Kamal Nath is an astute political strategist who could be sent to several other states, why only Punjab?(Mujeeb Faruqui/HT Photo)
Kamal Nath is an astute political strategist who could be sent to several other states, why only Punjab?(Mujeeb Faruqui/HT Photo)

Immoral politics is a contagion that has spread across the political class

When lust for power fails to differentiate between means and ends, then any form of public accountability is the first casualty.
UPDATED ON JUN 23, 2016 11:04 PM IST

History repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce, but in Indian politics, the farce plays out so frequently that the tragic element is obscured. Four recent instances highlight just how the disease of immoral politics is now a contagion that has spread across the political class. No party is immune to its depravity.

Let’s start with the BJP, now the country’s premier national party. Just look at the manner in which the party has sought to derive political capital from the alleged “exodus” of Hindu families from Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh. Its local MP first claims that Hindu villagers are being targeted by “Muslim gangs” and provides a list of families who have left their homes out of fear in the last year. When it transpires that the list contains names of people who have left for reasons like jobs, health and education several years ago, when a number of those named are still found in their homes or, in some instances, are dead, the MP backtracks to say the problem is one of law and order and should not be seen in communal terms.

This doesn’t stop the BJP leadership though, including party president Amit Shah, from suggesting that Hindus are under siege in the region. The BJP sends a fact-finding team to the area even as the party’s hyper-active social media cell targets the mainstream media as “anti-Hindu” for not highlighting the issue more aggressively. Now, it is true that in the aftermath of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots there has been a worrying communal polarisation on the ground in western UP.

Read | No exodus but fear in Kairana, says fact-finding team of saints

And yet, when Muslim families were forced into refugee camps, no BJP fact-finding team focussed on their plight. But with elections in UP just months away, it seems that the party has decided to play the “Hindu card” once again. What other rational explanation can there be for the issue to assume a dangerous communal dimension only in the last fortnight? Sadly, the prime minister, despite his “sabka saath sabka vikas” sloganeering, has chosen to stay conspicuously silent once again.

Switch now to the Congress, which claims to be the flag-bearer of secular politics in India. Just ahead of a crucial election in Punjab, the party decides to appoint Kamal Nath as its general secretary in charge of the state. Sikh groups protest, claiming that Nath is scorched by the ashes of the 1984 riots. Rattled by the backlash, an embarrassed Congress is forced to get Nath to rather ignominiously withdraw from the post. Even by the party’s recent history of self-goals, surely this is one which they could have avoided. Nath is an astute political strategist who could be sent to several other states, why only Punjab?

Read | Kamal Nath controversy caught Congress unawares

The Congress and Nath have argued that no 1984 riots commission of inquiry has indicted him and there is no formal case against him in any court. True, but what about the court of public perception? In the minds of many Sikhs, Nath’s role on the streets of Delhi along with several other Congress leaders has never been fully explained or investigated. There has never been a sense of urgency or commitment shown to ensure justice for the victims. The problem is that the Congress’ vision of secularism has often taken the minorities for granted: Its failure to fully come to terms with the party’s role in the 1984 riots in particular remains a permanent blot.

Let’s now turn to AAP which burst onto the political scene with its anti-corruption agenda and a promise of being a “party with a difference”. Twenty-one of its legislators now stand in danger of being disqualified under the office of profit rule after being appointed parliamentary secretaries. AAP claims it is being victimised and that other state and central governments have got away with retrospective legislation to insulate their members from office of profit provisions. But surely a party that stands on the pulpit of lofty idealism doesn’t want to be judged by the standards that other parties have set. Moreover, even if there are no financial benefits gained from being a parliamentary secretary (AAP has quite bizarrely described them as ‘interns’) should it be done in such flagrant violation of the Constitution only to provide members with a taste of power?

Read | No office of profit could be more important than propriety

Finally, there is the shame of the Rajya Sabha elections where it is increasingly apparent that nominations to the house of elders have been reduced to a cash and carry exercise for some. How else does one explain the sting operation in Karnataka where JD(S) MLAs are nonchalantly asking for `5 crore for a vote? Or the open cross-voting in many other states? A similar sting operation during a poll in Jharkhand a few years ago had exposed the rot on camera and the poll was countermanded. Yet, it appears that there is no fear of the law among our law-makers.

Indeed, such is the prevailing political culture that every party would prefer to brazen it out rather than accept culpability. Will the ominous fallout on community relations in a Kairana stop the BJP from practising the politics of religious division in the UP elections? Will the Congress accept its past mistakes like 1984 and vow to remove the hollowness from its secular balloon? Will AAP abandon its politics of confrontation for a more meaningful agenda of governance? And will ‘suitcase‘ deal-making ever leave our electoral landscape?

Read | Rajya Sabha polls: Election Commission can do little once results are declared

As journalists, we can only continue to raise the uncomfortable questions. Our political class can, of course, continue to evade the questions: When lust for power fails to differentiate between means and ends, then any form of public accountability is the first casualty. Till the next farce then, we the people can only stand and despair.

Post-script: One is often asked, why don’t good people enter politics which is, after all, considered the highest form of public service? I think the last fortnight tells us why so many are unwilling to dip their toes in the muck. Cleaning it up will take a very long time.

Rajdeep Sardesai is a senior journalist and an author

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
It takes courage to push a conversation that evokes almost zero public sympathy in an audience that is inclined to believe that consent has no place on the marital bed(Shutterstock)
It takes courage to push a conversation that evokes almost zero public sympathy in an audience that is inclined to believe that consent has no place on the marital bed(Shutterstock)

The conversation India refuses to have

By Namita Bhandare
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 08:01 PM IST
In the past few years, India has broken traditional silences on sexual abuse, on consent, and on the rights of sexual minorities. It’s time to break another traditional silence
Close
What other, newer democracies find relatively easy — conducting an election, the counting of votes, the peaceful transition of power — seems to have befuddled the US. There can be and must not be any normalisation of gross prejudice or violence(AP)
What other, newer democracies find relatively easy — conducting an election, the counting of votes, the peaceful transition of power — seems to have befuddled the US. There can be and must not be any normalisation of gross prejudice or violence(AP)

After anarchy in the US, reimagining the middle ground

UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:53 PM IST
Governments have to learn how to engage with those who did not vote for them. Citizens have to learn how to converse amidst ideological divisions
Close
Mohammed Siraj led India’s breakthrough in the ongoing tour of Australia. But he grew up playing tennis ball cricket and first held a real cricket ball only five years ago.(Getty Images)
Mohammed Siraj led India’s breakthrough in the ongoing tour of Australia. But he grew up playing tennis ball cricket and first held a real cricket ball only five years ago.(Getty Images)

The secret weapons of a fast-bowling nation

By Rudraneil Sengupta | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 03:31 PM IST
Surprise finds are making their mark in the India bowling line-up, but they aren’t coming up through the system.
Close
A New York street in the 1920s. Just two decades earlier, in the age of horse-drawn vehicles, people had feared their cities would be buried in manure. Then the internal combustion engine took horses off the streets altogether, a shift often used to illustrate the unpredict-able fallouts of new tech.(Shutterstock)
A New York street in the 1920s. Just two decades earlier, in the age of horse-drawn vehicles, people had feared their cities would be buried in manure. Then the internal combustion engine took horses off the streets altogether, a shift often used to illustrate the unpredict-able fallouts of new tech.(Shutterstock)

The horseshit paradox: Why fears about tech are wildly exaggerated

By Charles Assisi | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 03:11 PM IST
Our world runs on complexity. And no machine we have created — or look likely to create — can truly navigate that complexity by itself, says Charles Assisi.
Close
It is no surprise that all kinds of protests are being seen in many parts of the world at the moment(SHUTTERSTOCK)
It is no surprise that all kinds of protests are being seen in many parts of the world at the moment(SHUTTERSTOCK)

This decade will be decisive for democracy, capitalism

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON JAN 03, 2021 10:07 PM IST
There is another fact which needs attention. Human civilisation has always discovered new light in the darkest days of crisis. With this hope, let us welcome this new decade.
Close
A vibrant corporate capitalist base also leads to additional revenues for the State — which, in turn, can be used for greater welfare for the marginalised and creating a more level-playing field in terms of opportunities(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
A vibrant corporate capitalist base also leads to additional revenues for the State — which, in turn, can be used for greater welfare for the marginalised and creating a more level-playing field in terms of opportunities(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

In defence of reformed capitalism

PUBLISHED ON JAN 02, 2021 07:05 PM IST
Targeting corporate capitalism won’t help. It is essential for growth and democracy. Focus on reforming it.
Close
A health worker prepares a syringe to inoculate a volunteer with a Covid-19 vaccine, Lima, December 9, 2020(AFP)
A health worker prepares a syringe to inoculate a volunteer with a Covid-19 vaccine, Lima, December 9, 2020(AFP)

A robust public broadcaster can guard against anti-vaccine rumours

By Mark Tully
PUBLISHED ON JAN 02, 2021 07:02 PM IST
There seems no reason to doubt that a large number of Indians are, to say the least, undiscriminating in the source of news they chose to watch. This will make them liable to fall prey to false information which can undermine the vaccination campaign.
Close
The silence and loneliness of being on my own is no longer intimidating. In fact - and I know that sounds a little perverse – I’ve enjoyed it. So this morning I feel I don’t want to lose it. At least, not completely.(HTPHOTO)
The silence and loneliness of being on my own is no longer intimidating. In fact - and I know that sounds a little perverse – I’ve enjoyed it. So this morning I feel I don’t want to lose it. At least, not completely.(HTPHOTO)

Goodbye to all that? I’m not so sure

UPDATED ON JAN 02, 2021 06:55 PM IST
The honest truth – and you’ve probably guessed it by now – is that I’m going into 2021 with a little trepidation or, if that’s too strong a word, more than a touch of hesitation.
Close
n many ways, Modi’s economic vision resembles that of the United Kingdom prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the United States President Ronald Reagan. Both faced an avalanche of opposition to their push for economic reforms(PTI)
n many ways, Modi’s economic vision resembles that of the United Kingdom prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the United States President Ronald Reagan. Both faced an avalanche of opposition to their push for economic reforms(PTI)

Farm stir: Latest attempt to stop Modi’s reforms

By Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda
PUBLISHED ON JAN 01, 2021 08:06 PM IST
The Opposition may continue to denigrate him, but millions see in the PM a rare determination and willingness to take risks and cleanse the rot
Close
US President-elect Joe Biden in Delaware, December 29, 2020(REUTERS)
US President-elect Joe Biden in Delaware, December 29, 2020(REUTERS)

Biden has no record of missteps on India

PUBLISHED ON JAN 01, 2021 08:06 PM IST
With the Chinese amassing troops along the border, Indians want to see more, even as they acknowledge that the US will not conduct its foreign policy to please India, echoing a Democratic congressional aide who is normally sympathetic to India but is frustrated by “constant pushing on China”.
Close
Ancient calendars could be intricate, beautiful, but confusing. Above is a section of the ancient Mayan calendar.(Shutterstock)
Ancient calendars could be intricate, beautiful, but confusing. Above is a section of the ancient Mayan calendar.(Shutterstock)

Lend me your years: How the Indian National Calendar came into being

By Rachel Lopez | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 02, 2021 08:29 PM IST
See how, back in 1955, an elite team headed by astrophysicist Meghnad Saha untangled India’s confusing variety of almanacs.
Close
An aangan in an old home in Mehrauli, New Delhi. A fixture since the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the courtyard faded away with the coming of Western-style architecture during colonial rule.(Mayank Austen Soofi)
An aangan in an old home in Mehrauli, New Delhi. A fixture since the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the courtyard faded away with the coming of Western-style architecture during colonial rule.(Mayank Austen Soofi)

Poonam Saxena writes on the true heart of the Indian home, the aangan

By Poonam Saxena | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 01, 2021 07:04 PM IST
It now lives on largely in books and film, but the courtyard was where we cooked, celebrated, slept under the stars on summer nights.
Close
After a traumatic and turbulent 2020, it’s time to ring in a New Year with hope. And since Rabindranath Tagore is being rediscovered by our netas ahead of the Bengal elections, this is a prayer for India in 2021 that draws inspiration from the great poet-laureate.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
After a traumatic and turbulent 2020, it’s time to ring in a New Year with hope. And since Rabindranath Tagore is being rediscovered by our netas ahead of the Bengal elections, this is a prayer for India in 2021 that draws inspiration from the great poet-laureate.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

A ‘new’ India can’t be built by abandoning the core values of our founding fathers

UPDATED ON JAN 01, 2021 06:01 AM IST
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. Where an Indian identity is determined by citizenship, and not divided by the narrow domestic walls of caste, region or religion. Where true secularism demands that no state authority promote or discriminate against any religion, where equal respect for all faiths must be the basis of our constitutional secularism.
Close
The farmers’ protest may be geographically limited, but the ripples it has caused are international.(ANI)
The farmers’ protest may be geographically limited, but the ripples it has caused are international.(ANI)

The year is almost over, but scars will remain

By Shashi Shekhar
PUBLISHED ON DEC 27, 2020 06:13 PM IST
The year 2020 will be known as a year of bias, discontent, isolation and apprehensions. These can be brushed away by blaming the pandemic, but the virus merely amplified existing tendencies.
Close
The argument Covid-19 did not permit the session is specious. For a start, Parliament’s earlier functioning disproves it. The monsoon session was held in September when daily cases crossed 95,000. So how can a situation when the increase has reduced to under 25,000 be a credible reason for not holding the winter session?(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
The argument Covid-19 did not permit the session is specious. For a start, Parliament’s earlier functioning disproves it. The monsoon session was held in September when daily cases crossed 95,000. So how can a situation when the increase has reduced to under 25,000 be a credible reason for not holding the winter session?(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Parliament should sit more often

UPDATED ON DEC 26, 2020 07:36 PM IST
The bigger moral argument rests on the belief Parliament is special. It represents our nation. It speaks for us and symbolises our resolve. So if the temple of our democracy ducks the challenge of functioning in a time of the virus what’s the example it sets for the rest of us and what’s the message it sends to the world beyond our borders?
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP