The breached moat signals that something is shifting in Indian democracy
The prevailing anti-corruption wind has achieved a lot, but is the mood only carnival-deep?
AT FIRST glance, it would appear a crucial silence has been broken. Indian media and politicians have always had some inexplicable no-go areas, islands of immunity no one questioned out of a strange mix of tribal propriety, vested interests and fear. Of course, there have been many significant blows earlier by the CAG, civil rights activists, and some media houses, including TEHELKA itself. But last week, with Arvind Kejriwal’s high-visibility fusillade against Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, that moat was decisively breached. Since then, rolling one upon the other, several other politicians have come under fire, most spectacularly Sharad Pawar — the political leader everyone knows something about but no one will speak of. On 18 October, at a crowded press conference, former cop YP Singh ensured men like Pawar would never again benefit from national omertas.
In every way, this breached moat can only be a good thing. It signals that something is shifting in Indian democracy. It will embolden others to speak up. The scrutiny will deepen. The old ways can no longer hold good. The rot in India’s systems has become so gargantuan, it has to rebuild or it will implode.
With each exposé — differing as they may be in scale, vehemence and diligence — crucial concepts that had all but disappeared from India’s public lexicon are being forced back on the table; not just rank corruption, but ideas of conflict of interest; misuse of office; the political-corporate nexus; cross-party collusion; and the simple idea that those who wield great power must also live by the rules.
Clearly, the power elite in India don’t understand this shift in mood yet. Every exposé over the past few days has been met by the same set of brazen, unthinking war moves: silence, denial, dismissal or dull counter-accusation. BJP chief Nitin Gadkari preposterously denied that he is even a businessman;