Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Issues: Corruption

With the Election Commission having announced the schedule for the Lok Sabha elections and three state assembly elections, and the model code of conduct having kicked in, we begin a new series discussing the issues that are in the mind of voters as India heads towards its 16th General Elections.

The first issue that of corruption: something that has been a defining feature of Independent India and indeed, even under colonial rule. But as a political factor, corruption today has reached its very zenith. The UPA Government has been the hallmark of corruption - the scams that it has overseen have broken every record and each one continues to get worse. Indeed, many have called it the most corrupt regime in post-Independence India.

However, it is not just limited to the Central Government. Virtually all state governments, with the possible exception of Tripura, Gujarat and Sikkim, are hopelessly corrupt. Any why just governments? People themselves are corrupt: the desire to get things done quickly by paying a bribe is quite strong. Now, the question of whether people are corrupt because they don't get services in a reasonable period of time, or whether they simply want to jump to the front of the queue and are therefore corrupt, remains open. But corruption has reached such great levels in India today that nobody can ignore it: the level of civil society unrest against it has never been greater, not even in JP's time.

It is precisely this absolute anger at public corruption that has fueled the AAP, and the IAC before it, although the party itself seems to be drifting from that line and making this exclusively a fight against Narendra Modi. The Congress party, despite Rahul Gandhi's attempts at painting himself as an outsider, suffers greatly on this count and is possibly staring at its greatest defeat in history, perhaps only less than the defeat it felt under the Muslim League before Partition. However, the BJP too faces harsh scrutiny on this, particularly after BSY from Karnataka returned to the fold.

Corruption at all levels will be a fundamental issue in this general election. As Indian society moves to a post-feudal setup, society is beginning to question the way governance works: this is inevitable and even necessary. 

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