Let Maya be placated, government be saved, governance be damned

Stay silent, and thou shalt be rewarded, seems to be the mantra in Indian politics

ajay

Ajay Singh | April 27, 2010


File photo of Mayawati and her garland of currency notes
File photo of Mayawati and her garland of currency notes

In Mario Puzo's ‘Godfather’, the Sicilian mafia thrives on the culture of Omerta, or the code of silence. The consequence of violating this code is invariably a swift and ruthless execution of the non-conformist. The Indian political class appears to have devised a new model of political Omerta, which not only ensures silence but also gives protection to rivals for a bargain.

The manner in which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been conducting itself on Mayawati's case of disproportionate assets (DA) only illustrates how the agency is being used not only to suppress the truth but also to further the interests of its political masters. The CBI claimed before the Supreme Court that it has sufficient evidence to prosecute the UP chief minister. Just by an unhappy coincidence at precisely the same time the Manmohan Singh government was facing the prospect of cut motions on the Finance Bill, notice for which was served by the Opposition parties. Simple math showed that the government's numbers to win the vote were more than a bit suspicious. 

Of course, the Manmohan government was more interested in Maya's disclosed assets, which is 21 Lok Sabha members, rather than the crores of her disproportionate assets. By swinging the DA case in Maya's face, the government obviously wanted to cut a deal and cut a deal it did. After initial protestations through a counter-affidavit for public consumption, Maya agreed to ask her 21 loyal soldiers not to be found anywhere near the battlefield when the cut motions go to vote. Immediately, shamelessly, within a week of claiming that it had all proof to send Maya to the boondocks, the CBI asked the Supreme Court for time to reply to her counter-affidavit. We can rest assured that the CBI will take a long time to file its reply, or at least as long as the Manmohan government doesn't need Maya's 21 to bail it out again. To call the CBI a handmaiden of the party in power is being rather cultured in the face of extreme provocation.

This is not the first time that corruption cases against political leaders are being used by a regime to further its political interests. Just before the general elections in 2004, the NDA government used a familiar tactic in delaying the chargesheet against Mayawati in the DA case. The obvious political inference drawn was that the NDA crisis managers were keen to keep Mayawati in good humour for the possibility of a post-poll tie-up. It's another matter that the NDA lost the election and Mayawati gained further ground.

Similarly, after Mayawati won a clear majority in 2007 assembly elections, governor Rajeshwar Rao denied permission to prosecute her in the Taj corridor case. The UPA was then keen to win over the BSP which had a strong presence in the Lok Sabha, with the Congress banking on the crutches of the Left parties and Mulayam Singh Yadav. While these instances indicate amenability of the CBI, there is enough evidence to prove that the Mayawati regime managed to cajole or coerce those who filed public interest litigations related to her indiscretion as the chief minister.

All this only serves to heighten growing cynicism among people that top politicians can easily get away despite their involvement in cases of glaring corruption. Is it not a fact that Mulayam Singh Yadav was bailed out by the CBI just when the Manmohan Singh government was cornered in the Lok Sabha on the Indo-US nuclear deal? That Yadav voted for the nuclear deal was seen as quid pro quo arrangement with the Prime Minister. In Bihar, Lalu Prasad was conveniently let off by the CBI on the pretext that he was exonerated by the CBI court. The corruption cases of Sukhram and Shibu Soren have been gradually fading away from people's memory as ‘political Omerta’ appears to be duly enforced in Indian politics.

And what about good governance? Save that for later, right now, save the government.

 

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