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June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.  Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.   Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       
Issue:June' 2017


Curbing ill-gotten wealth & assets of public men !

Pol i t ics i n India-- n e v e r a clean g ame - -is getting murkier and murkier day by day. We have in our midst a set of politicians who invariably put the self above all the values and sense of decency that public life demands. I believe the aberrations in the polity are not because of illiteracy and poverty. India's ordinary people have a robust common sense. It is a different matter that they could be taken for a ride by our unscrupulous leaders on promises which are hardly fulfilled. This is how the wheel of our democracy moves on for grabbing power and money at the cost of the public exchequer.

Hard facts on corruption and corrupt practices are disquieting. Does anyone care if secrecy becomes an anti-thesis of all that democracy stands for? For Kejriwal the entry in the Punjab poll was big money business.

My assessment is ours is still an ill-informed democracy despite the RTI Act, alert and active judiciary and social media. Secrecy rules the roost in governmental affairs in the absence of a viable system of transparency and accountability. Take recent cases of trading of charges and countercharges on corruption in the country's new political outfit of Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) in Delhi. Kapil Mishra, hitherto key minister in the Delhi government, claims to have seen the Chief Minister accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from businessman Satyendra Jain. He has accused Kejriwal of having favoured his relatives' companies for certain contracts worth Rs 50 chore. He has alleged that people close to Kejriwal had funnelled crores of unaccounted money into party coffers through shell companies and donors.

He has also raised the issue of foreign travels of some ministers and gross misuse of public funds. In certain matters he has provided documentary proof to the investigation agencies. If true, these are serious matters involving a person who was once projected as a role model in Anna Hazare anticorruptin campaign two and a half years back.
Much water has flown down the Yamuna since Anna Hazare's anti-corruption crusade The Yamuna continues to as muddy and dirty, rather worse than before Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's glittering global art show,patronised by both Arwind Kejriwal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi! But,who cares? Dirty political shows go on The question of Rs 2 crore of bribe is seen by certain quarters as peanuts.
More than this cynical response., the moot point is : how come Kapil Mishra remained silent after seeing the CM taking the bribe money quite some time back. Was his golden silence guided by the lure of ministerial office? If he had any conscience, it should have pricked him then and there.

Indian politics is a matter of convenience and not of convictions.We know when it comes to money making, there is hardly much difference between the Congress and other parties. AAP was meant to be different, but in more than two years, Kejriwal has proved to be equally disappointing.
The BJP has so far is seen to be somewhat different. Some of its leaders, especially PM Modi and CM Yogi, have give a better account of themselves. My only point of regret is that the Prime Minister has not yet established a system that should ensure transparency and accountability in governance.
Hard facts on corruption and corrupt practices are disquieting. Does anyone care if secrecy becomes an anti-thesis of all that democracy stands for? For Kejriwal the entry in the Punjab poll was big money business. Money poured in from NRIs in a big way. No accountability has so far been fixed in this regard.

There are surely ways and ways to bring about transparency and accountability in electoral politics and the politico-bureaucratic system as a whole.This requires tremendous political will on the part of our leaders to take up comprehensive set of reforms at all levels of governance. But their track record in this connection has rather been poor.

The Supreme Court has of late been pro-active in matters of public importance, especially relating to corruption and corrupt practices. So is the Election Commission. Politicians have, of course, have their own axe to grind. Just look at the shady affairs of Lalu Prasad Yadav and some members of his family hanging fire for years. The Apex Court has now restored the charges of criminal conspiracy against the RJD Chief in cases related to the fodder scam of over Rs 900 crore when he was chief Minister of Bihar. Indeed no one should be allowed to get away with their ill-gotten wealth accumulated over the years at home or statshed in overseas banks.

Ironically, there are loose ends in the system everywhere The issue is not one of claiming "I am less corrupt than thou!" The real challenge before the nation lies in reversing the prevailing corruption-prone trend in the politico-bureaucratic system through the process of reforms and credible institutional outfits.

This is quite an onerous task which cannot be done by selective tinkering here and there. Take the Prime Minister's demonetisation and related steps. I do not think these steps have helped much in curbing corruption in the polity. In any case, nothing can be achieved unless we ensure autonomous functioning of our key institutions like CVC, CBI, ED, IT etc and selecting right persons for the job and not of the "parrot" class. This will require less of secrecy and more of openness in governance. Is the Prime Minister ready to take the plunge ? I keep my fingers crossed.
Here the question is not merely of quantum but the very dimension of corruption operations which continue to eat into the vitals of the nation and thereby raising the basic question of values and morality. We cannot allow notes and votes to go together.
It will be worthwhile for the Apex Court and the Election Commission to closely monitor "electoral money pipelines" and assets accumulated by MPs, MLAs, ministers, politicians and their hangers-on.

Just look at the 16th Lok Sabha. In the 543- member house, 449 members are crorepatis. In 2004,there were just 156 crorepati MPs. What is more, every third of the elected member has a criminal record. The moot point is :is the Indian polity becoming "paise waalon and muscle men ka khel"(a game for the rich and muscle men!)? It seems politics and black money operations go hand in hand.The point is: where do politicians get money from? Apart from undisclosed sources of business houses, funds also flow from government contracts for roads, bridges, liquor etc. These contracts are generally cornored by cartels that are mostly controlled by legislators themselves. This is how vicious circle of the parallel economy runs in the country.

The CBI is an elite force. It is expected to preserve values in public life and ensure the health of the national economy.

Since there is no cap on company donations or party expenditure in elections,every political party is virtually free to spend as much money as it wishes to. This defeats the very purpose behind capping individual candidate's expenses. Has the Prime Minister an answer to this distorted functioning of our democratic system? It defeats PM Modi's own passionate public pleas for a transparent and accountable governance.
Be that as it may. We, the people, must not give up our fight against corruption. We expect the Supreme Court to play its role effectively and decisively in tune with the spirit of the Constitution. It can direct the executive to set up a permanent special cell (SIT) of the CBI under its supervision to monitor "asserts"of public men (sewaks) engaged in the service of the people! Those in seats of power or position cannot be allowed to amass wealth at the cost of the poor and the have- nots ! The CBI is an elite force. It is expected to preserve values in public life and ensure the health of the national economy. It needs to appreciate that the rich and powerful could cripple the official efforts to fight poverty, illiteracy and improve the public health system and the nation's security infrastructure.
As it is, the malaise of corruption is corroding the fabric of our nation. So,we we urgently need a viable system of checks and balances to enforce transparency and accountability at all levels of public life. The quality of democracy, after all, depends on the quality of the system and the persons at the helm of national and state affairs.