Drug Users, Accused Politicians Must All Be Under The Scanner
By Amulya Ganguli
At a time when several central agencies are pursuing, in tandem with a number of television channels, the allegations of drug abuse by film stars, it might be expected that the same eagerness to unearth the truth would also be displayed by the official organizations and TV stations in nailing politicians who are facing criminal charges.
At the last count, a total of 4,442 cases against former and present M.P.s and MLAs were pending in different courts, including the special courts which were set up in accordance with a two-year-old Supreme court order. The apex court itself acknowledged that it was "surprised", "shocked" and "sorry" to learn that so many cases were yet to be taken to their legal conclusion.
The reason for such a "sorry" state of affairs is not a closely guarded secret. According to one judge, this inordinate and unconscionable delay is due to the influence exerted by the lawmakers over the police where the lodging of FIRs is concerned and over the investigative agencies in the matter of proceeding with the inquiries without fear or favour.
Needless to say, much of this is known to the general public either by hearsay or from their personal experience with the police or the investigative bodies, all of which appear to be very much under the thumb of the powers-that-be. It is to free them from the stifling official control which prevents them from functioning in a professional manner that the Supreme court had ruled in 2006 in favour of insulating the official bodies from political influence.
But, as is known, all the governments, irrespective of their political hues, have been unwilling to abide by the judicial directive since it would deprive the rulers of using the police and the investigative agencies to keep their political opponents in line.
This self-serving reluctance is at the root of the piling up of the criminal cases against the present and former legislators. But, although it is understandable why it is not an issue which the governments at the centre or in the states want to be highlighted, the curious silence of the otherwise voluble TV stations can be considered odd.
If TRP (television rating point) is what guides them, there is no reason to believe that a focus on the criminal record of politicians will not attract viewers since these so-called public servants are not the most popular of personalities.
A Pew Research Centre study says that two-thirds of the people in India (64 per cent) regard politicians as corrupt and 43 per cent of them hold this view quite intensely. It is because of this unfavourable opinion of politicians that 58 per cent of Indians believe that things will not change no matter which party is in power.
Turning the spotlight on this aspect of the national scene is, therefore, unlikely to be a wasted effort. Instead, it may well earn the channels kudos. However, if the channels are spending so much time and effort on a Bollywood tragedy and the related drug trail, there must be a reason which cannot be unrelated to a political objective.
On the other hand, it is obvious that the politicians will not be in a hurry to ensure that the cases against the black sheep in their ranks are not expedited. However, even more welcome than the Election Commission's directive to the parties to publicize the criminal antecedents of the candidates contesting the forthcoming Bihar elections is the order to explain why they were chosen to fight the polls.
Again, the explanation as to why they do so is not a state secret. The most common reason is their "winnability" even if this plus factor is based on their muscle and money power. Few parties can afford, therefore, to dispense with the services of such surefire winners although it is known that they are capable of intimidating the voters into supporting them.
After the introduction of electronic voting machines, their depredations which included capturing polling booths have more or less come to an end. But the problem of the presence of these suspected criminal elements in Indian politics has not been rooted out.
Nor will it be unless the bureaucracy, and especially the police, become far more professional in their conduct and cease to be "caged parrots", as the Supreme court once said about the CBI. But there is little likelihood of such a dramatic change where the officials will be ready and willing to resist and reject political pressure.
The parties, too, are yet to show that they will turn over a new leaf and ensure that all their members - or at least a vast majority of them - have faith in the rule of law even if such a commitment goes against their partisan interests. The only option, therefore, is the judiciary if the criminalization of politics has to be brought to an end. (IPA Service)