Once politics is purged of honesty, morality, ethics and integrity then oligarchs, crony capitalists, corrupt, sycophants, self-seekers, middlemen, dalals and even mafia dons, freely enter the public arena, writes former IAS officer V.S.Pandey
Ours is a very vibrant democracy, with frequent elections or sudden startling changes of government-post elections- always happening. The toppling game , has almost become a norm and is played with such finesse that breaking news is always post facto , either after the boarding of a luxury bus for some 5 star destination by a group of MLAs or a chartered flight taking off to a distant state controlled by a friendly government. Then the cacophonous “latest breaking news” is the name of the luxurious five star retreat where the defectors regroup , mobbed by over enthusiastic media cameras hungry to capture a glimpse of those power-hungry faces who were totally unknown in the past-but are in the limelight over their Machiavellian machinations- which inspires even more of their ken to follow in their amoral footsteps. It seems ‘Aya ram and Gaya ram’ is embedded in the DNA of our politicians and is the accepted culture which has not been eliminated even by constitutional amendments or by the tenth schedule. The game goes on unabated, contemptuously eschewing ethics and morality . Even otherwise, our political land scape is totally devoid of even a semblance of principles or honesty .Neither have they ever become a part of the political narrative of any of our political outfits. It is a common belief that integrity and politics cannot go together meaning thereby that if one wants to enter the political arena, one has to junk honesty and integrity and learn to stoop as low as possible to succeed. The recent Maharashtra episode is one such sordid drama being played out, even dubbed the “dance of democracy” by some news channels and it is the unwritten promise of our political system that there will be many more such skillful lively dances in the future,
Once politics is purged of honesty, morality, ethics and integrity then oligarchs, crony capitalists, corrupt, sycophants, self-seekers, middlemen, dalals and even mafia dons, freely enter the public arena.
All this results in injustices, inequality , shrinking public space , increased intolerance and resultantly public interest giving way to private interests , though all the governments business is touted to be carried out in public interest only. The unfortunate part is that all this is watched silently by the scores of civil servants who have abstained and conveniently handed over the responsibility to the political class solely to enforce ethics and morality in public affairs. Our constitution makers gave all our public servants foolproof protection by enacting Article 311 in the constitution- so that they would remain subservient only to the constitution and safeguard public interest at all costs. Unfortunately that was not to be . The bureaucracy and particularly the members of the all India services , IAS and IPS , over a period of time have colored themselves with various hues and instead of safeguarding public interest have themselves become instruments in the hands of the political class- to be meekly used as per their sovereign wishes. This process of degeneration started way back in the seventies and has rapidly accelerated since then. The steel frame of Sardar Patel has become spineless , ever willing to prostrate when asked only to crawl. All the checks and balances provided in the constitution to enable the nation to truly become an egalitarian state governed by the rule of law only- has been rendered ineffective . Sadly, it has cravenly given way to rule by the whims and fancies of the ruling class.
To reverse this state of affairs and to bring back governance by rule of law, a comprehensive cleansing of the political system is necessary. Any call to the bureaucracy to standup and deliver will not be heeded. Bureaucracy has moved too far away from the stated goals for it to take a U-turn in the prevailing rotten political atmosphere. Any self cleansing exercise is bound to fail as was demonstrated by the two decade old experiment of identifying the three most corrupt IAS officers in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It produced exactly the opposite result- as the then Chief Minister happily chose to appoint the same two officers identified as most corrupt, through voting by their fraternity, as Chief Secretaries of the state. They had to be thrown out later by the apex court .
The time is exigent for right thinking people ,of requisite courage and integrity, to shun their apathy towards politics per se, enter the political process and defeat the nefarious elements who have currently captured the political landscape and are not only destroying public interest but also the social harmony of our country. In this context the view expressed by the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, are most apt . He said “If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake.”
Many right thinking people are averse to politics as they believe nothing will change and any effort made in this direction will be futile .They should heed Gandhiji’s advice – “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” Life has only one lesson to offer, act or perish.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)