Because our ruling elite has a code of silence. That also explains Khurshid’s threats
Ajay Singh | October 18, 2012
Like the Italian Mafiosi bound by the pact of secrecy known as Omerta, India’s elites are intrinsically secretive. They fight back bitterly whenever this unwritten code is challenged. This is why Jinnah’s eating habits and Nehru’s notings on the Indo-China war remain taboos in public discourse so far. Gandhi, whose life was his message, is the sole exception. But in the age of social media, this code has come under siege.
Take the case of Robert Vadra whose shenanigans were talked about in a hushed tone in Delhi’s power circles. But the whole issue was forbidden in public discourse. Similarly BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s antics that cross the boundary of public morality are never a hidden fact. His dalliances with industrialists of questionable credentials are frowned upon within the Hindutva family. Yet the issue is a taboo not only for the BJP but also for other political leaders.
In this context, the reaction of BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj Arun Jaitley and RSS’s second-in-command Bhaiyya-ji Joshi in defence of Gadkari was predictable. But what is really amazing is the thickness of the hide that the political class has come to acquire over the years to become totally impervious to legal, moral or ethical values. The Vadra-Gadkari episode just exemplified that.
By all standards, it would be ridiculous to say that the charges against Gadkari are frivolous. He is accused of using his political clout to acquire about 100 acres of land near Nagpur which rightfully belonged to farmers. The manner in which his deal was cleared by the Maharashtra government speaks more about Gadkari’s political clout than the urgency of the state government to attend to “public purpose” for which the land was acquired. Farmers were intimidated to give up their claim on the land. The water reservoir built for the purpose of irrigation is effectively used by Gadkari’s so-called “philanthropic ventures” and commercial establishments like power plants and sugar mills.
But what is there to be so chagrined about, BJP leaders ask the India Against Corruption (IAC) activists. “He is making a mountain out of a molehill,” comments Jaitley, an orator and lawyer whose gift of gab has always stood him in good stead.
Of course, Arvind Kejriwal and IAC are not the first to discover Gadkari’s indiscretion. For the past decade, the entire episode was an open secret, kept under the wraps by our ruling elites. The obvious reason is not far to seek. In Maharashtra politics, the culture of promoting wealth creation by politicians of all hues has been consistently encouraged by all political parties. Through sugar mills, power plants and other commercial establishments, these leaders have been seeking to build a political cadre which owes their existence to this political class. Significantly the loyalty of this variety of cadre is far greater than those trained in politics of “mango man”, to put it in words of Robert Vadra.
For the past two decades, the conspiracy of silence of this political class ensured a complete gag on personal recrimination. In the NDA’s regime, Pramod Mahajan’s indiscretions and Ananth Kumar’s proximity with the head of a PR firm were much talked about but never in political discourse. Atal Bihari Vajpyee’s son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya was mentioned in chatterati circle as an overweening influence on the government but never talked about in the main discourse. Obviously wealth accumulations and antics of family members of politicians have gradually fallen out of the public and media scrutiny. The Indian political culture seemed truly inspired by the Sicilian values and the code of conduct.
Law minister Salman Khurshid inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he threatened Kejriwal. There is a consensus in the political class those who violate the code of Omerta has to be dealt with an exemplary punishment. Unlike the past when the intrinsically secretive nature of the elites was confined to personal conduct, the new elites are adequately criminalized to take a threat to a logical end.
The Art of Conjuring Alternate Realities: How Information Warfare Shapes Your World By Shivam Shankar Singh and Anand Venkatanarayanan HarperCollins / 284 pages / Rs 599 Professor Noam Chomsky, linguist and public intellectual, has often spoken of &ls
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