There’s a feeling amongst many people that the Congress is the most corrupt party. Actually, that’s not a correct fact. All political parties are corrupt; some like the BJP more than we think them to be. A few interesting reports in the papers over the last few weeks have brought out this point quite clearly. Shows that the BJP’s hopes of benefitting from Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement are ill-founded.
The first story is about the CWG scam now starting to encircle the BJP as well. The CVC’s Chief Technical Examiner (CTE) has indicted the MCD for several projects undertaken by it for the CWG. The MCD is ruled by the BJP. Charges include intentionally delaying projects so that prices could be jacked up in “national interest”, poor quality of work etc.
The second report is in today’s papers and quotes a Center for Media Studies (CMS) study which shows that the aam aadmi feels that corruption has actually come down over the last 5 years. Only 28% of the rural aam aadmi had to pay bribes to get work done (in the areas of Public Distribution System, school education, hospitals and water supply) v/s 56% five years back. However, states where giving bribes remains high are Chhatisgarh (BJP), Bihar (Janata Dal and BJP alliance), Kerala (Left Front) and
Maharashtra (Congress). If these numbers reflect the “reality” on date, then the following ones represent the “perception of corruption”: Chattisgarh (66% feel bribes need to be paid....BJP ruled), Bihar (Janata Dal – BJP alliance), Kerala (59%....Left Front), Rajasthan (54%....Congress) and UP (49%.....BSP). An even distribution across political parties!
The last report I am relying on appeared in the Economic Times of April 17th. An ET-Synovate study listed the top 13 “most corruption prone” states. Starting with the most corrupt, the list includes
1) UP (BSP)
2) Uttarakhand (BJP)
Bihar (Janata Dal – BJP),
4) Jharkhand (BJP)
6) MP (BJP)
8) Karnataka (BJP)
10) Tamilnadu (DMK – Congress)
Punjab (Shiromani Akali Dal)
12) Haryana (Congress)
This list shows that out of the 13 states, BJP figured in five, Congress in four and the rest were single-state parties. Another way to look at this is that the Congress was named in four out of its 12 ruled states (33%), the BJP in five out of its 7 (71%), and the rest were ruled in the single state that they ruled in (100%). The Congress actually comes out the most clean amongst the corrupt!
This is a very strong indictment against the BJP. The party has been trying to take advantage of the strong sentiments against corruption that have pervaded the urban middle class. With the help of mainstream media (which, as a friend pointed out.....tends to be anti-establishment since it does not depend on government advertising for survival), the BJP has been trying to ride a wave of anger against the UPA government at the Center. The media has been helping the BJP by putting a protective veil on the affairs of the party in Karnataka. However, the above reports are quite damning for the party..... five out of its seven states feature in the most corruption prone states. What would explain this? Actually, it’s not that difficult to understand. In order to fight elections, and to continue with its political activities, any party needs lots of funds. Since funds are almost never acquired legally, parties resort to all sorts of devious methods......Since the BJP does not rule at the Centre, it makes up by exploiting the states where it rules. In contrast, the Congress rules at the Center....hence is less dependent on its state units.
Which brings me to the point I have been making all through. That corruption exists for various reasons. One of the main reasons is that the process of elections gives requires political parties to spend a lot of money. The proponents of the Lokpal Bill don’t seem to have understood this. They seem to believe (a little naively) that setting up a body called the Lokpal (forget how it will harm our democracy) will solve all the problems. To solve the problem, we don’t need more laws; we need to address the core issues that I have highlighted earlier: election funding; better salaries to MPs and babus; making the CBI and CVC independent like the Election Commission is (while still staying under Parliament); and most importantly, reducing the size of the government (getting out of businesses where it adds little or no value).....
The real truth is that the BJP and the media are beating down the wrong path. If they think they will succeed in their propaganda, I think they are mistaken. The media (TV channels, newspapers) are already taking a beating in terms of reducing viewership and readership. The BJP will also take a beating in the next round of elections. Unless it develops a more robust positioning for itself. It failed with the Hindutva plank....it will fail again with the anti-corruption plank as well.