So many scandals only show the vibrancy of the system!
In spite of the series of latest scandals, one minister gone and another seems on his way out, it looks our democracy is emerging a sustainable system. With the various organs of the state playing a more activist role. In particular the media has been playing its role credibly bringing out the scandals and also managing throwing out the guilty men. Like in the developed USA and UK, here too democracy is growing on the strength of a freer and liberal press freedom.
The new year starts with a note of ominous trend. A series of scandals come to the fore and the government with a ‘nominated’ Prime Minister has been in office for well over twenty months. When this coalition government took office there was this hope the new Prime Ministerial face would bring some decency and transparency. Decency Dr.Manmohan Singh had surely brought to his role as the chief of the political order. But transparency? That is the missing link in that hotchpotch of a coalition.
The Prime Minister has cut a sorry figure in so many of the latest scandals, be it phone tapping of prominent Opposition leaders( you cant just keep mum when more than one Chief Minister of a former Chief Ministers, other than Mr.Amar Singh who is now spearheading the attack on the government’s questionable role in this invasion into the privacy of individuals who are also leading political figures. The Prime Minister operates for most of the time not as a leader leading from the front but as a backroom operator. Soon after came the Bofors pay off case against the Italian gentleman who is widely known to be an influential person with the Gandhi family. As such, the PM or the UPA chairperson both keep mum when the whole country so agog with the new revelations. It is too much to make the country believe that the CBI, as it now says on second thoughts would have done this job on its own. Nor the Law Minister who is again a shadowy figure for most of the time, but an old hand of the Gandhi family, would have had no hand in directing the law official to travel to London to do the hatchet job! Even here the PM is not playing the role expected from the high office. The country is not being led by any leader with credibility.
The allies are all set on one thing. Political survival at all costs! How long this politics devoid of any idealism or vision can sustain our democracy? There seems to be not much cause for pessimism. The people have become more awake. The press is more daring, the Supreme Court and the Election Commission had emerged as the conscience of the citizens. So, there is all reason for much optimism!
What is the position today? A noted Indian journalist who reviewed the British book by Britain’s Ambassador to the US at the time of 9/11 and the Iraq war (Christopher Meyer) says: “This book’s reflections on the press, diplomacy are relevant to the Indian situation. Indian politicians are spoilt bratsal ready. None of them would be able to survive in the UK or the USA with their rude replies or dishonest prevarications”.
What is disconcerting for the nationalist minded leaders and citizens is the utter lack of grasp of the Congress leadership today in reviving the party in any of the major states in a serious way. The only consolation for the Congress, in a cynical way of course, is the disarray in which the major Opposition party, the BJP finds itself today. But this is a poor consolation. For the keen political observers, it should be clear that the Congress has only 145 MPs and the BJP has 135 MPs. So, the chance to form the government in 2004 came in an unexpected way and even now the coalition proves to be a fragile arrangement and anything can happen at any moment.
The Congress fortunes are in the decline and the past history of the party could be an object lesson for the Congress leaders if they care to know their past. Today we are a free country with a nearly six decades of parliamentary democracy experience. We also see a new type of power equations among the three wings of the Executive, Parliament and Judiciary. There is a weakening of Parliament’s prestige and authority, as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is slapped with a notice from the Supreme Court on the power of Parliament to expel its members. The Executive under Dr.Manmohan Singh is faced with a series of unprecedented controversial decisions, be it the Bihar Assembly dissolution or the defreezing of the Bofors-linked Quattrochi’s UK bank accounts, not to mention the Volcker report. So, today when we find our democracy run not in any transparent manner. There is no evidence of any transparency but all indications to run the government in a great deal of secrecy.
But what gives our current politics some dynamism and character is the power of the media. Just now, I was reading through a review of two books (The Spin Doctor’s Diary, Inside No.10 with New Labour and Dirty Politics, Dirty Times, My fight with the New Labour). And they seem to give us some insights into the working of a democracy. The reviewer says: “I would place a large bet that in most democratic countries, politicians are more honest than they ever were. Whether or not public morals have improved can be debated. What cannot, however, is the fact that the scrutiny politicians are subjected to is much greater than it was in the past. Parliamentary enquiries, judicial challenges, commissions of enquiry and above all the media now surround politicians, pushing the chances of faleshood’s detection easier”. How exactly apt are these lines are these lines for India? Yes, they are quite apt and also quite in tune with the aspirations and interests of the common people to scrutinise and expose and if possible throw out the guilty persons.
There is one difference in the case of the USA. There the corrupt and the wrong doers, more so the corporate bigwigs are charged and brought to trial and even put in jail. In the UK, it is the relentless exposure and pressure from the media that sees the wrong-doing politicians go away. In India, we don’t catch the wrong doing politician nor do we catch the corporate wrong doers. May be we would evolve into the next stage when both these categories of wrong doers are really caught red-handed. The day is not far away, it seems!
The major change of the present times is the role of the media, both the print and the electronic channels. The government might pass the Right to Information Act but for all intents there is no confidence in the government to share information with the citizens. This applies to the routine information at the grass roots and also at the top levels where bigger secrecy seems to be followed. The very Quattrochi ‘deal’ was exposed only by one resourceful private TV channel. Then only all the hell broke out!