Leader’s integrity no cure for corruption

Maharashtra is going the way of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka with “financial interests” prevailing over political authority. But these two states are not unique — we have witnessed utter political chaos as public funds were literally stolen by those in power in the Northeast as well as in Jharkhand. Our system of political funding, which has lacked transparency since 1952, routinely leads us into situations where political authority is giving way to “financial interests” leading to political chaos lurking around the corner.
We all know the situation with Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan and should we be surprised that every interest group, from Army generals and officials to politicians, have conspired against the interests of the aam aadmi? But it is sad to see good and talented politicians shouting and screaming on television and trying to deflect blame and gain time to find a suitable escape route. Few if any are interested in how damaging all this is to our political system.
There are no innocents in the game and every political party, be it national or regional, is collecting funds in an illegal manner. Even when politicians with personal integrity lead parties or governments, there is no guarantee that things will not go wrong. We have a sorry situation where the Congress struggles to find a suitable leader in a state that’s considered to be the country’s financial headquarters. The media can no longer be silenced and even the loyal media can do very little except to cause intense damage to those in power. As things stand, we have to learn to live with chaos in a “cash and carry” situation that cuts across party lines. Change will only come from someone who is willing to fight the system and challenge the power of the financial mafia which controls politics. This will happen because the current chaos cannot go on forever. Even a single person with integrity and conviction can change the system. I only hope that this transition, when it comes, will be peaceful.
Politics has changed, as has everything else, but I sometimes wonder if those in power realise this and recognise that there is greater accountability in the system, and that using official agencies of the government to settle political issues creates only an artificial sense of security but leads to erosion of credibility with the voting public.
The Congress has little option but to take a decision in the Adarsh housing scam and is clearly playing for time as in the current situation their options are limited. Once action is taken the reasons for the delay will be clear. Look at the chaos in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka — I suspect that Maharashtra will be no different with a conflict of interest between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party on one side and the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena, with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena waiting in the wings, on the other. The state, with 48 seats (largest number after Uttar Pradesh), can no longer be considered “safe” for the Congress, and we can expect more exposes. Mr Chavan, already under siege, will cause great damage to the Congress just by his presence.
The All-India Congress Committee session created negligible excitement in the media, with just a few speeches drawing any attention. Sadly, the event was dominated by the “silence” of the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Political authority has been severely compromised by “financial interests” at the Centre and in the states. Unless we have a transparent system of fund collection and an audit by an independent source, there is no permanent cure for the future. The 2G scam is one example where even a reprimand by the Supreme Court has had little effect. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, too, will have no impact, because the Congress cannot alienate the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and put their United Progressive Alliance-2 government in jeopardy. I have no doubt that the Congress at the highest level is not happy with the situation, but in this form of coalition government and numbers game do they have an option?

UNITED STATES President Barack Obama has come visiting and received a grand welcome. There is little doubt that such visits cement relations, contribute a great deal towards future cooperation and also help decision-makers at every level on both sides to understand each other better. The President is under pressure in domestic politics as the Democrats have lost the majority in the House of Representatives by a very wide margin and in the Senate too their majority has been reduced to the minimum. But it would be churlish to assume that this has everything to do with the slow pace of the economic recovery. Several political issues have contributed to this rather sad situation.
During Mr Obama’s visit, we will no doubt have the usual agreements, perhaps even some pleasant surprises, but we have to keep a watch on future events in Iraq, Afghanistan and, in particular, Pakistan, in view of the revised political alignments in the US.
The West is facing a host of issues that surface when the economy is in trouble. I think the political response in such a situation can lead to a great deal of “protection” for the local economy. The reality is that global economic priorities have changed and while the developed world struggles to accept the ground reality, we would do well to react in a mature manner and convert the short-term negatives into long-term gains.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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