Few can dispute that the anti-corruption mood in the country has been a primary driving force behind its fast-changing political landscape. Yet the two major national parties, the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seem stuck in denial mode. The self-destructive actions recently executed by the two competing parties convey that no worthy lessons have been drawn from the electoral upheavals. This is despite the stunning performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — at its heart it’s anti-corruption plank — pitching the AAP into power in the hub of Indian politics. The AAP’s phenomenal debut has thrown the political establishments into a tizzy. BJP leaders have begun to nervously eye the AAP’s future national plans. The Congress hopes to use the embryonic political outfit as a buffer against what had seemed as Narendra Modi’s unstoppable march to the nerve centre of national politics.
But notwithstanding their public statements to the contrary, the two national protagonists are reluctant to make a complete breach with past practices. The very same underhand practices which have turned the electorate wary of the Congress and BJP. Clearly, corruption has been the stickiest issue scarring the mainstream national and regional parties. The political class’s brazen compromises on corruption is decidedly a root cause for the deep erosion of public faith in the existing political system. The AAP’s unexpected victory in Delhi and its fast expanding popularity show that people are desperately searching for a non-Congress, non-BJP political alternative.
But has this warning been hammered home? Clearly not. Despite Rahul Gandhi asking the Maharashtra government to “reconsider” its rejection of the Adarsh panel report, state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has let off the politicians, including home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, accused of “extending political patronage’ and violating guidelines. The reason: absence of grounds of criminality. The bureaucrats, guilty of violating service rules, are expected to face minor penalties. That’s not all. The Congress Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh, is currently facing serious corruption charges.
Singh’s wife has been accused of entering into a quid pro quo with an energy and technology firm, which had been given extension for a pending project in return for a cheque payment of Rs3.5 crore to Pratibha Singh. Yet the Congress leadership is clearly reluctant to take action against the Chief Minister. Worse still, there is talk of the Congress teaming up with the fodder-scam tainted Lalu Prasad in Bihar for the 2014 polls.
If the Congress narrative on corruption hasn’t changed, neither has the BJP’s. The mining scam-tainted former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, compelled to leave his party in the face of public outrage against corruption, is now all set to return to the BJP.
The BJP’s u-turn is seen in light of it’s desperation to notch up its seats in the southern state it ruled and lost to the Congress in last year’s assembly elections. A primary reason for losing the only BJP-governed state in South India was open rebellion by Yeddyurappa, a prominent leader of the lingayat community.
Even while vying with the AAP to occupy the anti-corruption space, the BJP is still resorting to the same dubious vote-garnering means in the 2014 elections. As for the Congress, put squarely in the dock for countless corruption cases during its nearly 10-year tenure, the party’s record is a long and sordid tale of compromises on corruption.
Only when faced with brusque fiats from Rahul Gandhi does the party bother to take action — and that too, half-hearted — against the guilty. The political class must go against the public mood at its own peril. Especially as people have run out of patience with their unprincipled deals to shield the tainted and whitewash corruption.