Chasing the Mirage

Issue changes over the years but only the circumstances get worse. With the crisis managers of Congress and its main rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) struggling from one crisis to another to ‘confuse the confused’ in vote market, the elite club comprising both ruling and opposition parties doesn’t show their collective guilt and remorse over corruption. All those scams—2G, Coal, Augusta-Wetland Helicopter deal etc—no longer figure in deliberations of opposition politicians. They never really tried to come to grips with the corruption reality though it haunts every aspect of social life. It’s so easy to divert public attention as all are now talking of Telengana as if bifurcation of Andhra is more important than anything else. As for corruption in high places, Congress is now caught in a bind, because the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) factor continues to trouble them despite the resignation of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over the defeat of the Jan Lokpal Bill in the assembly and imposition of President’s rule in the city state while keeping the assembly in suspended animation. In a way Congress has got back Delhi by the backdoor and their tactical line seems to have so far worked well. Mr Kejriwal stretched himself too far in a very short period—49 days to be precise—and his attempt to file criminal cases through the city’s anti-corruption wing, against Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily, among others for allegedly creating artificial scarcity of natural gas and fixing higher prices, has been rendered meaningless. The meteoric rise of Reliance Group has always been a point of controversy but what matters in the end is corporate funding of political parties. As AAP is now back in the street it remains to be seen whether the Kejriwal axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who never gets tired in keeping on trying to laugh the last laugh.

The corporate-politician nexus in Indian drama is now an open secret. As per AAP allegations ‘the gas lobby has bribed both Congress and opposition’. They need money to run political show and money these days always comes from big donors. Even left parties these days don't depend on small donors and street collection. When the Reliance raised the price of gas from $2.3 to $4 per unit, there was not much furore, albeit the blue chip empire behind which looms the shadow of global oil major BP, that signed a contract with the Union Government in early 2000 for production of gas at Krishna-Godavari basin fields off Andhra coast, used to supply gas to public sector NTPC at $2.3 per unit. Now they want a further hike from April 1 and the government is all set to oblige the Ambanis. They don’t bother about what the Kejriwals are saying—or not saying. In truth they don’t take AAP’s crusade against corruption very seriously and dismiss it as ‘infantile disorder’. The proposed April 1 hike in bulk prices means extra profit of Rs 54,000 crore for India’s oil giant. In other words election funds don’t fall from the blue. Strangely enough, the company’s partner NICO is still selling gas to Bangladesh at $2.34 per unit. It is yet to be unearthed but the ‘Gas Scam’ may be the mother of all scams as it involves millions of rupees. Parliamentarians of all hues have developed a habit of talking only in terms of what they are against without projecting at the same time what they are fighting for. For that, scruple is indispensable. And they are all unscrupulous to the core.

Corruption is part of the system. Reliance allegedly scaled its production down to create an artificial shortage which had a cascading effect on the market, affecting common people.

Not that the gas scam is a new thing. It has been in the air for long. After some media focus everybody stopped talking about it. Nobody hears anything about the Radia tapes in connection with Telecom Scam. Scams surface, scams subside.

Registered secularists have a one-point agenda of how to discover saffron conspiracy in some dubious blasts which were initially believed to be the hand-work of islamic jihadists, promoted and supported by Pakistan. Corruption is not their concern though it could be a broad-based rallying point cutting across religious and caste divides. After all they could not dig their own graves by making corruption a serious political issue. So many things are happening and yet nothing is moving.

Now hate crimes against migrants in Delhi and elsewhere have reached alarming proportions. The death of Arunachal youth Nido Tania in Delhi has detonated a chain reaction in north-eastern states as students organisations of Manipur imposed a curfew in retaliation while resulting in a shutdown of all business establishments owned by non-locals in Imphal. When regional priorities dominate, common ground of united opposition against the all pervasive evil called corruption gets blurred and loses momentum. So the crucial issue of corruption raised by AAP, that has a potential to galvanise a generation is also losing its mass appeal.

As for the leftists corruption never really featured in their action programme—short-term or long-term. They think there is no point in spending energy on campaign against corruption. On this score they are not even interested to learn from China where anti-graft law is tough, inviting rigorous imprisonment and execution as well. But AAP demonstrates among other things that corruption has enormous mobilising power as the educated middle class is visibly agitated for its deprivation which again stems from unequal distribution of income. Toilers no longer form the basic constituency of the left though their professed mission is to liberate toiling masses from exploitation and drudgery. All parties are really fighting to capture the support and mood of the middle class people while selling populism among the margina-lised and pauperised.

With the emergence of AAP corruption factor seems to have begun to inspire a rebirth of radical activism which is now being equated only with maoist activities in the jungles. This is still in its early stage and sometimes barely conscious of itself. It cannot make a major break-through unless it becomes self-conscious in order to solidify and continue to develop. No doubt anarchy continues, and the freedom idea lives but the old world is trying hard to destroy it.

Vol. 46, No. 35, Mar 9 - 15, 2014