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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 49, November 26, 2011

We Have Several Million ‘Clean’ Leaders; Our Unclean System Keeps Them Out

Sunday 27 November 2011, by T J S George


Here’s a brand new idea aired by our brand new messiah. All clean and non-corrupt politicians must leave their political parties and come together to form a new independent party, says Anna Hazare. It sounds like an old idea.

Actually the old idea is that there’s need for a new political party. That the good guys in existing parties should quit and form this independent party is a new take.

This sounds more practical than the idea of a bunch of amateurs forming a party. That was tried several times in recent years. Mumbai’s Professionals Party, formed in 2007, could not win a seat in 2009 although the public mood was against the political class following the terrorist attack a year earlier. Lok Paritran, floated by highly qualified Indian Institute of Technology luminaries fielded candidates from all 28 constituencies in urban Bangalore in 2006, on the assumption that the enlightened voters of India’s premier IT city were ready to make a statement in favour of good governance. All the 28 lost. Success went to those who had unaccounted money to spend and the backing of important segments of society such as the real estate mafia and the mining robber barons.

Clearly elections in our country cannot be won merely on the basis of qualifications. “Know-how” is the decisive factor. That is why those who have been at the game and know the ropes can, if only they come out of their existing parties, provide the infrastructural strength a new party needs to win elections.

BUT despite its apparent practicality, the Hazare idea is condemned to instant death. First, “clean and non-corrupt”politicians will not be privy to the aforementioned “know-how” and therefore will be as ineffective as the candidates of the Professionals Party and Lok Paritran. Secondly, existing parties have so few “clean and non-corrupt” leaders that even if all of them came out of their parent organisations, there won’t be enough people to form a Cabinet.

Take a quick look. Of the 78 members of the Manmohan Singh Cabinet, how many would you readily include in a clean-and-non-corrupt list. Count on your finger tips—A.K. Antony, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid, Ajay Maken and maybe a couple of youngsters like Sachin Pilot. That’s it. From the old Vajpayee Cabinet, the picking is even less. Perhaps, Yashwant Sinha, Suresh Prabhu, Arun Jaitley. That combined total is less than ten when you need 70 to 80 patriots to form a Cabinet. [Of course, we have to completely rule out the alphabet soup of our parties—the BSP, AGP, JTC, INLD, JKNPP, JD(U), JD(S), JMM, LJSP, MAJ, RJD and some 40 others.]

It is wonderful to think of a Cabinet of decent citizens—of whom we have many millions. Even Manmohan Singh would be a worthy member if he is de-linked from remote controls. Imagine him surrounded by Aruna Roy and Santosh Hegde, by Binayak Sen, Prashant Bhushan, Jean Dreze, Sunita Narain, by Narayan Murthy, H.D. Parekh, Chanda Kochhar, Justice J.N. Verma, Amartya Sen, even Vikram Pandit, Indra Nooyi and Sam Pitroda.

All of them will be willing to serve their country, but none of them will get elected. So, obviously, the problem is with the system of elections.

Siddaramaiah, the Congress Legislative Party leader in Karnataka, has said that the next election will be his last because fighting an election has become too costly for him to afford. This is a leader who, if he is projected as the
Congress’ chief ministerial candidate and given a supporting cast of a dozen young leaders, can lead the Congress to victory in the next round because he commands credibility and public opinion is disgusted with the Yeddyurappa party. But the Congress will not do that because it is stuck in the old ways of manipulation and intrigue—a game at which the Karnataka BJP is far superior. So much for non-corrupt politicians and a new independent party.

Dreaming is our only right.

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