Game of politics just got harder

The Karnataka Lokayukta, Justice Shivraj Patil, has resigned in the wake of a real estate controversy. Justice Patil, who owns multiple properties in Bengaluru, is alleged to have violated rules in buying them. Ironically, it is the office of the Lokayukta that is required to probe land scams.
The resignation, nevertheless, is a welcome step. Clearly, public accountability is beginning to take effect and, hopefully, the former Supreme Court judge will return the plots of land if any rules were indeed violated to acquire them.

The UPA government, which is taking a number of steps to combat graft, must consider doing away with all the “discretionary powers” of Union ministers and chief ministers. Almost all scams connected with land acquisition or land use emanate from the misuse of this power. All land and property allotments to VIPs over the past decade should be probed and those who have availed of this facility beyond a single unit (i.e., they own no other real-estate units) should be debarred from public office. Mr Patil has set a good example for others to follow.
Raids have been conducted on the extensive assets of Jagan Mohan Reddy and his associates, family members of former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and the mining barons of Bellary.
This is not political “vendetta”, it’s just that many who wore the Anna “cap” are now thinking differently. Several cases of irregularities and violations by VIPs are pending, like the Adarsh Housing Society scam where houses were allocated to the former Army Chief and the case of undervalued properties of former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan’s family members. If corrective action is to be taken, it must start at the top to have real impact in the system.
A new facet has been added to the 2G scam with the Union home minister getting drawn in. I wonder if what we are witnessing is actually just a corporate battle between financial interests.
Whatever the case, the fact is that political authority is being compromised at all levels. After the Supreme Court’s intervention and a CBI probe we see law’s long arm doing the needful in the mining scam in Karnataka
and Andhra Pradesh. Soon focus will shift
to Goa where 50 per
cent of the mines are illegal.
Vested interests extend virtually to every activity where there
is big money but public and media scrutiny
has become unavoidable and intense. A small minority holding the purse strings of various parties is holding the system to ransom. We need leaders in the future who are not weighed down by excessive assets!
We have a weak Centre and relatively strong state governments. The reality is that politics has changed — while the post-election “number game” determines power at the Centre, in the states the mandate to rule has to be earned in the electoral battle where ability, competence and integrity count. No national party, be it the Congress or the BJP, has a supreme national leader who can influence state elections.
The Congress has good chief ministers in Sheila Dikshit in Delhi and Tarun Gogoi in Assam but both face anti-incumbency. Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chauhan has a good image and is settling down nicely. The party has built an effective team in Uttar Pradesh with Salman Khurshid, Beni Prasad Verma , R.P.N. Singh and Jitin Prasada. Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand and Amarinder Singh in Punjab are both potential winners. Weakness is evident in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in the south and in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh where the absence of a single, strong leader can complicate things for the Congress. The party faces a downturn in Rajasthan what with the family interests of chief minister Ashok Gehlot coming out in the open. The Congress must clear the air on this issue at the earliest. In Haryana, despite there being a good chief minister, there are more than a dozen factions in the party; the upcoming Hissar by-elections with new alliances in place will offer a peep into the future. The Congress had won over 200 seats in the 2009 general elections, but is currently staring at the prospect of a lower figure.
The BJP, with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi leading its charge, will have the advantage of a formidable orator with a good track record to boot. It will consolidate its current seat position, but can it go beyond 120 seats in the Lok Sabha? That will not be easy unless it gets additional seats in Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress led by Rahul Gandhi is far ahead with regard to the upper caste vote. The BJP has little or no presence in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Orrisa and Haryana and will need electoral alliances. It can suffer electoral losses in Karnataka if the Congress is able to identify an “acceptable” leader. The BJP needs to win at least 150 Lok Sabha seats on its own before it can think of leading an NDA coalition. Anything short of this means ceding ground to a Third Front combine.
The BJP’s decision to “project” Mr Modi as its prime ministerial candidate was long overdue. As I have been saying for the past one year, the Congress will be led by Mr Gandhi and the BJP by Mr Modi in the 2014 elections. Both have age on their side and the ability to develop further to be able to make a difference to their party’s electoral prospects. However, both the national parties have to set their internal house in order before they can face the challenges that lie ahead.
Anna Hazare has given a “wake-up” call to the political fraternity and before he embarks on his proposed tour of the country all political parties had better announce their own plans so as to stay in the reckoning. It is good to see a flurry of activity as Mr Modi takes his “fasting yatra” to the districts of his state to promote communal harmony and after Nitish Kumar announced “Sewa Yatra” in Bihar! With increased accountability underling the need for simplicity and greater public contact, special planes, helicopters, fancy cars and expensive designer gear will go out of fashion. Politics is a hard game and it has just gotten harder.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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