The former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, had created a stir when she had said that corruption is a part of life. How true were her words. Today, corruption is not just a part of life but it has also taken over the entire system. So much so that the general tendency is to laugh when those in authority express concern at the situation and promise to undertake measures to tackle the affliction.
The latest to do so has been the prime minster, Manmohan Singh. He has done so at a time when almost every other day serious allegations are being hurled against the high and mighty. While expressing his concern, the prime minister should have taken the reality into account. He should have known that his government is not in a position to do anything to clear the mess. He and his ministers are dependent for their survival on two political parties whose leaders would have had the law knocking on their doors to probe charges against them if this was any other country.
While expressing his concern, the prime minister spoke of the need to take another look at the existing laws. Again, he should have known that there is no dearth of laws in this country. All that is needed is the will to go ahead and take the bull by the horn. But it is unlikely that his party will allow him to tell the accused that while he is thankful for their support in Parliament, they should not expect the government not to act in the interest of probity in public life.
Meanwhile, the nation is being made to witness the sickening spectacle of blackmail. The Congress is also part of the game. It has played the two major parties in Uttar Pradesh against each other for long in the hope that such a strategy would help it regain its lost ground. Little did it realize that a day will come when it will need both these parties in the nationís capital. Of the two political outfits, the Bahujan Samaj Party seems to be exploiting the situation the most.
Give and take
A suggestion of an inquiry into the BSP chiefís alleged disproportionate assets brought the threat that she might withdraw support to the government. Then came the announcement that the party had left the decision to her. It is no secret that in all matters it is she who takes decisions. So what was new about the announcement? What was left unsaid was that the threat had worked, and that she had been told to rest easy. The Samajwadi Partyís volte-face during the presidential election has also been attributed to behind-the-scene parleys.
The quid pro quo from the Congress, of course, takes different forms. Together with the assurance of inaction by the investigating agencies, there have been open bonanzas like the bumper financial aid to the state and the decision to make Agra the venue of a mega corporate world event. The Congress is desperate to ensure that UPA II lasts its full term. Hence, many more such instances of threats and pressure tactics may be seen in the days to come.
This, it might be argued, is realpolitik and should not be faulted. But then why adopt a high moral tone? Why speak of corruption as a curse that must be fought? Since the Congress swears by Indira Gandhi, it should not forget that she, at least, had never shed crocodile tears. She knew what the reality was and made no effort to change it. The present prime minister finds himself burdened with the image of being someone without the wherewithal to clear the Augean stables. He would do well to accept this reality and not express concern over an issue that has become a non-issue for the aam admi. He should also draw comfort from the fact that his opponents are no better.