Déjà vu?


Is it a sense of déjà vu one feels on hearing about allegations of the Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal taking a bribe? For all our sakes, let’s hope it isn’t true.

India Against Corruption (IAC) was a landmark movement spearheaded by the noted Gandhian and anti-corruption crusader, Anna Hazare, and it aimed to fight the scourge of corruption in politics in a big way. The most trusted lieutenant of Anna during those heady days was an Indian Revenue Service officer named Arvind Kejriwal, who was not just the eyes and ears of the leader, but also a leading light of the entire movement.

The protégé, discarding the advice of his mentor to steer clear of mainstream politics, floated his own party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), capitalising on the platform provided by IAC. The party received a shot in the arm when it swept the Delhi assembly elections, securing an overwhelming mandate winning as many as 67 of the 70 seats, humbling national parties like the Congress and the BJP. Since then, however, things have not been hunky dory for the party, and a number of its ministers and MLAs landed in trouble for one reason or the other, and a few also had to relinquish their posts.

Kejriwal, the Chief Minister (CM), however, has now directly come under the line of fire with one of his closest aides and a minister in his cabinet, Kapil Mishra, who was sacked by Kejriwal, accusing him of receiving a bribe of Rs. 2 crore from one of his ministers Satyendra Jain, and buttressing his argument by claiming that he was an eyewitness to the transaction.

The million dollar question now is whether the man who rode the anti-corruption plank to victory in the elections, is himself guilty on that score. Has politics claimed another victim, and does Kejriwal too have feet of clay? While the CM has not been forthcoming on the issue, his party obviously has decided to brazen it out and have been maintaining that the whistleblower is shooting in the dark, and that it is the opposition BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) that is engineering the whole affair.

This brings us to the question whether it is impossible for a politician or a party to remain untainted, and that the only difference between politicians of different hues is in the degree and scale of corruption. It is an acknowledged fact that electoral politics is a high stakes game, and no elections can be won on an empty purse. Every party collects donations from everywhere and hardly bothers about the sources. Many of these donations also come with strings attached, and those who cough in huge amounts generally demand a quid pro quo, which means that they expect to be compensated in one way or the other by the recipients of the largesse. This breeds corruption and sets off a chain of events wherein a party that comes to power remains obligated and ministers and others further enrich themselves by bestowing favours on undeserving donors in the form of contracts, permits etc. The concept of state funding of elections could have a salutary effect especially in the case of new parties like AAP for that would obviate the necessity of collecting humungous amounts of money for fighting elections.

Whether Kejriwal is guilty or innocent is for the courts to decide, but the fact that politics does exert a corrupting influence has been proved time and again.

Fortunately, whistleblowers at great risk to life and limb have been exposing these charlatans and the country’s judiciary has dealt with the corruption cases that have come up before them very firmly and decisively and even the big fish have found themselves trapped and sentenced to long prison terms. But as long as Indian politicians are only too willing to succumb to the lure of the lucre and blindly fall into the traps set for them, our nation’s efforts to eradicate corruption in public life might not meet with any success.

C. V. Aravind

C. V. Aravind

C. V. Aravind is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist.