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Thursday, May 5, 2011

(Published in on 5 May 2011, retrieved from )

A few days ago, I came across a cartoon strip that I found hilarious. A man was staring in bewilderment at his television set, as a newscaster read, “In a high-level meeting held at Tihar jail, the Central government reiterated its pledge to fight corruption.”

After a series of events that occurred in the following week, the line seems more sinister than funny. Perhaps because we know it could be true, if only politicians were sent to jail like ‘common criminals’.

First, came Karunanidhi’s allegation that Kanimozhi was framed because of her popularity. This, despite the fact that she was indicted through taped conversations with Niira Radia, in which her voice – and accent – establish that it was no identity theft. She has also been referred to in Radia’s taped conversations with Ratan Tata.

Despite this, though, the charges against her are rather loosely framed. Even more bizarrely, her stepmother Dayalu’s contention that she was on the board of a channel only on paper, because she couldn’t speak Hindi or English (neither of which one needs to know to be involved in a Tamil channel), got her out of the soup. Umm, even if she just hung out and sipped tea at a couple of meetings, shouldn’t someone have translated ‘benaami’ for the lady?

Next, came the drama of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report. While the BJP was too busy screaming for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe to support Murli Manohar Joshi till the Congress and its allies sloppily tried to pull the rug from under his feet, its leaders and the Left finally sat up when Saifuddin Soz made history.

Quite laughably, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi reacted by accusing the Left of colluding with the BJP to “destabilise secular forces like Congress and UPA.” To hint that the Left has been saffronised is about as ridiculous as claiming the Congress is secular – I mean, really, we’re talking about the party that has been appeasing minorities even at the cost of those very minorities (think Shah Bano).

Thankfully, Speaker Meira Kumar chose to go by the book in accepting the report, which Joshi had cleverly submitted as a document rather than a ‘draft report’, thereby circumventing the loopholes that could have been used in the latter case.

While Kapil Sibal graciously said it was up to Meira Kumar to decide, naturally after first insisting it was “not a report”, we all know there will be an extended lunch break if there’s an attempt to table Joshi’s report in Parliament.

Critical as the report is of Manmohan ‘Caesar’s Wife’ Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram, it can hardly be as damning as the interview with Kim Davy a.k.a. Neil Christian Neilsen that suddenly popped up on television.

What is a country coming to when its citizens are told that its government orchestrated an arms drop to destabilise one of its own states, because the ruling party in that state believes in a different political ideology?

The Congress responds by passing the buck to the BJP, and pointing out that then Home Minister L K Advani had sought a Presidential pardon for the pilot of the flight, Peter Bleach. The Central Bureau of Investigation, as usual, claims that there was no political involvement. Our ‘elected leaders’ are pure as the driven snow.

Several retired Army and intelligence officers have cried themselves hoarse about the lack of cooperation between state and centre when the ruling parties are not allies. As if to validate their angst, Rahul Gandhi, who is all set to inherit the reins of the nation whenever he’s considered old enough, suggests that life would be all rosy if the same party ruled in the state and centre.

But strategy analyst B Raman’s blog post on the incident makes one wonder whether an inept government is not worse than a vindictive one. From his analysis, it appears that the R & AW, IB and the state government basically dealt with crucial intelligence quite like they were playing a casual game of catch-the-ball.

When we’re surrounded by enemies, and the most wanted terrorist on the planet has just been captured from a well-equipped mansion close to a military base in Pakistan, is this the kind of intelligence set-up we’re paying for?

The formation of a panel to draft the Lokpal Bill seems to be the one good thing that’s happened in the last few weeks, and that hasn’t happened without attempts to derail the process.

It struck me as ironic that the person who is eventually elected Lokpal must not have a criminal record, when everyone who is engaged in drafting the bill that will mandate this is entitled to one.

When other countries have come close to impeaching their Presidents for having a glad eye, here we are, electing criminals, most of whom are uneducated, and many of whom have a couple of wives who’ve purportedly earned tens of crores doing the laundry.

Yes, we are a democracy. But does that mean just anyone can claim the right to represent us? Will we ever bring in a rule stipulating that no one with a pending legal case against him or her can run for office? When every other well-paying job in the country requires educational qualifications, shouldn’t we choose candidates based on an examination which accommodates at least the Constitution and the Indian Penal Code in its syllabus?

We may not be able to weed out corruption entirely, but these two conditions would rid us of a whole lot of people currently spending part of our tax money on subsidised food and stowing away the rest in Swiss bank accounts.


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