What’s morality got to do with it?

Political Untouchable

By Poonam I Kaushish

Politics is the last refuge of scoundrels and when gold speaks all tongues are silent. Both Karnataka polls wherein Election Commission seized Rs 147.46 crores cash, Rs 375 crores liquor, drugs and freebies and Supreme Court judgment on Maharashtra Governor’s “illegal” action resulting in the dramatic collapse of Thackeray-led MVA Government stand testimony to this. Exposing, politicians have scrapped the bottom barrel of morality!

Confided a Minister, “Hum sab ek hi thaali ke chate-bate hain aur is maryada ke hamam mein nagain hai!  Bihar’s Nitish Kumar till August last was singing paeans of BJP and Modi till he switched sides and formed the Government with friend-turned-foe-turned friend Laloo’s RJD. A repeat of July 2017 when he quit Laloo’s Mahagathbandhan to play footsie with BJP.

2020 stands testimony to brazen horse-trading with Congress’s Jyotiraditya Scindia along-with 22 loyalist MLAs joining BJP resulting in Kamal Nath’s Government downfall and coronation of  Shivraj Chauhan’s as Chief Minister. Ditto in Karnataka 2019 when 15 Congress-JD(S) MLAs switched to BJP, kicked out Kumaraswamy’s Government and installed Yedurappa’s Sarkar. Notwithstanding, fundamentally violating the democratic principle: Voters’ rights to choose their Governments via the ballot box.

Undeniably, patronage, opportunism and a share of the power pie is the glue that keeps swarm of hoppers together with its new benefactors and makes incongruent Parties come together whereby poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management: money for allurement, use of State machinery for intimidation etc are commended as resourcefulness.

More. Politicians girgit-like transfer loyalties from one Party to another based on winnability. The modus operandi: Paisa and satta bargains are struck, depending on legislators value who switch sides. All, with clinical precision devoid of pretensions: of ‘meeting of minds’, ideology, principles or personal fondness.

Succinctly, these paper tigers who sell their political soul to the highest bidder in this political nautanki are dubbed survivors not defectors. Paraded as prized bulls and portrayed as safedi ki chamkan compared to their chor brethren who are unfit to rule, leave alone provide good and honest governance. The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all guilt and criminality.

Bringing things to such a pass where every Party and its leaders have perfected the art of beguiling its hum zulfs and dushmans with aplomb, saddling us with opportunists and liars. Exposing the disdain with which our leaders holds democracy and citizens.

Thereby, exposing politics of the worst kind, cultivating low morality and high greed, donning different Party robes, according to their whims and fancies — and the need of the hour. A power-play when personality-oriented malicious vilification seems to have became the hallmark of democracy. Sans shared ideology and mutual objectives. This pithily is aaj ki rajneeti.

Alas, so caught up in the verbose of one-upmanship are all that none stops to think and ponder the implications of their actions. The tragedy of it all is that in this winner take-all-fight governance and people go for a toss. Satta batoan aur tamasha dekho! What matters is only the end game: Gaddi.

Undeniably, it’s too politically delicious to ignore that 1,765 (36%) MPs and MLAs of 4,896 lawmakers in Parliament and Assemblies are facing criminal trial in 3,045 cases and among remaining many are perceived to be self-serving and unscrupulous lawmakers. Primarily, as bahubalis are more likely to win than those clean. Underscoring there is no morals in politics only expedience. A scoundrel is useful just because he is a scoundrel.

Today new definitions of political morality have become staple diet post Nehru era when Ministers resigned owning moral responsibility. Proclaimed a Minister: “I cannot be held guilty for any subordinate’s mistake. Otherwise, we will have a spate of ministerial resignations landing on the Prime Minister’s table every day”.

What to speak of Lalu Yadav? Charge-sheeted over the chara ghotala, the ex-Bihar Chief Minister and Union Railway Minister asserted, “Where does the Constitution say a Chief Minister duly elected by his people should resign merely on being charge-sheeted by policemen? Who is CBI or Central Government to tell me to do so? I will rule from the jail if imprisoned — and split the JD. Kaunsi naitikta aur bhrastaachar ki baat kar rahe hain. What has morality to do with politics?”

Clearly, in our netagans ‘moral’ vocabulary prima facie evidence of culpability is not good enough reason for them to resign. He will only do so when convicted by court. Even then they will buy time and continue in office given our never ending legal procedures of law taking its own course. Sic.

Consequently, India’s seven-decade-old post-independence history is marked by declining public trust in electoral governance and institutions, symptomatic of falling political discourse and electoral decorum. Whereby netas will lie through their teeth as quality communication has ceased to exist and polls reduced to art of persuasion and exercising power of rhetoric.

Any wonder people have a hard time distinguishing reality from propaganda. More so in a society trapped in illiteracy, poverty and ignorance. Thus, in this political quagmire people get swayed by charm without substance and rhetoric without righteousness.

Moreover, we demand moral responsibility only when we are short-changed in material goods but choose not to question leaders moral legitimacy when they normalise violence against citizens. Think. No politician has ever stepped down over killings of its citizens in targeted mass violence. Advani resigned in Jain Hawala case and not when Liberhan Commission Report indicted him for complicity in the Babri mosque demolition that triggered Hindu-Muslim violence. Sonia Gandhi resigned over Office of Profit controversy 2006, not for Congress’s collusion in 1984 Sikh massacre.

Saner politics require better politicians. Of course, Parties will continue to field substandard/ undesirable candidates resulting in deepening the gulf between politician and people promoting intermingling of politics, wealth and crime as a sullen, distrustful electorate is managed and manipulated.

The good thing is that people may have been let down by politicians, but they have not lost faith in politics still. Citizens are hungry for leaders to step in and step up political processes and governance to build a corruption-free and responsive political system where they can exercise their democratic rights conscientiously.

At stake today is not only the functioning of the largest democracy but its moral agenda which is more substantive than partisan politics. Consequently, where we go from here would depend on how citizens use democratic levers available to them.

In this immoral political desert and barren discourse, voters have to make tough calls. No longer can we merely shrug our shoulders and dismiss it as political kalyug. Our polity must desist from employing individual meanness in the name of public good. They need to re-think their priorities and desist from destructive mindlessness. The ‘Conduct of Politics’ necessitates reliability, integrity, credibility, conviction and courage. As nothing costs a nation more than cheap politicians!

One can only recall Prof. Galbraith: “There is nothing wrong with Indian laws or with its political and judicial institutions. What ails India is the moral poverty”. Can a nation continue to be bereft of all sense of shame and morality — and for how long?  —  INFA