Don't put blinkers

Don't put blinkers

After 11 long years, the long arm of the law finally caught up with former BJP president Bangaru Laxman last week. In the midst of countless charges of corruption involving prominent political leaders and a growing public perception that politicians get away with even murder, Laxman’s conviction holds out a promise that not all is lost. While handing down the punishment, the concerned Delhi trial court judge, Kanwaljeet Arora, made it a point to emphasise that the four-year rigorous imprisonment for Laxman was necessary not only to send out a signal that “rampant corruption” is not tolerated but also dispel the pervading ‘sab chalta hei’ atmosphere in the country. The judge, rightly, saw no reason to accept 72-year-old Laxman’s case for leniency on health grounds, either.

It is hardly surprising that Laxman has no friends left in his own party of which he was the national president at the time when he was caught on camera in a sting operation, accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh, way back in 2001. In fact, the BJP leadership came up with a convenient party line to leave Laxman to his fate, saying that the issue involved his ‘personal conduct.’ That is what had happened some time back to a former Union minister Sukh Ram when he was convicted by a Delhi court. His party, the Congress too, left him to his fate. They may have reasons to feel let down by their parties which they served ‘loyally.’

While these usual grievances of convicted leaders, particularly those convicted under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, are understandable, what remains a matter of concern is that the deterrent value of these odd conviction of erring political leaders unfortunately remains only a matter of hope. Political parties are yet to convince anyone that they are committed to fighting corruption. Merely distancing the party from a convicted leader is no way to fight corruption. There are politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen who continue to gobble up thousands of crores and stash away their ill-gotten money in foreign banks and invest in benami properties and businesses. They go scot-free and even if caught manage to subvert the due process of law by hook or by crook. Probably, many more convictions in an expeditious manner could strengthen the deterrent value of the convictions in corruption cases and help promote transparency and rule of law in the country’s governance at all levels.

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