“They” are all in this together

Another day, another scam. Vociferous denials from the ruling side. Obstructionist chest thumping from the Opposition. Parliament comes to a standstill. No debate. The ruling party discreetly plans for an adjournment while trotting out its litany of suave, smiling, smooth talkers on TV to feign innocence and accuse the opposition of preventing a debate.

The Coal-gate scam is a perfect example of how bad the state of our politics is today. What makes this scam unique is that it appears that the UPA, the BJP and several other parties are equally culpable when it comes to corruption. The BJP wants no discussion whatsoever. Their central demand is that the PM should take responsibility for this scam and resign. Clearly, the BJP is caught in a “pot calling the kettle black” predicament and any attempt to allow a discussion in Parliament is sure to leave them as exposed as the UPA. It would be prudent not to “paint all parties with a broad brush” but sadly there is little to choose from among these parties. The coal scam confirms that no party was in favor of an auction. Why bother with an auction when you can dole out the country’s resources to your friends in the business world?

What is the punishment for denying the people of this country an open debate on this scam? Who is going to investigate this case? How long will it be before justice is delivered? What use is an investigation by the CBI which is directly under the control of the government? When the ruling coalition and the country’s major political opposition are both involved in the country’s largest ever scam, what options are we left with? A special investigative team, perhaps? Don’t you long for the elusive Lokpal which was so deftly scuttled by all our political parties?

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

The fallacy of good candidates

“Anna must find and support good candidates in the next election.” This seems like a sentiment doing the rounds among many who supported the anti-corruption struggle and are now disillusioned or uncomfortable with the plans of the IAC movement to launch a new political party. While this goal of finding these elusive good candidates is idealistic, it is also very naive, unless it is executed in conjunction with the formation of a new party.

The reality today is that while the current political parties have their share of dubious characters who get elected, they also have among them individuals who fit the “good candidate” profile. But the problem is that every such candidate ultimately belongs to a political party (independents are a non-existent or rare breed) and is subject to the diktat of the party high command. Swami Vivekananda said, “Give me 100 men of steel will and I will change the world.” If these men of steel were our elected MPs, they would have been stifled and crushed by the weight of their party high command.

Our political system today has limited value for “individual goodness” because ultimately, it is the party high command that holds the cards. For instance, the so-called good candidate might promise the Lokpal bill but the party high command might not support it. In other words, there is only so much that good candidates can do for you because they control hardly anything when it comes to decisions of their party. Our PM, Mr. Manmohan Singh, is a perfect example of this malaise at the heart of our political system. Despite being viewed as personally being “good,” under his leadership, India has had the most corrupt government in its history!

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

Timing is perfect for a new party to emerge

The Congress party is plagued with corruption scandals. The BJP is no better. Those who have any doubts just need to look at the state of Karnataka politics. The BJP is universally accepted as a political front for the RSS. Most secular-minded Indians are uncomfortable with the BJP and hence default to the Congress, despite all its shortcomings.


Then, there are the regional parties – the Samajwadi party, the BSP, the DMK, TMC, AIADMK, and the like. Given these dynamics, as of now, there are three options at the center – a Congress-led government, a BJP-led government, or a third-front government where sizeable regional parties come together to form a government. As Advani pointed out in his recent blog post, the third option is the least stable of the lot. What he didn’t mention, though, is that since the 80s, every one of these options has been tried multiple times with differing degrees of failure. The country, meanwhile, has seen the emergence and growth of regional parties, while national parties have been on a steady decline. There are many states today where neither the Congress nor the BJP have a significant presence. If this trend continues, running a coalition government at the center will soon be virtually impossible.

The big question before the country today is how long we should continue to live with various permutations of these three options. Don’t we deserve something better?  Isn’t it time we gave something new a chance?

Given the current dismal state of affairs and a confluence of other developments, things bode well for a new party to emerge. Thanks to the anti-corruption movement, corruption today serves as a valuable unifier that cuts across all conventional boundaries such as caste, religion, language etc. It is a binding factor of the kind that the country has not seen since the days of the Emergency.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times