Top ten unwritten laws of Indian politics

  1. Law of “big” money: Most politicians in power and their kith and kin make “big” money by exercising their power and influence to the fullest. Common areas of involvement include land deals, educational institutions, power projects, coal mining, cricket associations, etc. Where there is “big” money to be made, expect the involvement of one or more politicians. If you find none, you can rest assured that there is an invisible hand. Recently, Beni Prasad of the UPA rightly pointed this out when he said, “I believe that Salman Khurshid would never get involved in a scam of Rs 71 lakhs because it is a very small amount. Had it been Rs 71 crore, it would have been more plausible.”
  2. Law of families and personal lives: Families of politicians are off limits when it comes to exposing scams. In other words, the ruling party will not go after the immediate family members of opposition leaders and vice-versa — a well understood and accepted quid pro quo. Digvijay Singh sincerely refers to this as “political ethics.” Gadkari captures it brilliantly when he says, “Char kaam hum unke karte hain, char kaam woh hamara karte hain.” Personal lives of politicians are also off limits. Multiple wives, extra marital affairs, sexual favors are all ignored. If exposed for some reason, rehabilitation is often just around the corner.
  3. Law of legal process: Investigations and court cases almost never produce anything of significance because they simply take so long that they become irrelevant. e.g., the Sukh Ram telecom scandal which took over a decade, Lalu Yadav’s fodder scam, Mulayam’s DA scam, the all important Bofors deal, to name a few. Most importantly, people involved in the process of investigations and cases can be bribed, eliminated, or if nothing else, transferred (a la Ashok Khemka). Also, politicians almost never go to jail. The more visible they are, the less likely they are to go to jail, no matter what the case against them might be. “I am open to any investigation. If found guilty I will quit politics.” Not surprisingly, starting with our erstwhile PM, this is the mantra of Indian politics.
  4. Law of enforced silence: People in power, especially politicians, prefer that you take them to court rather than spew allegations at them in the media. When there are allegations, the standard counter is to say, “If you have enough evidence, why not go to court? Why indulge in a trial by media?” The reality is that if you go to court, then the matter becomes “subjudice.” A convenient shield that virtually buries the issue for eternity.

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

Too big to investigate?

It has been over a week since the irrigation scam in Maharashtra. A week has gone by and no scams unearthed yet? Come on. This can’t be true. But one thing is for sure, the country can trust Kejriwal & co. not to disappoint when it comes to fulfilling their thirst for scams. Sensing this desire for frequent scam news, they have now slowly started to announce dates in advance when they intend to go public about scams. This is perfect. We certainly need a schedule so we can mark them on our calendars so as not to be left out of the excitement. While a schedule is welcome, just two announcements is a little underwhelming. It’s like a two-match T20 series. In any case, we’ll take what we can get. With Dhoni and his boys on a downward trend, we need this fresh injection of speculation and expectancy from time to time.

By now, you are probably thinking, “Oh well…cut out this cynicism, please!” It’s hard not to be cynical when you have an assembly line of scams but no sign of any action from the government. Instead of addressing the scams you have ministers of the UPA vowing to teach those who attempt to expose corruption a lesson.

The irrigation scam and the allegations against Mr. Vadra strike at the heart of a widely accepted practice in India — many in positions of power routinely exercise influence in return for unaccounted benefits. They often operate through their nearest kith and kin and the benefits can be to individuals or to political outfits or corporations, are all of the above. Most politicians groom their extended families to eventually enter politics. Very often, the early stages of grooming involve acting as “fixers.” These individuals remain below the radar for the most part until they get embroiled in a publicized scam of some sort. This role of “fixing” is a broad term encompassing a pretty diverse portfolio of services. Commonly offered services can range from routine school and college admissions, job appointments and transfers, new bank loans, write-off of old loans, film financing and distribution, etc. to more high stakes services like “encounter killings,” coerced land deals, and general “goondagiri”. All of these services are provided in return for some benefit or the other. This is the unwritten underlying system that has been in place for years and is widely practiced, no matter which party is in power.

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


A Generational Challenge

Our PM, Mr. Manmohan Singh, recently turned eighty. Given his active role in the country over the last two decades, there is little doubt that he bears a lot of responsibility for India’s current state. His recent (rare) address to the nation, though very much in character, was a rather poorly delivered speech. I don’t mean to imply that we need fiery rhetoric, but how about some passion and conviction in the speech? Mr. Manmohan Singh comes across as a “boring” bureaucrat, when in reality what India badly needs today is truly inspirational leadership.

In a country where 65% of the population is below the age of 35, it’s quite ironic that the man in charge of steering our unwieldy country is more than twice the age of most people in the country. Meanwhile, the main opposition party is led by Mr. Advani who is well into his 80s, and still harboring prime ministerial ambitions. While it may be unfair to discriminate on the basis of age, in the case of Mr. Manmohan Singh, his job performance is a serious concern. In the case of Mr. Advani, he has been unable to rally the rest of his party behind him, and is struggling in a battle for supremacy with his fellow aspirants.

Given this state of our two major parties, one can’t help but wonder why in a country with so many young people, no capable youngsters devoid of family connections rise to the top of our political arena.

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