Anadi Naik

Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress leader and also the Chief Minister of Bengal, has touched a raw political nerve by saying that both the ruling Congress party and its main Opposition the BJP are on their way to sell the country. The implication is that other than the name, both Parties are hardly distinguished from their behavior. The Parliamentary election is about to be held. So, whatever distinction ever existed between them is vanished. The desire to bring voters under the spell of delusion to capture their consent is strong on both sides. Each Party is setting up candidates who are career politicians or have a lot of money to spend.

Parliament members have direct say over various public projects in their constituencies. In many instances these projects become a cash cow for the friends and family members of many Parliament members. Spending money to get elected is an investment which later gives a good return. Although elections have made democracy in India strong and resilient, they have helped spread corruption far and wide. Both money and power have gone to the hands of a limited few. In democratic India, in the place of meritocracy where one is to be judged by one’s ability, a kind of oligarchy has developed. A privileged few with access to money and power call the shots.

As national Parties, both the Communists and the Socialists in India are splintered in many pieces. Each of them has a handful of members in the Parliament. Regional Parties such as BJD in Odisha, A-DMK, DMK in Tamil Nadu, T M C in Bengal and TDP in Andhra Pradesh appeal to a limited area. As regional Parties they have to ally with one of the national Parties. Only the Congress Party or the BJP has an all India following. The AAP is trying to grow. In character, program and strategy both have more similarities than differences. Therefore, putting them at the same level does not stray from the truth.

After election, either Congress or BJP may gain a majority in the Parliament. However, in many of the States regional Parties are likely to hold Power. Therefore, any ruling Party has to coalesce with them. Colorful politicians like Jayalalitha has in the past been a partner with both Congress and BJP. So have many others. These Parties are committed to the development in their geographic areas. They also want a clean and honest government. Expecting others to remain honest and clean is one thing. But creating an environment for those qualities is another.

Both unscientific observation and serious research show that honest administration is a prerequisite for a vibrant democracy. It is quite possible that even if the universal adult franchise is accepted and citizens do exercise their rights, some people could plunder their country’s wealth while running it. There is no guarantee that under democracy everyone is treated fairly. A corrupt administration could hand over power and privilege to a disproportionately small number of people who could use the treasury as their piggy bank. It is happening before our eyes. And the people of those countries - Sudan Egypt, Ukraine, Nigeria, to name a few - are paying a heavy price

In India, corruption in public life has remained a scourge. Successive Governments formed by various political Parties have not been able to change it. Yet, the need for an honest government at all levels continues to grow. In modern life, Government plays a big role in everything such as education, commerce and health care. From exploration of space to drilling oil at the bottom of the ocean; dredging sand from the river bed to mining minerals from rocky hills; offering driver’s licenses to standardizing weights and measurements; collecting taxes to sending pensions – the government’s tentacle is everywhere. If the Government functionaries are dishonest and operate under the shroud of secrecy, corruption is likely to grow. That is why India is still struggling with issues like Bofor.

Needless to say India’s political Parties, big and small, have done well in strengthening the culture of democracy in India. What they need is an agenda to weed out a culture of corruption that so dangerously rots the country’s civic life at all levels.

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