Binge & purge

Forced to shut down his tabloid, the largest selling in the UK, and back down from a bid to take control of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, the woes of Rupert Murdoch continue. Father, son and their News International CEO have already deposed before a parliamentary committee where the 80-year-old Murdoch Sr was saved from an embarrassing plate-load of shaving foam by his wife Wendi’s impressive right hook.

But the full impact of the News of the World controversy is yet to be felt. It is only a matter of time before the criminal investigation and subsequent arrests extend to the Murdoch family and their political connections.
I am not surprised that London’s police chief, Paul Stephenson, has already resigned following charges of links with the Murdochs and the phone-hacking scandal. His exit was followed by that of assistant commissioner John Yates.
The News of the World controversy is full of VVIP names spread over two governments two political parties. For the public, the credibility of the political system matters the most and that is why political leaders are being held accountable for their actions. The political system, along with leaders past and present, is on trial in the British Parliament. Eloquent words will not save anyone. Prime Minister David Cameron is feeling the pressure and it is showing.
The dealings of political leaders with businessmen and media houses often remain hidden, almost completely in dictatorships, less so in democracies.
But democracy or dictatorship, the point of the rich and the powerful hobnobbing together is the same everywhere: To ensure that the rich get richer. India is no different in this regard.
But in working democracies there comes a certain time, a certain issue that has a cleansing effect and brings everything rotten to the surface. The News of the World is one of those instances. It has opened a can of worms and may even lead to elections. The United Kingdom, like the United States, has a vibrant democratic structure where retribution always comes from the voting public.
The reputation of the police, politicians and journalists is in tatters, but I think that the UK will emerge stronger after the purge has taken place. The system will change for the better.

IN INDIA, too, corruption is the theme of the season. While investigations into the 2G spectrum scam and Commonwealth Games mess continue, new cases of corruption spring up every day.
Everyone in governance is affected one way or the other, besides the ruling party at the Centre. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is severely wounded in Karnataka with the mining scam and land allocations, and now there is a mineral mining scam in Uttarakhand followed by revelations of an alleged land allocation scam in Bihar.
Our system may also be finally purging itself as the emerging cases cut across party lines.
Accusations are being hurled at all the three wings of governance, but the fact is that our media is not free of the ailments of power. Some introspection is advisable.
Also, I wonder if the other parts of civil society, which are shouting the loudest, will get immunity from scrutiny. Yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his antics have brought the entire religious community into the glare of the public eye and crores of rupees worth of assets associated with temples
and trusts have come tumbling out.
The legal profession, responsible for over 30 million pending cases, is the biggest industry we have in India and it is bound to come under the scanner as it is closely linked to politics. Can anyone guarantee that no lawyer, no law firm in India has violated the law in any form?
Excessive assets and black money don’t remain hidden forever. Even today the assets of former chief justice K.G. Balakrishnan, currently chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, are being examined. And the cases against the chief justice of Sikkim, P.D. Dinakaran, may well lead to his resignation.
All our problems with corruption, extortion or economic criminality are linked directly or indirectly to political donations — a system that is entrenched but not transparent. In my entire political career I have not known any political leader who has not violated the law. Personal integrity exists in many cases, but the system is full of criminality.
I do not believe in the gloom and doom theory and I think our democratic structure is intact and should, in fact, be strengthened for the future.
The BJP, led by senior leaders Sushma Swaraj in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha, is providing formidable opposition to the Congress. But outside Parliament, in the states the BJP has under its control, the party is developing cracks.
The Congress has a lot of fight left in the party and increased communication between party and government will do a lot of good.
I see the party reasonably well placed in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab where the next Assembly elections will take place.
The land mess in Greater Noida will grow as the high court has cancelled the acquisition of 589 hectares of land in Patwari village. Our TV channels, newspapers and mobile phones are full of offers for luxury flats from new entrants in real estate. I wonder how many of these projects are fake?

The author is a former Union minister

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