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Home > 2021 > Bofors, Rafales & The Beauty of Sin | T J S George

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 18, New Delhi, April 17, 2021

Bofors, Rafales & The Beauty of Sin | T J S George

Friday 16 April 2021, by T J S George


Nobody wants to be a sinner. But who can avoid sin in this begotted world? The wise tackle this conundrum by joining the right party at the right time. When that is done, all sins are absolved, ignored forgotten and/or exonerated, vindicated, discharged.

The latest to prove this truism of life are two familiar stars, Mithun Chakraborty and Satabdi Roy. Household names in Bengal, they became brand ambassadors of the Saradha chit fund scheme which was once popular with people who wished to put some of their money in Ponzi schemes. The Saradha group was a consortium of more than 200 private companies, had 16,000 employees and had collected US $ 4 - 6 billion from 1.7 million depositors.

In April 2013 the Ponzi scheme collapsed. Satabdi Roy found the Enforcement Directorate attaching her assets. But Mithun Chakraborty had no distressing experience of the kind; as coincidence would have it, he had joined the BJP while Satabdi had stuck with Trinamool Congress. Former Railway Minister Mukul Roy and Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma were also facing heat from central investigation agencies over the Saradha scam. But, as coincidence would have it, they joined the BJP and nothing more was heard about investigations.

In politics it is not enough to have power. You have to use power, and let people know that you will use power when necessary. Effective politicians use power without qualms. Gain is all that matters. What others might think of them never bothers them.

Textbooks actually spell out the difference between soft power and its opposite. Soft power is the ability to attract, while hard power involves coercion. A Harvard Professor explained that during the Information Age, "Credibility is the scarcest resource." Professor Joseph Nye wrote a book in 2004 with the title: "Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics."

What accounts for the situation where Anna Hazare succeeded without power and Amit Shah did not succeed despite power? Anna Hazare was merely a driver in the army, but his social involvement made him a figure of history, working with fellow villagers to improve land use and water supply, then inspiring the whole community to rise together to build a school, a temple and village cooperatives. He eventually started campaigning against corruption as well. That of course was a problem too big for a solitary crusader to tackle. When the Right to Information Act was amended in 2019 to give the Government some manipulative powers, Hazare accused the Modi Government of "betraying the people of this country." Without any hesitation, he said, "This is not democracy. This is dictatorship." His hunger strikes did force the Government to remove several hundred corrupt functionaries.

Perhaps it is unfair to expect Hazare traits in Amit Shah. Hazare was at his strongest when he used the moral power of the satyagrahi. Shah would not know what is moral power. If someone took the trouble to explain it to him, he would take time to comprehend it and, when comprehension finally came, he would be bored. He would not waste his time on moral power which can never produce, as he sees it, the magical effects of coercive power.

Even Harold Laski, an idol of socialists, admitted that "the activities of a civilised community are too complex and too manifold to be left to the blind regulation of impulse; there [ is] need for a customary standard by which the society in its organised form agreed to differentiate right from wrong."

The situation in today’s India surpasses all theories and all impulses. For us today sin is sin only when committed by non-approved politicians. Under the auspices of those with a lotus badge on their button holes, sin becomes virtue. Under those not wearing the lotus, virtue becomes sin. Every citizen is free to make his choice. Isn’t that freedom of choice what defines democracy, and as long as that freedom exists, what is there to complain?

We have a range of freedoms that is unique to us. The French authorities openly said last week that Dassault Company gave one million euro as "gift" to an Indian middleman in the Rafale aircraft deal. Remember, the deal was "re-configured" after the Modi Government came to power. Whispers of it were heard in India, but only whispers. No one bothered — dared — to get the details, dramatically different from the hullaballoo we had over the Bofors scandal in Rajiv Gandhi’s days. How wonderful is India’s capacity to adjust and accommodate to suit the "power needs" of the moment.

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