In the last few years, India has indeed changed. At a very basic level, the retrospective impropriety scandal which hit Vasundhara Raje and Sushma Swaraj as a result of Lalit Modi’s revelations is nothing more than a person misusing his access to a powerful politician. Lalit Modi had access to these ladies which he used to get favours of them – and maybe the ladies received something in return which my or mayn’t be establish-able. In other words, it’s a person misusing his access to power and the powerful obliging. Isn’t it something we in India have grown up hearing and seeing happen around us?
10 years back no one would have bothered about it. We have always lived with the knowledge that politicians are corrupt, that businessmen bend rules to make it etc. And this general awareness about their impropriety never kicked up a public storm or dented their popularity. In fact, there was admiration for their ability to con and prosper expressed in private quarters. Many said why complain about the means as long as the end is good. No one grudged them their ill-gotten wealth.
Then what has changed us so much in last four to five years? Why are political parties fighting elections with corruption as their central issue? Why are the channels going bonkers over what would have been dismissed as petty corruption issues a few years ago?
Our tolerance about corruption has shrunk in last few years. We have started asking questions about what we had always taken for granted.
Couple of months ago, when BJP’s land bill had just started being discussed in media, one day I saw an elderly man being interviewed on a TV channel. He spoke with the simplicity of a village elder. He blamed the government for forsaking the welfare of the poor. He threatened to start a movement to raise aware around the land bill. It reminded me of the chaos the elderly man had created only four years back.
It’s been some time I saw the interview and nothing of the sort we had witnessed earlier followed. Maybe Anna Hazare held a meeting or two, following that TV interview, but they never created the nation-wide stir his anti-corruption movement had four years ago.
It’s to that movement four years ago, which never reached any conclusion but brought corruption to the center stage of politics, that Congress owes getting an issue which it can firmly wrap its fist around since the formation of the new government. It’s to that movement four years ago that BJP owes its coming to power at the center on the strength of the popular despair it created against Congress’s corrupt rule.
It’s to that movement four years ago that Delhi owes its unpredictable chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. And many more transformative changes that have taken place in India since that anti-corruption movement spearheaded by the bespectacled elderly man on the TV channel – have their origin in that movement four years ago.
Whether you think that in an atmosphere where tiniest of misdemeanors by public figures can be orchestrated into an over-blown national hysteria, there is always the possibility of the political establishment misleading us into believing that all scams are same. Or you believe, when it comes to corruption, size or type shouldn’t matter. The politics of propriety as an issue has never had it so good. All earlier movements with a social impact dealt with a bouquet of issues; corruption was just one of them.
So maybe Sushma and Vasundhara will still get away with whatever they have done or not. But corruption as a political issue is not going fall out of favour with the political establishment any time soon. When an opposition dislodges dislodges a ruling party on the basis of corruption charges and after staying in power for some time gets bored of taking about corruption, it’s time for the former ruling party to attack the government on corruption.