A survey conducted by Hindustan Times-Hansa Research ahead of the HT Leadership Summit finds nearly two-thirds of the respondents blaming politicians for corruption in the country and half feeling coalition politics leads to more graft.
Around a third also see coalitions as hostage to interests which slow decision-making within the government. Since corruption has hogged the national discourse, two-thirds of those surveyed found Anna Hazare’s campaign against it to be the most appealing. The inheritor of his legacy, Arvind Kejriwal, comes in a poor second with 11.7% of the poll. Civil society’s efforts to expose graft gets positive feedback with two in three respondents stating that the media has played a constructive role in this regard and one in three replying they are less likely to offer a bribe now. But only a quarter feel officials are less likely to take bribes despite the public resentment that is on display in the civil society initiative.
Yet governance reform trails education and health as issues the country needs to fix on a priority basis. In fact, better governance shares space with infrastructure like roads and power among the respondents’ ranking of concerns. One in three feels the Congress can pull the economy out of the trough — essential for providing the social security Indians feel most in want of — but the hopes diminish precipitously when the Congress-led UPA is entrusted with the job. Only 3.8% of those surveyed find the UPA up to it. Narendra Modi comes up tops as the leader who can deliver growth, given the BJP’s extended single-party rule in Gujarat and the chief minister’s record of reforms that consistently clocks higher growth rates for the state than the national average.
The entwined themes of graft and inefficiency have played out in India over much of its post-independence history. Mostly the issues have been swept aside by more immediate economic and political developments. It is only now that they are being seen as central to the country’s development. India has had a brush with accelerated growth which was a direct fallout of the liberalisation undertaken haltingly since 1991. This has raised popular expectations that the country can grow faster to pull its most vulnerable citizens out of poverty, illiteracy and hunger. While the Congress has this in its sights it has not been able to communicate the vision to its allies. If the HT-Hansa survey is a barometer of the public mood, the voter is seeking a reformist government at the next election. Freeing bigger chunks of the economy from bureaucratic control will not only unleash the enterprise that is being suppressed, it will prune the scope for harassment bribes that are so commonplace.