TMC has been backed into a corner on graft

Updated on Jul 28, 2022 08:29 PM IST
The charges of duping ordinary citizens may hurt Mamata Banerjee’s ambitions of becoming a national political player
Members of Chhatra Parishad protest against West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee, Kolkata, July 25, 2022 (PTI) PREMIUM
Members of Chhatra Parishad protest against West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee, Kolkata, July 25, 2022 (PTI)
ByHT Editorial

Over the course of five days, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) unearthed nearly 50 crore in undocumented cash from the homes of an aide of senior state minister Partha Chatterjee. The investigators link the large troves of cash, jewellery and documents to irregularities in the school recruitment process. The revelations are nothing new in Indian politics, especially for regional parties that often draw financial muscle from illegal barters of low and mid-level government positions and contracts. For the TMC, the tactic of distancing itself from people accused of corruption while keeping up the political campaign of victimisation is one it has employed successfully in a number of similar and even bigger scandals. In this endeavour, it is helped by the regrettable record of central agencies in targeting political opponents of the government of the day, though this time, the charges of duping ordinary citizens may hurt Mamata Banerjee’s ambitions of becoming a national political player.

Corruption is an endemic and unfortunate aspect of Indian politics. One of the reasons behind this is the lack of serious and institutional efforts to reform electoral and political financing or the political will to make laws more transparent. Changes such as electoral bonds have proved to be only half-measures and many parties have little incentive to check the corrupt ways of influential satraps. But though public opinion continues to be a strong deterrent — adverse publicity is almost always the reason tainted leaders are removed from positions — political scientists Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav have shown that the connection between graft and public opinion is more complicated than simple rejection and outrage, and depends on a raft of factors. In its 11-year-rule, the TMC has failed to correct the culture of local corruption and patronage. Just how strongly this round of corruption charges stick to the party will determine its next steps.

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