Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hardly any difference between politicians and Team Anna….

All politicians talk from high moral grounds when they are out of power. Or when they are seeking to come back to power. But as soon as they are in power, they start looking selfish, corrupt and shameless. They don’t quit when they are caught. They blame others for their problems. And they claim they are being attacked by the opposition. Team Anna is looking no different now….

When the movement started, Team Anna looked like committed, honest people who had nothing personal at stake and only wanted to do good for the country by ridding it of the scourge of corruption. They spoke of lofty ideals; were “lovingly” impatient in their demands. Their wore their assumed high moral standards on their sleeves; this being one of the main reasons for people to look up to them. These high moral standards gave them the right to look down upon and chide the politicians. They were the heroes. Nothing could go wrong for them. They appeared to be “different” – the kind of leaders India should have.

Over a period of time, we are realizing that there is nothing different about them. Almost every single member of the team has been found guilty of the very same thing that they have been fighting against. Yes, guilty of corruption; if not on the same scale and in the same way as we usually think of political corruption, then of only a slightly different type….

Arvind Kejriwal hasn’t paid up his dues to the government (and indirectly therefore to us tax payers) a sum of Rs 9 lacs for not honoring the terms of his paid study leave. Yes, it was a paid leave. The government paid him his salaries for two years so that he could learn something new that would help the government. Instead, he chose to go on leave after returning back (and not resigning…..thus technically still working and serving his bond conditions). Is this not moral corruption? Surely, Kejriwal knew that the objective of the study leave (fully funded by the government) was that the country should benefit from the learnings? When he refused to join back after his study leave, did he serve the country’s interests? Where are his high moral standards when he chooses to argue his case on “technical grounds”? How different is this from ordinary politicians who find technical grounds for everything illegal that they do – to justify the use of official discretion for their personal indiscretions? Now that Kejriwal has agreed to pay up, he’s making it look like he’s doing the country a favor. Get off your high horse Mr Kejriwal. You owed this money to the country – you are doing no one any favor.

And what about the donations that Kejriwal appears to have siphoned off to his own NGO? Why could he not publish its statement of accounts before Swami Agnivesh accused him of wrongdoing? What happened to his high moral standing when for all these months, he sat on the money that came for the IAC? And how different is he from normal politicians when he accuses Swami Agnivesh of having an agenda? Isn’t that what all politicians do when they are caught? Accuse someone else…..

What about Kiran Bedi? Isn’t what she did akin to stealing? How do we know what use the extra money was put to by her NGO? How do we know Kiran Bedi hasn’t made many more trips around the country (maybe abroad too) than she could otherwise have afforded to – if she hadn’t got this extra cream? Why doesn’t she list the government of India as the biggest donor to her NGO, after she filched it of the 75% discount on air tickets? Isn’t this a form of financial corruption? And look at her reaction after she was exposed. Her first reaction was to tweet that “all money went to the NGO. Unfortunately there is no smoking gun here. I think activists have to be prepared for such mudslinging” or some such thing. This is the kind of denial every politician issues after getting nabbed. That someone is trying to wreak political vendetta against them. As a second step, she passed on the blame to her travel agent (her NGO’s trustee-member I believe) making it appear as if he was the one who was making fraud bills. Nice. And now, she’s making a big deal of offering to return the excess monies back to the conference organizers. How convenient. Isn’t that what Kalaignar TV did when Raja got arrested – return the entire Rs 200 crores that they had taken as “loan” from DB Realty? If Sharad  Kumar and Kanimozhi are in jail, why are the rules different for Kiran Bedi?

Look also at the refusal of the two to resign. How different is this from politicians who refuse to resign in spite of obvious lapses on their part. Why can’t these two resign first; get their reputations cleared through a legal process; and then re-join the movement later? Why the different standards?

Also, why do they blame the government for everything? Are they saying that the government put out the story of Kiran Bedi’s accounting creativity? Did the government start demanding that Kejriwal pay his dues only now? Did the government put words in the mouth of Prashant Bhushan regarding Kashmir – and did the government send ex-BJP goons to attack him? Did the government tell Justice Hegde, Rajinder Singh and PV Rajagopal to attack Team Anna’s decision to make the movement political? Isn’t this similar to politicians who either blame the opposition for all their troubles, or even a “foreign hand” for everything that goes wrong? We often chide the politicians that they don’t have the guts to accept their mistakes. Does Team Anna have the guts to do so?

And all of them are now trooping to Ralegaon Siddhi to meet Anna for his final decision on whether they are clean and should continue in the core committee or not. Isn’t that what every accused politician does? Go to his or her party boss to ask for a clean chit…..the public’s perception be damned?

And what about Anna? He’s sitting on a maun vrat – seeing it all from a distance – and not taking any decisive action. If Anna is “different”, I would expect him to sack at least Kejriwal and Bedi immediately. How is it ok if he condones these two tainted team members on the one hand but demands that tainted politicians quit their offices on the other? So far, Anna hasn’t commented on this matter – its time he did and showed that he indeed was “different”.

The real truth is that just as we expect clean governance from the politicians, we also expect high moral standards from Team Anna. It’s not Team Anna that is important; it’s the movement that is. If some members have failed, they should be sacked. Anna should take decisive action against these erring team members who are giving the movement a bad name. It’s time he showed who the boss was…..because otherwise the perception gaining ground is that it is Kejriwal and Bedi who are the bosses, and Anna is just an “advertising model” for the movement…..

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