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Power Politics: DEMOCRACY VITIATED, By Proloy Bagchi, 27 August, 2013 Print E-mail

Open Forum-II

New Delhi, 27 August 2013

Power Politics


By Proloy Bagchi


Narendra Bhati, a member of the UP Legislative Assembly and an aspiring parliamentarian organised a rally the other day apparently to brag about the way he got Durga Shakti Nagpal. a young IAS officer working as Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of New Okhla Industrial Development Area (NOIDA), suspended for allegedly having a wall demolished of a mosque coming up on a government plot of land in a village in her jurisdiction. Mercifully, he claimed that his actions symbolised triumph, not his own but of democracy, presumably over the uppity Indian Administrative Service (IAS) bureaucracy. What he did not mention, however, was that he has enormous controlling interests in the allegedly illegal sand mining in the rivers of the district which she (the SDM) cracked down upon incurring his wrath and that of his cohorts in the sand-mining mafia.

The story is indicative of two facts. One, is the way the young, honest and idealistic officers working with a missionary zeal for the nation’s wellbeing in accordance with the rule of law are being broken to fall in line with the “system” so that the reportedly crooked political class could ride them on their back. All their angularities and idealisms are blunted and, finding themselves insecure, many become part of the “system”.

The “system”, seen to be corrupt and anti-people, is designed and put in place by many unscrupulous netas such as Bhati and bureaucrats who happened to have succumbed to politicians’ pressures sacrificing all their ideals they had joined the Government with. Numerous instances have been reported of bureaucrats giving up their initial fervour under the threat of frequent capricious and penal transfers, suspensions or even actions against them for not toeing the line of netas. Choosing softer options, they end up acting as their handmaidens and assist them in their nefarious activities.   

Secondly it indicates the netas have been emerging ever stronger so much so that they can twist and bend the system and established procedures to their personal advantage. Threats and intimidation are often taken recourse to against bureaucratic objections to get their way that are mostly irregular or even illegal. Nothing moves in the country without their approval, more so in States and their acts are viewed with suspicion, as oriented to milking the system. Even netas outside the governing machinery are said to have acquired a say in regard to practically every aspect of administration effectively neutralising the regular official process.  

Many have become so power-obsessed that they don’t want any check on themselves and their unethical and irregular activities. The Lokpal bill is a glaring example; they have stalled it for around 45 years – an enactment that would have objectively looked into their shenanigans. Even the independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation has been a bone of contention as the Government of the day wouldn’t want to let go of its control over it as it is often let loose on people considered inconvenient. Besides, it is used to settle scores with its opponents and, in the current coalition era, to keep a sword hanging over corrupt netas whose support is vital for sustenance of a precariously perched government.

Anna Hazare’s movement in 2011 movement was all about this vital agency but he was fobbed off by parliamentarians with a clever subterfuge. Now even the Apex Court is attempting to free it from Government control. Quite obviously, in the event of it being unchained, numerous politicians – big and petty – and many legislators in the States and at the Centre may end up where they should legally belong – behind bars, ‘criminals’ as they all are.

No wonder, members of parliament across the entire political spectrum, who generally keep snapping at each other, have exhibited rare unity in agreeing to enact a law that negates the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the iniquitous provision in the Representation of People’s Act that protects a convicted member from disqualification on ground of pendency of appeal. Strangely, the ruling alliance headed by the Congress is very clearly out to prevent criminals among legislators from going to jail! It is such a pity that the party of Nehru, Gandhi and Patel has stooped down to pursue politics devoid of any values and to plumb such depths of un-ethicality.

Again, many MPs displayed the same rare unity in asking the Government to amend the RTI Act to keep political parties out of its purview. The Central Information Commissioner (CIC) had brought six political parties under the purview of the Act being recipients of Government largesse – hitting them where it hurts. The cash piles with most of them are alleged to be a result of shady dealings and none has ever declared or is willing to declare the sources of their funds. Besides, they also harbour criminals because of their fund-raising ability and winnability.  As the CIC decision shattered their opacity exposing fishy activities they have ganged up and were up in arms against his order.  

The netas are seen to gang up whenever their interests are at stake. The former Lok Sabha speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, had been pleading for constitution of an independent body to determine the pay and allowances of the legislators. Stonewalling the reasonable suggestion, they made extravagant demands for pay-hike. Eventually, in 2010 they voted hefty hikes in their pay, allowances and perquisites so much so that the Government now is estimated to be spending Rs. 61 crore per annum on each MP. No wonder, more than half of the MPs and many legislators in the States are crorepatis.

In view of their conduct politicians have come to be viewed with contempt and as proverbial “scoundrels”. Some of them are not only crooked, they are also criminals having criminal charges filed against them or have even been convicted. They manage to interfere in the process of administration and some have successfully subverted the Rule of Law, exploited the system, expropriated undue perks and privileges, plundered the State’s resources, made  illegal money any which way using their status and bought votes in order to return to power again and again. This immorality has in many ways percolated down to the society at large and has brought down the once-shining image of the country. It is mainly because of their corrupt ways that the country figures near the bottom in the international corruption index.

Democracy, ironically, has been largely vitiated and the country seemingly has slipped into a highly iniquitous and corrupt oligarchy of the political class which has appropriated power, privileges and riches at the expense of the State to the exclusion of all others, destroying everything their predecessors, the nation builders, stood for. There doesn’t seem to be any escape from the inevitable oncoming disaster. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)





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