There are some legal cases that are aptly labeled “open and shut” cases. No sooner are they opened that it becomes clear what the verdict should be….and the cases are shut. Kripashankar Singh’s – Mumbai Congress President – case of disproportionate assets is one such case. The man’s assets are worth thousands of times more than his known income. His assets are apparently worth some Rs 320 crores or more while his known income is just a few lac rupees a year. It would appear that many of his assets have been “gifted” to him…..as if he were one of the most popular people on this planet. His wife, daughter, son and daughter-in-law all have assets disproportionate with their sources of income. I cannot even think of a justification that the Congress could possibly have in supporting such a politician. Why then has Prithviraj Chavan merely accepted his resignation from the post of Mumbai Congress President? Why has he not sacked him from the party itself?
The Indian public can be both forgiving and unforgiving of political parties and politicians. If a political party accepts a mistake and makes amends (sacks the wrong doer), it is willing to forgive the party. But if it holds on to an untenable position (of corruption or otherwise), it is punished. So many politicians have been held for improprieties, and yet when they have either quit or accepted blame or left the limelight, their parties have been forgiven. Just look around the country and this becomes obvious. In TN, the government changes every five years – and each time, the party that is booted out is accused of corruption! People in India are pragmatic. They know every party is corrupt. But they like to teach parties a lesson every now and then – and if they believe the erring party has learnt a lesson, they are happy to give it another chance.
On the other hand, parties that do not accept mistakes or make amends are not forgiven – at least the slur is never removed. This is true not only for corruption related matters. The Congress is held guilty even today for the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. It may win elections in Punjab, but the smear of having been responsible for a pogrom of such proportions will never go away. It’s the same with Narendra Modi and his widely-suspected role in the Godhra riots. Modi hasn’t apologized; he hasn’t even accepted that he was involved….or at least that his government was inefficient in handling the riots. Modi’s case is particularly interesting – it’s likely he will be punished outside Gujarat every time he makes a move to become PM for the exact same reason that he will be rewarded within Gujarat. His “Hindu Hriday Samrat” badge will give him sustained power in Gujarat, but the same badge will deny him the position of PM that he so badly desires. People outside Gujarat are unlikely to forgive him because he hasn’t apologized. If he did apologize….the story could well be different.
That’s why it’s important for the Congress to sack Kripashankar immediately. In fact, sacking him should have been an obvious call. There is this concept of “cutting losses” that any astute politician and party knows of. Sacking Kripashankar would help the Congress cut its losses and get a little relief. Any delay would be seen as reluctance to act against the corrupt within the party. At the end of the day, Kripashankar Singh is a small fry. It should be easy for the party to ditch him in order to salvage a little space for itself. Kripashankar’s political career was anyways on the decline after the poor performance of the Congress in the BMC polls. Sacking him wouldn’t harm the party at all. But the delay in taking this decision surely will harm the party.
Politicians should learn a few things from the corporate world. In good private companies, if an employee is caught on charges of graft, he/she is immediately sacked. Not only that…..a big deal is made out of the sacking…..the entire company is told about it…..so as to send a message to the others. For employees who are not corrupt, this message works as a further reason to continue working for the company – knowing that the company won’t tolerate such stuff. It becomes a reason for attracting good talent into the company. But this is possible in the corporate world because most private corporates are intolerant of corruption. Political parties are not. Out here, corruption is a way of life….almost a necessity as the parties see it.
The Kripashankar episode shows that there is a climate in the country today against the corrupt. The country may not have a Lokpal Act yet, but the existing machinery is starting to crank itself into action. The judiciary for one has surely been stepping on the gas. Government companies and departments are starting to resist their political masters – another story in the papers today about Hiranandani Constructions being strongly panned by the Bombay HC also shows how the MMRDA protested against the state government’s soft attitude against the builder. Ministers are becoming more careful – wanting to give up discretionary powers at the earliest as another story in the Economic Times shows.
The real truth is that the Congress must sack Kripashankar immediately. The CM must make a public statement that he will not tolerate any more cases of corruption. If there are others connected with this particular case, he should remove them as well. Failure to do all this will cost the Congress the state the next time elections are held here….