Black money, white noise and the grey zone in between

The black money issue is a good opportunity for a correction in the way we take our stand on national issues


Deevakar Anand | October 18, 2014

What’s so auspicious about October 17, 2014 that the Narendra Modi government decided to go to the supreme court and filed an application stating that names of people with black money in foreign bank accounts cannot be revealed due to restrictions under the double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA)?

It’s not as if the government, its ministers and mandarins, woke up yesterday and learnt about it. For this is precisely what the previous UPA government had said all along: that, and I repeat, the names cannot be revealed due to restrictions under DTAA.

But as the saying goes,, every cloud has its silver lining, and this, too, has one: that the political discourse has to improve. Vastly. It is also a good (un)learning opportunity– stop hooting for the heck of it. And stop opposing only because you are in the opposition.

That DTAA stops the government from revealing names of the account holders in Liechtenstein, the tiny tax-haven nation in central Europe, may or may not find merit in law, and that is for the court to decide (the three judge-bench headed by chief justice HL Dattu will hear the matter on October 28). But the issue reflects badly on the BJP, known to be a more organised party with research wings than the Congress. For, only the other month the party, and then PM candidate Modi, was in the middle of a high-pitched contention, holding the Manmohan Singh administration responsible for its failure to get black money from abroad.

But suddenly it appears all governments speak the same language – for good or bad. As a people, we like to discuss, propose, and oppose issues of national importance in ways which are anything but well-meaning.

One can be reasonably certain that all this noise about black money, and the Modi government’s purported U-turn on the issue, would drown out by Sunday. Instead, the talking heads would move on to the next topic as results of the Haryana and Maharashtra elections come out.

In fact, it’s only a matter of how soon the TV channels and the Twitterati can get hold of a more ‘exciting’ issue to play up. In that case, let me take a wild guess: by late this evening itself discussion on black money would be on the backburner.

What is more significant, and worrisome, as many would say, finance minister Arun Jaitley, who when in opposition had cried hoarse over the UPA’s ‘inability’ to act on black money, told us yesterday that the UPA is to be blamed for  getting us in this DTAA soup in 1995. So what does Jaitley want us to believe? That he searched for the information on Google only yesterday? That he didn’t know of it earlier when he was criticising the UPA?

The black money issue is a good opportunity for a correction in the way we take our stands on national issues. Instead of playing to the gallery and indulging in politics of convenience, we should take a more well-meaning approach in dealing with national problems.

This is also why an opposition party should sometimes allow one of its members to appreciate good work of the government and still retain him. Let  there not be more Shashi Tharoors who get fired as party spokespersons. For, spokespersons in opposition parties are not meant only to oppose, and change tack when the governing dispensation changes.



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