Nail patronage

Nail patronage

In India, money and politics have become troublesome bedfellows. For long known as the undisputed political fixer, the incarceration of former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, even if it is for two weeks, must be the ultimate denouement.

In the years that he enjoyed the confidence of his party’s supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh mastered the invincible black art of behind-the-scene wheeling-dealing. Caste-ridden Uttar Pradesh was the perfect setting for Singh who became a pivotal player in party politics of not just the state, but even at the Centre with ‘friendly’ relations with individual politicians of every hue.

It is in the backdrop of his association with such unsavoury politicians, some of whom stand accused with him for their alleged involvement in the cash-for-votes scandal, that the Central Bureau of Investigation must probe what role some Congress politicians might have played in the corrupt practice of vote buying.

As a party, the Congress has not been immune from charges of vote buying inside Parliament. In 1993, the bribery scandal surrounding a few Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs scalded then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao and ruined the political fortunes of the Congress. For the grand old party, it is not about politics as usual; in its long and turbulent history, the Congress has represented an entrenched system of patronage and corruption.

When in government, the party has survived less by keeping faith with the ideals of democracy than by keeping alive a system that has become the source of its lifeblood. After assuming the mantle of party leader and the country’s prime minister following the assassination of his mother, Rajiv Gandhi had said in 1986 that the Congress obeys “no discipline, no rule”; that it follows no principle of public morality is also evident.

While this holds true for most Indian political parties, a formal investigation into the July 2008 cash-for-votes scandal should reveal the hands not just of Amar Singh but a clique of MPs whose singular contribution has been in eroding the foundations of democratic institutions.

Amar Singh is the face of that enterprise that is riddled with cronyism and corrupt power politics that now appear to have crossed the boundaries of excesses. If no remedial measures are taken now, people’s lack of confidence in its democratic institutions will deepen.

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