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No southern comfort here

In the maelstrom of scams whirling around us, it has become difficult to ascertain who is less culpable than the other.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2010 23:23 IST
Hindustan Times

In the maelstrom of scams whirling around us, it has become difficult to ascertain who is less culpable than the other.

The malaise seems to have taken a grip on parties across the spectrum, to use that unfortunate word. Even as new Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan rolls up his sleeves to tackle the Adarsh scam, the once genteel world of southern politics seems to have gone overboard in the corruption stakes. If the DMK did not have enough trouble with the errant telecom minister, it now finds itself in the midst of a gigantic land scam. The plot never varies. The land that chief minister M Karunanidhi had sanctioned for landless labourers has predictably gone to the undeserving and powerful.

The DMK chief is a veteran politician. So it cannot have been an accident that even as his government is being sucked into the quicksands of corruption charges, he chose to give former telecom minister A Raja a hero’s welcome. The message is that whatever action is taken upon the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report or which way things will go in the apex court, he is not willing to believe that his protégé has erred. This is not a healthy sign for democracy. There is no martrydom in giving up a cabinet berth pending the outcome of an inquiry into impropriety. To say so is to cock a snook at the institutionalised checks and balances that guard democracy. In nearby Karnataka, the less than transparent manner in which the BJP chief minister BS Yeddyurappa has subverted norms to allot land to his sons has given the opposition enough fodder for the moment.

The issue of illegal mining by the Bellary brothers has already blotted the chief minister’s copybook. Naturally, the Congress has used this to ask what moral right the BJP has to question the government at the Centre over allegations of financial wrongdoing. But this is no answer to the gridlock that we find ourselves in. It is simply not good enough for any elected political body to justify its lapses on the grounds that the opponent is no different. The upcoming mega wedding of chemical and fertilisers minister and the DMK chief’s son MK Alagiri’s son is indication that these elected representatives are simply impervious to public outrage over their association with improprieties. Such ostentation and in-your-face politics was once unheard of in the south but then politics seems to follow the lowest common denominator.

This is a dangerous trend given the enormous disillusionment that people already feel about the democratic process. The greed of a few individuals cannot be allowed to undermine a system that has given India a pre-eminent position in our region, and indeed the world.