Of corruption, coalitions and institutional decay

It's coalition governments at Work in Jammu and Kashmir

DR GULL WANI

In the previous write-up (December, 8, 2012)  on whether coalitions are corrupt certain political issues came up for analysis. Today I propose to have a synoptic view of the working of different coalition governments in the state formed from time to time from the standpoint of corruption and internal coordination.
The 1987 coalition government between congress and National conference came into being in the aftermath of infamous Rajiv-Farooq Accord.It was essentially a top down coalition just for sharing power in a state where the congress party had experienced virtual liquidation after re-emergence of Sheikh Abdullah on the political scene of the state. The coalition was devoid of any ideological basis and institutional mechanisms like coordination/monitoring committee and group of ministers (GOM). These mechanisms play the role of a conveyor belt in the internal functioning of coalition governments. True Shree Rajesh Pilot was assigned the job of being head of a committee to look after the working of the coalition but it never performed in the true spirit of what is called a coalition Dharma. The understanding was reached at top level political leadership of two parties having a history of mutual animosity. It created friction at lower levels in the organizational structure of two parties. Samantra Bose describes the Farooq Abdullah –led government as  virtual abdication of governance. His colleagues in government earned a reputation for corrupt practices remarkable by Jammu and Kashmir standards’’. Farooq Abdullah himself confessed that nothing moves without 20 percent grease money in the existing structure. He lamented that ministers had become so bold that they have started accepting bribe over the table rather than under the table. He accused them of misappropriating the development grants.”
The PDP/Congress Government 2002 was headed by Mufti Muhammad Syed who is dyed in congress culture but in new avatar a votary of regional sentiment nearly abdicated by the National Conference. He was able to provide an ideological cover to the government through his healing touch policy which to PDP is winning the hearts and minds of the people. The parties in government accepted principle of rotation as far as chief Minister's position was concerned. Though the coordination committee was there to iron out differences yet very often Mufti and Azad would meet in Delhi in the unelected office of congress president to sort out the issues. Corruption again remained a matter of concern though Mufti led government did some commendable job to oil the democratic institutions. The large size of the government however meant too many opportunities for bureaucrats and politicians to be corrupt. Hence no wonder that during Mufti’s time Transparency International had declared Jammu and Kashmir to be the second most corrupt state in the country.
Azad –led Congress/PDP government also tried to operate under a certain ideological framework provided by what Azad called Kushhal (prosperous) Jammu and Kashmir. It was more development oriented and less politicized agenda worked at a time when eradication of corruption had become a national issue to carry out neo-liberal economic reforms. There was talk of second generation of economic reforms geared towards the states and hence more focus on governance. Azad’s Deputy Muzafar Hussein Baig of PDP during a lecture on “Governance through difficult times” at the India Habitat centre at Delhi on January 8, 2006 described corruption and militancy as two monsters eating into the vitals of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Tracing the history of their origin, he held successive central governments responsible for fueling militancy by cultivating their puppets and agents in Srinagar rather than allowing a smooth and accountable democratic process”. Baig stressed the need for collaborative examples between civil society and the government and thriving models of public/private partnership to create potent coalition against terror and corruption. Azad government passed prevention of corruption (amendment) Act 2005 empowering vigilance organisation to seize/attach property of an official which is disproportionate to his/her known sources of income. Though the coordination mechanism was there yet a coalition partner Panthers Party had to part with the coalition when it was denied representation in the council of Ministers. Muzaffar Baig suffered unceremonious exit and Qazi Afzal of PDP was divested of forest portfolio. The cabinet was expanded at the fag end of the term of Assembly and its strength violated the desirable rule of the total strength of the ministry under anti-defection law. Several persons including those who were not even members of the Legislature were given the rank of the ministers of state to provide lucrative jobs to them. A leading local daily thus editorially commented on December14, 2007 “ It is political convenience of the two parties that has made them strengthen their alliance instead of breaking it. The decision to preserve a façade of unity is based on the permutation and combination for retaining power or regaining power even after the next year’s polls for the assembly”. The worst was the shameful exit of chairperson of accountability Commission Justice R P Sethi who in his press conference exposed the machinations of the government. The government barricaded the working of the commission he stated when they saw that some amongst them could become its causalities.
The result of the drift in the working of coalition governments has in actual practice meant the shift of power from elected to unelected institutions. The president of All India Congress very often arbitrated on contentious issues. In a coalition government bureaucracy wields more powers and more importantly ideology takes the back seat. The big causality of different coalition arrangements has been not only the principle of collective responsibility but the position of the Chief Minister. Corruption does thrive in a situation of institutional decay and personalization of power.

Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 16 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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