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Sharing Spoils


The opposition accuses the NDA Government at the Centre of using the ED, Income Tax and other agencies to intimidate opponents during election time. In India, however, when is it not election time? Are politicians a special breed that may not be touched on certain occasions? That seems to be the belief because crooks make it a habit to join politics as a means to protect their ill-gotten gains. The current hyper-activity exhibited by the ED and others shows how many law-breakers are in politics or associated closely with politicians.

Also, it is not exactly as if being caught with hundreds of crores of rupees stored under their mattresses impacts upon the politicians’ electoral fortunes. Despite convictions and numerous cases against them, the Lalu Yadav family, for instance, carries on undeterred with continued support from particular sections of the electorate. There are numerous such dynasties across the nation and in every political outfit. In fact, as in the case of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and the Mahadev betting scam, the matter would not have even become known to the nation were it not for the ongoing election.

So, why does the public not punish politicians who have been caught with their hands in the till? It is because the successful ones ensure that the proceeds are shared in one way or another with their support base. So, while they make money, their supporters are provided plum posts to do the same. Caste brethren among the civil services, police, etc., are appointed to powerful positions and it is ensured they grant favours selectively downstream. Even those voters who do not directly benefit consider themselves part of the power structure and privileged persons. This is the reason why, despite facing numerous court cases and spending long terms in jail, these Azam Khan like politicians are considered messiahs of various kinds by their communities. The politics of caste-based reservations is actually a convenient way of attracting supporters with very little effort. Entire generations may not benefit in any way from the quotas but as long as they believe they can, it is enough.

Such politics is obviously harmful as it damages the economy, diminishes productivity, causes enormous losses to the exchequer, negatively impacts social welfare and overall development. Unless people become aware of this, they will continue to be complicit in the corrupt political culture. And, ED raids are unlikely to make much of an impact on election results beyond a few days of embarrassment for the targeted politician.