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Whither the fight against corruption?

Thursday, 16 January 2014 - 5:28pm IST | Agency: dna

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The year was 2011. India had just won the cricket world cup. Everyone, including me, thought this euphoria would last a while. But it didn’t. Just a week after Dhoni hit that landmark six, people had gathered on streets and in maidans to protest the growing corruption in India. This was a sign that the anger against corruption had risen to a level rarely seen before.

If you recollect the rage of 2011 and compare it to today, you see that anger against corruption is still there, but the voices are fewer. Except for the BJP, the principal opposition, no one else seems to be talking of the CWG, 2G, Adarsh, Antrix and other corrupt acts of the UPA government under the Congress. Where are the so-called civil society voices against this corruption today? They are busy sitting in government, supported by the same corrupt Congress they started their movement against, and saving the leaders of the erstwhile corrupt Sheila Dikshit government.

One can be an ardent critic of the Congress on many grounds, but one can never accuse it of being bereft of ideas to change the political tide to ensure its win or minimise its losses. The way the Congress has propped up Team Kejriwal to divide, divert and demolish the fight against corruption is a political masterpiece.

By late 2010, the Congress and its allies were in the dock for various scams. The BJP was turning on the heat, both in Parliament and on the streets. Baba Ramdev’s movement against black money was gathering momentum and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was taking the issue of corruption subtly to middle class living rooms. Subramanian Swamy was ensuring the UPA got no respite from the legal process. The word “corruption” was becoming synonymous with the Congress.

By early 2011, the anger had reached the Gandhi family and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). To make things worse, crusaders like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, and Justice Hegde were closing ranks with other anti-corruption movements. A political catastrophe was staring at the Congress. But trust the grand old party to use its large network and system to change the tide.

As a first step, people like Arvind Kejriwal, Gopal Rai, Manish Sisodia, Mayank Gandhi, and Anjali Damania joined Anna Hazare’s movement. They knew Anna and Kiran Bedi were crowd-pullers and enjoyed great credibility amongst the people. Initially, Team Kejriwal wasn’t averse to Baba Ramdev or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar either. Neither did they mind symbols like a picture of Bharat Mata on stage. But this was a farce to get the religious right from the middle classes to join them.

Slowly, the symbols of right nationalism began to disappear. Then they began to distance themselves from Baba Ramdev. The next step was to sideline people like Santosh Hegde and Kiran Bedi. Slowly, steadily and stealthily, Team Kejriwal divided and hijacked the movement against corruption.

Team Kejriwal then started diverting attention from the issue. No more was corruption associated with the Congress. Kejriwal et al went on a spree of wild and unsubstantiated allegations against some party leader or another. They called the BJP corrupt and targeted Nitin Gadkari, who was later found innocent by investigating authorities.

In Maharashtra, they targeted the NCP and the BJP, but spared the Congress which was the main ruling party in the state, and were completely silent on the Adarsh scam. People like Om Puri were used to tar all politicians with the same brush, and the entire Parliament as corrupt, forgetting it was the Congress which the public thought was most corrupt.

Now that the movement against corruption was going nowhere, the time had come to limit political losses. The formation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was the beginning of that stage. How many are surprised that the AAP decided only to fight the Delhi elections and not contest in any other state? Was the AAP saying only the Delhi government under the Congress was corrupt, and the rest were honest? The AAP is full of leaders who have strong views on Naxalism, and contesting the Chhattisgarh elections should have been a natural, easy choice. But the AAP refrained. Was it because the AAP would be dividing Congress votes in Chhattisgarh?

After a spectacular show in Delhi, what did the AAP do? It allowed the Congress to rule Delhi using a remote control. So while the Congress lost the elections in Delhi, it hasn’t lost power. And the price seems to be the AAP’s silence over corruption charges against Sheila Dikshit and her colleagues. Such a betrayal of the Delhi voters! Now, everyone in Delhi is talking about populist measures rather than corruption, a sad state of affairs for a place where the anti-corruption movement started.

The AAP now wants to repeat the process in Haryana and Maharashtra, both Congress-ruled states facing terrible corruption charges. Some coincidences are interesting and this is one of them. The Congress is clearly using the AAP to ensure the gap between them and the BJP isn’t too big. Even if they lose power, a weaker opposition government or a stooge like the AAP or the Third Front is the best case scenario for the Congress.

Many would think this piece is just plain political speak, without any proof.

But a look at the core of the AAP today will reveal that two things bind most people in the party: the Ford Foundation and a connection with the National Advisory Council (NAC). Look at the AAP’s U-turn on Sheila Dikshit after Kejriwal became chief minister of Delhi. Look at their complete silence over the Adarsh scam, Virbhadra Singh or any other corruption charges against any Congress leaders.

Sadly for the Congress, a large section of the society has seen through its game. Public anger against the Congress is not just about corruption, but on multiple fronts. And with the BJP going strong under Narendra Modi, the Congress has only one game-plan left: using the AAP. Which is why I have to say this on voting for the AAP: Button dabega AAP pe, vote jayega Haath pe.

Jiten Gajaria is Convener, Social Media Cell, BJP Maharashtra. He is also an entrepreneur and writes on political issues. He tweets @jitengajaria.

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