Bail and Jail

Bail and Jail have become the top trending words of the day. All of a sudden they have political connotations much more explosive and evocative than merely legal and judicial terms.

Bail and Jail. They are so simple to pronounce and they rhyme to delightfully nicely—above all there is no need to translate them into any of India's numerous vernacular languages.

There is a dire need for a theme for the next Lok Sabha elections, and for that matter, even the upcoming Assembly polls in States like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Bail and Jail can be strong contenders to become the main election slogans.

In his election campaign rallies, the Prime Minister can (as indeed he already has) mock the Opposition party for having so many of their leaders out on bail. The Opposition too can include it in their election manifestoes—promising that if elected they will send all scam tainted BJP Ministers, Chief Ministers and party presidents to Jail.

Bail and Jail has a better ring to it than earlier slogans like Bofors, Garibi Hatao, Shining India, 2G, Achche Din, etc. etc.

Those old vote-catching slogans may have been stirring and successful in their time, but in today's environment corruption is no longer the main political issue: even voters in the remotest constituencies have understood the basic truth that being rich and being corrupt mean one and the same thing.

As an agitating farmer in a recent TV report: "If you want to make money, you have to adopt unfair means. If you are honest, it does rot matter how hard you work, you will forever remain poor". Even a Harvard graduate could not have expressed it more succinctly, even if the unfortunate peasant was scolded by the pretty young reporter for being cynical and even anti-national for making such a remark.

That apart, the point is that the vast majority of voters in the country are aware that the simple logic that to become a big leader (Neta) you have to spend crores of rupees to fight and win elections. In order to have that much liquid cash to spend, you have to be obscenely affluent or have the financial backing of very wealthy individuals or interests. In short, you have to be corrupt.

The ordinary voter in the next election is therefore unlikely to be swayed if rival parties and candidates level allegations of corruption against each other. So what's new, he or she will ask. The question is—what are you going to do about it? The winning candidate will have to emphatically and convincingly say—'I promise to throw my opponents into Jail and I will see that they do not get Bail'.

The Jail and Bail formula for attracting votes is not as simple as it may sound. As usual, there are many complex permutations and combinations and variations. Not every case in which somebody is thrown into Jail involves cash corruption.

There are certain very important ''other reasons" for filing FIRs, launching pre-dawn raids, making arrests, seeking remand, framing charge-sheets, having dramatic courtroom trials and, fiercely contesting granting of Bail.

These other reasons could be anything at all, depending on the social and political climate of the day. The most popular crimes currently, especially under BJP-RSS rule, are chanting anti-Modi slogans on college campuses, committing gang-rape-cum-brutal-murder and possible lynching of wayfarers suspected of being child-lifters or cow-smugglers.

However, in the case of the rapists and killers, it all depends on who they are—if they belong to or have links with the ruling dispensation then the effort is to arrest and keep them in a lock-up for some days and then ensure that get Bail as soon as possible. The same is the case with vigilantes caught killing cattle traders belonging to the lowest castes—they should be given special treatment by either not being arrested all or released asap on grounds of lack of evidence or absence of witnesses willing to testify against them.

Jail and Bail, therefore is a useful and effective election slogan in the months to come. Like everything else in life and politics, the actual implementation needs to be flexible and judicious.

But there is also another aspect which adds to the winnability factor of any political leader—that is the art of being there when the accused (or even convicted lynchers as in the Ramgarh case in Jharkhand) are released on Bail. The key is to meet, greet and garland.

Vol. 51, No.4, Jul 29 - Aug 4, 2018