The central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has its task cut out as it attempts to prosecute former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and his two sons for corruption. It doesn’t take a top-notch defence counsel to hurl that old chestnut about being ‘targeted by political adversaries’. In addition, the 74-year-old patriarch has a whole list of political heavyweights who have ducked and dived and indeed thrived after being charged with corruption, to choose from as precedent.
In the land of blind pelf, all-seeing justice becomes a rumour. So, as the CBI, having completed its investigations of the Chautalas’ reported ‘unaccounted wealth’, seeks permission from the government to press charges, two things will be put on test: one, how serious this new government is about foregoing the old ‘you don’t scratch our face, we don’t scratch yours’ routine; and two, whether the CBI’s evidence will stand up in the courts of law.
The political landscape of India is changing from a no-questions-asked semi-feudal set-up to a much more professionally- run one. This nation is still not the kind of accountable democracy that, say, Britain showed itself to be when the recent ‘MPs expenses scandal’ rocked the British establishment. Such kind of penny-pinching activities are not even considered dodgy by the public at large here, let alone be the cause of intense public ire. But the case against the Chautalas could be where things start changing — regardless of whether they are found to be guilty or not.
It is far from established that Mr Chautala and his sons are guilty of amassing huge amounts of money as pay-offs. The law demands that they be considered innocent until proven guilty. But a strong spotlight must be turned on the case, prosecution must be sought, and justice must be allowed to run its course without the nattering interferences that have, for so many years, marked political crime in this country. For a new India to generate wealth and pass on the prosperity all around, the chalta hai culture associated with corruption in our politics has to go. It’s not enough to have pure as driven snow people running the country; political graft, regardless of which side of the fence its perpetrators lie, has to be struck with a hammer and seen to be struck. If we can deal firmly with a Satyam and send out the message that private companies can’t operate as highway robbers, there’s no excuse why a similar purge cannot be conducted in our politics.