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Can we toy with people’s faith?

  By Vijay Darda | 29-06-2015

The emerging political developments of the last few days will make every conscientious citizen ponder over the question: Can we toy with people’s faith? One of the basic strengths of any democratic polity is its election system. We have an electoral system that has surprised the West and holds the rest in awe. The smooth manner in which we achieve the transfer of power at different levels with clock-work regularity every five years has earned us a unique place in the comity of nations. Our high voter turnouts also reveal an aspirational society that believes in the power of their vote to change things. Voting is act of faith for the people. We saw that in 2014 the people voted for a change in a mighty way. They were simply fed up with the ten years of the UPA rule and in Narendra Modi they saw the hope for a change. His promises lured the young voters, and even his well-known negatives were side stepped by them in the hope that things would change for the better.

Now after more than a year of Modi Sarkar, that hope is fading. Most governments get some negativity after the initial honeymoon period, but these are days when even in the society the concept that marriages are made forever is losing its sheen and divorces are no more a stigma. Besides, the relationship between the voter and the government is something like a fixed tenure marriage. The renewal of the contract depends on the performance of one party and the collective sweet will of the other.

One of the key promises that laid the foundation of the Modi-voter relationship was his zero tolerance of corruption. He had the image of a no nonsense man and he captured it very vividly in a few words when he said: ‘Na khaunga, Na khane doonga” ( I will not be corrupt, and I will not let others to be corrupt). The people put their faith in his words. The Indian voter is experienced enough to understand that when a leader promises to deposit `15 lakhs in every citizen’s bank account, then it is political rhetoric ( jumla as BJP president Amit Shah enlightened us). But the promise to fight corruption has to be taken literally. Any perceived leniency towards the corrupt and there is a heavy price to pay.

Prime Minister Modi has the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his moral courage and the ability to act against the offenders occupying high places. In just one instance, he has the chance to send out a message to the world at large and the people at home that his government means business when it comes to tackling corruption. All the four ladies – Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scinida, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, human resource development minister Smriti Irani and the Maharashtra women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde are all very privileged persons. They are all aware of the implications of the errors committed by them. They have willfully committed all the acts of corruption they have been charged with. Indeed, the beauty is that had any UPA minister committed any such mistake these same ladies would have been in a state of full moral indignation at the forefront of those making a demand for his/her scalp. Of course, then Modi would also have lent them his full throated support. Now taking shelter under legalities and technicalities is not an option for someone who rode to power on the claims of zero tolerance to corruption. Well legalities do matter, but not in the political domain. Here it is question of perception, and at the present moment the dominant impression is that Modi finds himself too weak-kneed to act against these powerful ladies.

Unlike his predecessor, he does not have the option of keeping quiet on such a subject. It is completely out of character that a person who takes to the twitter on every conceivable moment, shares selfies finds himself tongue-tied when faced with a moral crisis and an opportunity to establish his own image and that of the country. For Modi silence is an acknowledgement of weakness, and he cannot afford this concession.

Self-preservation is the strongest instinct among politicians, and the hard-boiled politicos that these ladies are would like to fight the battle for holding on to power tooth and nail. The tragedy is that the BJP with the RSS as its ideological mentor has shown very little appetite to deal sternly with its own. The RSS has apparently washed its hands off by saying that the final decision rests with the BJP, but then the failure to enforce the highest moral standards exposes the RSS bosses as well. Clearly, they too lack the will to be the disciplinarians they claim to be when it comes to political power. Or else shouldn’t they have been the first ones to ensure that the Modi Sarkar has the right amount of purity.

We can make light of the offences committed by these leaders at our own peril. If someone as high as Scindia goes unpunished for standing in support of a man wanted by the Indian law, similarly if the external affairs minister facilitates the travel document of a law breaker and enjoys impunity won’t travel agents and touts be encouraged to break the law? Similarly if a minister states her educational qualifications incorrectly on oath and gets away surely this trend to lie on oath would be encouraged. Likewise, every official would be encouraged like Munde to place orders without tenders. The price of Modi’s inaction would be too heavy and his Sarkar would lose much of its clout. Condoning wrongdoing is worse than a wrong act itself. Besides, it would constitute a loss of faith.

This is a loss that we can ill afford for our democratic polity. After this, the people would be wary about making choices based on politicians’ promises and that would be a sad day for democracy. For the first time, since independence there has been a real alternative to the Congress that looks stable enough for five years. The need is for this to prove viable. Modi’s silence in impinging on this viability.

Before I conclude…

We have the hooch tragedy from Mumbai in which almost a hundred poor people have perished. These disasters keep taking place and the only reason for this is the nexus between the law breakers and the authorities. Nothing about the sordid deals in the illicit liquor business is hidden from the authorities. Unless the law enforcers refuse to be partners in crime such tragedies will keep recurring. It may not happen in Maharashtra next time, may be in some other state, but without breaking this nexus, there is no likely end to this tragedy.


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