Thy name is corruption

Two important politicians of the sub continent resigned from their respective official positions.
Thy name is corruption
File Photo

Two important politicians of the sub continent resigned from their respective official positions. One is Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan and the other is Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Nawaz Sharif stepped down from the post of Prime minister after a five-judge Bench gave a unanimous judgment against him. A judgment in which, funnily, the Microsoft Word's Calibri font played a good role. Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Nawaz Sharif and an influential person in her father's administration, submitted some documents in the court which were written in calibri. Interestingly, this font face was not there in Word in the year when those documents were supposed to have been written. She was caught partly by an oversight of the inventions of Microfsoft Word. Nitish Kumar resigned because his Deputy belonging to the alliance partner Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) did not "explain" his involvement in corruption scams. The Chief Minister of Bihar wanted him to "explain" away his involvement in corruption cases, not rhetorically but technically, point by point. When he could not do, Nitish changed horses midstream, and locked himself with the BJP. In both these resignations the issue of corruption was the main point of contention. Nawaz Sharif and his family were named in the Panama Papers corruption while Tejashwi, son of Lalu Yadav is under the shadow of the Central Bureau of investigation. Whatever the implications and interpretations of these cases by their political opponents, one thing is for sure; that after over six decades of independence corruption is an incontrovertible fact in the political culture of the subcontinent.

Unless the enforcement agencies come into the picture, the ruling political elite do not feel shame in accumulating money disproportionate to the known sources of income. In Pakistan the Sharif family is known to have amassed huge wealth and property which looks obscene in a country in which according to some authentic studies almost half of the population is facing stunted growth. The stunted growth means that the population does not grow to its full potential both physically as well as mentally. This is not just a case with one family, it is the story of almost all political families across the subcontinent. The political class stays in the realm of politics to till their own and their families' furrows. This is one reason why individuals with almost nothing to show off in terms of family behind them have become more popular of late, like Modi in India and Imran Khan in Pakistan, or even Nitish Kumar in Bihar. In their cases there is no upstart son or daughter, waiting in the wings to take up the position after the father leaves the scene. However, in the cases of the likes of Nawaz Sharif or the Yadavs of Bihar, it seems that the family appears more prominent than the interests of the people. When people think of one ruling member of the family, a whole clan comes to mind, extending all the way to most distant relative, with their whims and caprices, and profits and petty interests. And worse, these extended family networks of power are flaunted without any sign of embarrassment. The family exhibits power with a sense of entitlement. The judgments and resignations reflect this mood of rejection of the desire for consolidation of family power over and above the interests of the masses.

There are critics who talk about the morality of Nitish Kumar's decision to join with the BJP, a party he had not long back called, Bharatiya Jhoot Party. And there are many people in Pakistan who call the Supreme Court of Pakistan's decision a "judicial coup." No doubt there are elements of both. Nitish Kumar seems to have signalled comfort with mob lynchings and the general atmosphere of fear among minorities in India, the judiciary in Pakistan appears to be siding with the elements in Establishment who are uncomfortable with the behaviour of Nawaz Sharif. However, these critical judgments should not move our attention from the common unifier of the two staunch enemies in the sub-continent. And that is the relentless and shameless obsession with illegal wealth and property in public life. That is rampant across the sub-continent irrespective of religion and nationality. It is just bad luck that some are caught due to a confluence of circumstances but the vast majority remain out of the arms of law. Even in Nitish Kumar's own party, there are a good number of legislators against whom are substantial number of corruption allegations. There is hardly any holy cow across the political spectrum. That is why I believe that there was more need of public property rakshaks than the gau rakshaks.

An easy way to find out the level of corruption in the political life of the sub-continent is by comparing the economic status of the politicians before and after joining the politics. It is common observation that after joining politics, the politician enters another realm of wealth and luxury, and becomes unwilling to return to the old fold. Joining politics is a personal and family investment, the returns of which are enjoyed over the miseries of the masses. The former politician, who used to beg for votes, suddenly becomes a millionaire and pays two hoots to the needs of his respective constituencies. The seat in power is converted into a birth right, on which no other human being has a claim, let alone being open to any kind of investigation. It was perhaps fine if these ways and behaviours remained confined to the political class but the fact is that it does not, and percolates down to all levels of governance. Their habits and attitudes are spread evenly in all directions; from bureaucratic offices to the chair of the lowest clerk, the urge to accumulate riches by any means possible becomes unbridled as people mimic the manners of the ruling political class. It is not a surprise then that, whether military or Modi is in power, being corrupt in the sub-continent is a way of life. For once, both Nitish Kumar and the Pak Supreme Court deserve a word of applause.

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