“War on corruption” have been the keywords of the season, and with PM Narendra Modi’s demonetisation drive based on the same narrative, these words are going to gather many a debate in the year to come. Corruption and the government’s policies to tackle it will be a major factor in the upcoming assembly elections in some states, as well as in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Prime Minister is bound to come under increased scrutiny and accountability in the New Year, especially after the note ban move which was initially solely based on the rhetoric of curbing black money and anti-corruption. Recently, the CBI arrested former IDBI chairman and former CFO of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines A Raghunathan Yogesh Aggarwal in Vijay Mallya loan default case. Four executives of Kingfisher Airlines and three more former executives of IDBI Bank were also arrested by CBI. This brings into light the long drawn cases like that of Vijay Mallya, Augusta Westland, telecom spectrum scams among others. With the apparent inactivity towards the cases, even after using them in its election campaign, BJP has been losing considerable public faith, especially when it comes to the anti-corruption rhetoric. If immediate actions towards these are not taken, the opposition will go all guns blazing on BJP with narratives of corruption beneficiaries and shielding suspects. There is a dire need for the head of our nation to break its backbone which is made up of the rusted frames of bureaucracy and also untangle the tentacles of malversation.
Demonetisation move by the PM Modi-led government has been under criticism and approval alike, so even if we leave it for the future, there have been quite a few failures in its promises and tough talks on corruption. But have such actions weakened the anti-corruption reforms in India, or has it been losing the public confidence? The central government failed to keep up with its election campaign promise of making Swiss Bank account holders’ name public as well as the guarantee of putting Rs 15 lakh in every account. There still have been no penalty or action against the people named in the Panama papers. Such inaction, agreeable or not, direct towards the possibility that all the assurances were just political gimmickry, especially since the Lokpal is still not appointed and even the Whistle Blowers’ Protection has been diluted. If it is any indication, even the Supreme Court had reprimanded the centre for delaying the Lokpal appointments.
Additionally, the central government has been surprisingly silent over the scam which got nationwide attention, the Vyapam scam. The racket included businessmen, politicians and senior officials which made it a high profile case, but it faded out sooner than it should have. One of the main reasons behind this is that there is something fishy in the appointments in national agencies, including the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. According to laws, when a CBI director finishes his tenure, the next is selected by a selection committee which consists of the PM, the leader of the opposition and the CJI. Even SC guidelines have specified that officers heading CBI must have experience in CBI, but the new director Alok Verma has none. Even the interim director who was chosen earlier was a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, which gathered a lot of criticism especially because the selection commission was bypassed as well as the fact that he was earlier chosen to probe the Godhra incident. Similar problems and questions cropped up for when suddenly an officer was given charge of the enforcement directorate.
While PM has been clever in turning narratives all along, even in corruption, where he wants to reward the good instead of punishing the bad. With arguments marinated with rhetorics, Modi has sure captured the minds of the Indian voter, but the narrative of anti-corruption has been going on for way too long now, and it is high time that he shows the same enthusiasm in taking actions, beginning with taking determinant actions in high-profile corruption cases. The public is not something a national political party should play with. Though the narrative of reward captures the minds, but also makes people more aware, which essentially increases the need for the eradication of corruption. There is a dire need for crystal clear laws (without loopholes to exploit with), strengthened enforcement (including the proper following of laws during appointments), freedom to the judiciary and agencies as well as a refreshed administrative system which still appears to date back to the British rule era. It is high time that actions precede PM Modi’s agenda instead of rhetoric and spectacle.