Where is the zero-tolerance for corruption now, Nitish? | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Where is the zero-tolerance for corruption now, Nitish?

According to a report from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 22 of the 29 ministers (76%) in the newly-formed Nitish Kumar cabinet face criminal charges.

editorials Updated: Aug 06, 2017 23:57 IST
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi in Patna, on July 29, 2017.  As many as 22 of the 29 ministers (76%) in the newly-formed Nitish Kumar cabinet face criminal charges.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi in Patna, on July 29, 2017. As many as 22 of the 29 ministers (76%) in the newly-formed Nitish Kumar cabinet face criminal charges. (PTI File Photo)

The conviction of a top bureaucrat for corruption seems to have occasioned considerable anguish on the part of the Supreme Court judges who presided over the proceedings. Citing corruption and nepotism as priority tasks for this government, one of the apex court judges lamented the fact that despite constant efforts to deal with corruption, the evil is still very much among us. These are laudable sentiments but the truth is that rooting out corruption and nepotism is easier said than done. Dynastic politics, once thought to be the preserve of the Congress, is now evident across political formations. It is almost a matter of entitlement for the close relative of a neta to inherit his ‘legacy.’ Relatives with no qualifications whatsoever for public life are used to reserve the chair for leaders who are not able to continue in office for a variety of reasons, most of them legal.

As for corruption we need to look no further than the latest report from an NGO, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which has reported that 22 of the 29 ministers (76%) in the newly-formed Nitish Kumar cabinet face criminal charges. This is higher than the corresponding figure for his cabinet during the previous “grand alliance” government with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), in which 19 of the 29 ministers (69%) were tainted. And to think that Nitish Kumar left the alliance on the grounds that he could not tolerate the corruption of his allies. These are not trifling charges either. They range from murder, attempt to murder, dacoity, theft, fraud and atrocities against women. Things can only improve if political parties adopt a zero-tolerance approach to corruption. They should refrain from giving tickets to those with charges against them in the first place instead of splitting hairs about legalities. Few political parties have any form of internal democracy, a major factor for nepotism to thrive. It is incumbent upon the party leadership to ask their MLA or MP to step down if he or she is facing charges until cleared.

Today, the argument put forward is that the person charged has every right to be in office until proven guilty. While this is the law, political parties could set an example by being like Caesar’s wife and floating above the fray. Elected representatives are meant to be the gold standard for probity in public life in a country where people are imprisoned for years for the most minor of misdemeanours. The NDA came to power as a party which would have no truck with corruption. If it really means this, it should lead from the front on this as prescribed by the Supreme Court.