctioned loot of resources on an unprecedented scale: in spectrum, mines, or agricultural land gobbled up through shady private deals. The BJP lost the confidence of Karnataka long before it was whittled into a minority in the legislature. Ditto, UPA in Delhi. His personal credibility is shattered, his government’s reputation is an embarrassment, his party has become a national joke, but Dr Singh continues, primly, in office, hoping for a chance reversal of fortune through a spin of cosmic lottery. But there are no miracles left in God’s cupboard for the corrupt. 

The Indian voter has more patience than the Indian temperament would suggest. Even a fog at the top will not deter the voter from locating his destination. The Congress did not have a candidate for Chief Minister in Karnataka during the campaign. It did not matter beyond a point. It will not matter beyond the same point when India votes. The Congress vote in Karnataka did not rise by much; the BJP vote collapsed. 

Across the country, the BJP is rising only marginally, but Congress is falling with a thud. Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Singh have an additional problem. In Karnataka BJP operated from ground level, full of the usual slosh and pitfalls. Dr Singh and Mrs Gandhi opted for the moral high ground of saints. A fall from such heights is that much more shattering. Dr Singh, after claiming honesty as a first principle, permitted corruption in order to sit in the PM’s chair. This is betrayal, too. His ebbing admirers want him to resign. He believes he can squeeze out a few more months of power through sustained indifference. 

The Congress is lost in the debris of a vote factory built on sand. UPA is dead. India needs another government, born through the labour of an election, immediately.

1 comment:

raviVchhabra {rVc} said...

It is always a delight to read MJ's fine writing. I remain his admirer ever more.