Kickbacks are for the bourgeoisie
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Kickbacks are for the bourgeoisie

Prakash Karat, despite bashfully resenting the tag, would be the ideal person at any Oxbridge Debating Society meet.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2005 21:01 IST

Prakash Karat, despite bashfully resenting the tag, would be the ideal person at any Oxbridge Debating Society meet. The CPI(M) general secretary is the kind of person who, like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland, declaims, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” Mr Karat’s latest opportunity to showcase his dialectical skills has come about in his egregious defence of those mentioned in the Volcker report, somewhat politely, as ‘beneficiaries’ of the UN’s oil-for-food programme in Saddam Hussein-ruled Iraq.

Even as the government has set up a high-powered commission to determine where the truth lies, Mr Karat has gone one step ahead by stating that the ‘surcharge’ paid by individuals and companies for Iraqi oil during the oil-for-food programme cannot be treated as ‘kickbacks’, because they were the beneficiaries of decisions taken by a sovereign regime. The real issue, in his view, was “this assault on Iraqi sovereignty and the Iraqi people” and the subject of the oil-for-food commerce is a red herring. But he ensures a caveat when he points out that there were “some exceptions in the oil contracts that need investigations”. One has a nagging feeling that the ‘exceptions’ that he writes about refer to those that the CPI(M) doesn’t ideologically care much for — Indian corporates also named in the Volcker report. The rest were, of course, simply doing business with a sovereign regime.

The CPI(M) general secretary’s debating skills leave him free to use the same logic of ‘sovereignty’ to state that, say, money allegedly paid to Indian politicians by the former Soviet Union was perfectly all right. The Soviet Union, being a sovereign State, was, after all, completely free to conduct deals — transactions that are nobody else’s business — with Indians. The same transaction conducted by the CIA, though, would be considered ‘hegemonic’ or ‘subversive’. In the end, the comrade general secretary should be lauded for the way he chooses different rules to be applied to different people and different circumstances. Moral relativism is, after all, what Leninist praxis is all about.

First Published: Nov 10, 2005 02:15 IST