JK’s Blessed Corrupt
Riyaz Ahmad (Greater Kashmir)
BJP president Nitin Gadkari's alleged corrupt deals are roiling the political landscape in India. So are those of Robert Vadra and to a lesser extent that of Salman Khurshid. Arvind Kejriwal who broke away from Team Anna to float his own political party has managed to put corruption at the centre of discourse. In no time, not only the reputation of some prominent individuals has taken a battering but in case of politicians like Gadkari their entire political career seems to be on the line.
This is not the first time that powerful individuals in the country find themselves arraigned at the bar of public opinion when they are found to be involved in corrupt practices. True, the cases of political corruption drag endlessly in courts. But many a time this doesn’t protect the political careers. Last year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan had to unceremoniously resign following revelations about his role in Adarsh scam. And before him the BJP leader Yeddyurappa lost his post as Karnataka Chief Minister in illegal mining scam.
But this doesn't happen in Kashmir. The state operates in a detached world of its own, insulated from the play of democracy in the mainland. As Gadkari, Vadra and Khurshid find themselves cornered over allegations of corruption and their tribe feels the heat of the growing anti-corruption movement, politicians in Kashmir need hardly to bother. For corruption in Kashmir, while it may be rampant, doesn’t become a political issue. The discourse here runs so obsessively around the ongoing conflict and the politics of it that nothing outside it seems to exist. In fact, there is an entire aspect of public life which is not a part of political consciousness in the state.
This reality has rubbed off on the institutional capacities of the state to tackle political corruption. One can hardly cite a high-profile instance where anti-corruption bodies in the state have successfully pinned down the guilt of a senior politician. Politicians in the state, as a result, feel little sense of accountability to the people of the state - or should we say people here don't make any such demand from them. Corruption is generally seen as a rightful part of political life or people are too cynical of the system’s ability to force accountability to make such demand. This has generated an unnatural situation. The result is that we end up getting the governments which have the luxury of operating in a world free of sufficient checks and balances. And hence there is an inherently less than adequate need to perform and be honest. What is more, things sometimes become quite ludicrous, for example, the handling of the Congress leader Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed’s resignation over the copying of his son in the matriculation examination. The resignation certainly did come through but then it turned out that the minister was not going anywhere, being only divested of the education portfolio.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah only articulated a part of this reality when in a speech in New Delhi he expressed the inability of coalition government’s to tackle corruption. But there is a marked difference in how this reality plays out in Kashmir and in New Delhi. Here corruption, even in its brazen forms doesn't qualify for a sense of some public outrage. Besides, what CM's helplessness conveys is a certain technical rather than principled approach to corruption – that corruption can be dealt with only in a particular kind of setting and system. This is ridiculous. If you can't tackle corruption in a coalition setting, for sure you can't do it when you are running a single party rule. Corruption can hardly be confronted if you are not ready to stick your neck out for it.