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Morality: Political Untouchable:ITíS POLITICS YAAR, WHY RESIGN?, by P.I. Kaushish, 30 Jul, 2011 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 30 July 2011

Morality: Political Untouchable


By Poonam I Kaushish


In this tempestuous monsoon, political Delhi seems to resonate of a Mahabharata episode. After losing their kingdom in a gambling match the Pandavas go into exile and blame their cousins Kauravas and their uncle Shakuni for fraud and trickery. Never once taking responsibility for the fact that they gambled away their kingdom.


Ditto, the case with our netagan today. All willy nilly refuse to take responsibility for a situation, even if they are to blame. Who shed their idealistic cloaks to become ‘Emperors with no clothing’ typically externalising the problem wasting time and energy finding people and processes to blame!


A classic example is the sordid drama being played out in Bangalore where an indicted Chief Minister Yeddiyurappa desperately tried to hang on to power and refused to resign for over four days.  First, by cocking a snook at Karnataka State Lokayukta’s report on the illegal mining scam. “I am innocent, and will not resign,” he said. Then, blackmailing the BJP’s top brass by threatening to break the Party in the State. Later, bargaining for anointing “his” man as Chief Minister. Culminating in him going out kicking and screaming.


But the issue is not whether Yeddiyurappa resigned or not. It speaks volumes of our New Age polity’s brazen defiance and challenge to accepted democratic norms. And, raises four serious moral questions with far reaching ramifications for Indian democracy itself. One, assiduous cultivation of low morality is essential today for a place in high political society. Two, preaching morality is one thing, practicing it quite another. Three, politics has everything to do with acceptability, little with credibility. Four, public life is all compromises, not principles.


Undoubtedly, Yeddiyurappa’s resignation drama has turned Constitutional norms on its head whereby history is being re-written and re-interpreted. Look at the irony. Today all swear by Nehruvian principles but conveniently forget to practice them. How many remember his distaste and abhorrence for sleaze.


Remember, the infamous Mudgal affair, wherein an MP was expelled for taking Rs.2000 for canvassing support in Parliament for a business house. Nehru burnt the midnight oil to establish healthy conventions and stated: “The case, if I may say so, is as bad as it could well be. If we consider even such a case as a marginal case or as one where perhaps a certain amount of laxity might be shown, I think it will be unfortunate.


“If the House does not express its will in such matters in clear, unambiguous and forceful terms, then doubts may very well arise in the public mind as to whether the House is very definite about such mattes or not. Therefore, it has become a duty for us and an obligation to be clear, precise and definite. The facts are clear and precise and decision should also be clear and precise and unambiguous. The decision of the House should be, after accepting the finding of this report, to resolve that the member should be expelled from the House.


Also, much to the chagrin of Nehru, his son-in-law Feroze Gandhi told Parliament in 1958 that the Mundhra deals had caused a “mutiny in the minds”. Haridas Mundhra had sold fraudulent shares worth 1.26 crores to the LIC. Apart from punishing Mundhra, Nehru’s favourite T.T. Krishnamachari, the then Finance Minister had to go for gross negligence by his Ministry.


Nehru adopted a formal approach in several other cases, including the famous Jeep scandal which involved another of his favourites Krishna Menon, one relating to K.D. Malaviya and the other to the son of a senior Minister on a written complaint made by C.D. Deshmukh.


Also recall the Shastri-Nehru correspondence in November 1956. Shastri resigned on moral grounds owing responsibility for the train disaster. Nehru accepted his resignation, stating, “The ultimate responsibility for everything that happens in this country is certainly that of the Government of India. We do not wish to shirk that responsibility. We fully accept that. We would set an example in this matter and that no man should think that whatever might happen we carry on in the same way without being affected by it. We are affected by it.”


Tragically, today in sharp contrast new definitions of political morality have become a daily staple diet post the Nehru era. Ministers consider themselves indispensable to Government policy making whereby none is willing to forsake his ministerial kursi on any ground even a train accident. Proclaimed a Minister: “I cannot be held guilty for any subordinate’s mistake. Otherwise, we will have a spate of ministerial resignations landing on the Prime Minister’s table every day”.


What to speak of Lalu Yadav? Charge-sheeted over the chara ghotala, the former Bihar Chief Minister and Union Railway Minister asserted, “Where does the Constitution say that a Chief Minister duly elected by his people should resign merely on being charge-sheeted by policemen?” Who is the CBI or the Central Government to tell me to do so? I will rule from the jail if imprisoned --- and split the Janata Dal. Kaunsi naitikta aur bhrastaachar ki baat kar rahe hain. What has morality to do with politics”?


This is not the end. Consider how Shibu Soren returned as Union Cabinet Minister after he got bail barely six months after being charged in a murder case. Who can forget the two reigning Divas in the north and south? The UP Chief Minister Mayawati is ruling the roost despite facing serious charges in a disproportionate asset case and Tamil Nadu’s Purthathaliave Jayalalitha is facing trial in a corruption case.


Arguably, in this milieu, Yeddiyurappa, Raja and Dayanidhi Maran are entitled to ask: “Why should we be hanged”? Clearly, in our netagans ‘moral’ vocabulary prima facie evidence of culpability is not good enough reason for them to resign. He or she will only do so when convicted by a court of law. Even then they will try to buy time and continue in office given our never ending legal procedures of law taking its own course. Sic. 


Bringing things to such a pass that an increasingly agitated aam aadmi fed up of the rampant corruption is no longer willing to stay quite. The success of the Anna Hazare campaign says it all. Whereby, a moribund polity fails to realize that the battle has moved to the peoples’ court. With all willy-nilly shouting “sab neta chor hain.


Some old-fashioned nationalists with a sense of honour would be rightly appalled by the state of things today. The answer is simple. All those perceived as corrupt and ugly should be thrown out or at best sidelined. Parties should present new clean and credible faces. No neta is indispensable. Remember that Gandhi said: “In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place. Like Caesar’s wife our leaders should be above suspicion.” Not above proven guilt!


Indeed, if the Government is seized of the urgency to purge the malaise that has set into the body politic, this is the most propitious time to introduce probity --- and not the low cholesterol code of conduct. Certainly, Manmohan Singh cannot roll back the years, but doubtlessly he can roll in the Nehruvian values.


One can only recall Prof. Galbraith who said years ago: “There is nothing wrong with Indian laws, nothing wrong with its (socialist) economy, or with its political and judicial institutions, what ails India is the moral poverty”. Can a nation continue to be without clothes, bereft of all sense of shame and morality --- and for how long? ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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