- The subject matter is bound to sound like a cliché and worse still, like a stuck record, for most Indian citizens as cynicism, disbelief, and distrust are deeply entrenched when they hear about any political leader hitting the headlines commenting about public probity. Of course, there are few exceptions amongst the lot where one could still find a rare breed of exceptional leaders setting an example in probity. Yes, few honest politicians in the public sphere conduct themselves with absolute probity whenever they happen to be a part of the government or sitting in the opposition.
- Worryingly, such figures are increasingly becoming an exception rather than a norm. As such, the present generation should not be faulted for believing that there may not be any honest political figure amongst us left anymore even as we try to dish out examples of certain respected political luminaries of yore and present lot for their yeomen services in the growth of the nation. Unfortunately, as experience suggests, not a single day passes in the country when one or the other breaking news about the scams, nepotism, corruption charges, misuse of power, and highhandedness involving political class hits the headlines.
- All hell will break loose as the slugfest resumes when opposing political parties blame one another for vendetta and witch-hunt accusing of targeting innocents. Now, we have seen all this high-decibel drama playing out to create a histrionic situation to consolidate the vote bank and don moral uprightness in the eyes of the public. Of course, the discerning public knows all this recurring phenomenon too well and would care little to get immersed in the unfolding situation except by offering a cursory glance. Mind you, how brazen a political master can become after assuming power can be gauged by the recent reporting of the Jharkhand chief minister securing a mining lease for himself.
- This has landed him on a sticky wicket with the Election Commission asking to explain why he should not be disqualified. The CM is accused of violating section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, which disqualifies MPs/MLAs who enter contracts with the government for the execution of works or supply of goods, and the Constitution’s Article 191, which disqualifies MLAs holding an office of profit under the government. The CM says that he has now surrendered the lease and had transparently mentioned it was due for renewal in the 2019 election affidavit. Note that Jharkhand high court is also vetting the matter.
- Despite the above and irrespective of the eventual outcomes, the CM as a minister in charge of the department and granting himself a lease reeks of brazen conflict of interest. The Government of India’s Code of Conduct that applies to Union and state ministers specifically enjoins them to divest all interests in businesses primarily dependent on licenses, permits, quotas, leases, etc. received from the government. However, high-level corruption is tough to detect because netas depend on proxies like corporate groups, contractors, and benamis where paper trails are hard to establish.
- Thus, what will come out of the instant case is best left to the imagination of the discerning public. Yes, if the Election Commission disqualifies the incumbent CM on the charges mentioned, it will set a healthy precedent for unscrupulous elements from crossing the Lakshman Rekha of probity in public life.