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Out of my mind: Business of politics

Sasikala has no political experience, no qualification other than being Jayalalitha’s home help.

Written by Meghnad Desai |
February 19, 2017 2:06:46 am
sasikala, sasikala jayalalithaa, tamil nadu, tn political crisis, aiadmk, aiadmk crisis, tamil nadu chief minister, india news, indian express news Before leaving for Bengaluru to surrender, Jayalalithaa visited the memorial of J Jayalalithaa and the Ramapuram residence of party founder M G Ramachandran. (Source: PTI Photo/File)

Lemmings are supposed to follow each other blindly and jump off a cliff. Indian politics seems full of lemmings. How otherwise could scores of grown up men and women agree to be held captive in some luxury hotel at Sasikala’s bidding? Have they no minds of their own, no self identity which revolts against such treatment? This is of course not peculiar to Tamil Nadu. Everywhere in India MLAs are captured and kept under control till whoever has grabbed them can produce them as proof of his or her strength. This has happened in every state at some time or another. The disease is inbred into the political system and is not particular to one state.

Surprisingly, it has not yet happened at the Centre but don’t hold your breath. Parliamentary behaviour at the Centre is getting worse than at state levels. One of these days, we will see a similar capture and sequestration of MPs to win some vote or other. The question is, why do people do it? The ostensible explanation is that they are loyal to the Leader. As it happened in the case of Tamil Nadu, they surrendered even before Sasikala was elected. What did she have to command their loyalty? More generally, why do people allow themselves to be captured?

The answer has to be the promise of corrupt gains. A leader such as Sasikala oozes corruption. Get behind her and you know you can happily loot without compunction. We know that once you enter a legislative chamber preferably on the ruling side, the political system is a license to print money. At each election, we know from just the declared assets, how large a return you can earn in politics. Indeed I would guess that apart from black money investments in drugs or jewellery, politics is the most lucrative activity. Political parties know this. We know that before allocating tickets, aspiring candidates are asked how much they can bring to the party coffers. They know that investing 20-odd crores to get a seat is peanuts compared to what you can make once you are in.

Principles have long been abandoned. Sasikala has no political experience, no qualification other than being Jayalalitha’s home help. But everyone knew that she was part of a mega corruption factory. Far from being a disqualification, that was her USP. Even after her conviction, she commands loyalty because who knows she could be out on appeal and back in business.

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Can we now hope that demonetisation and the new rules proposed by Arun Jaitley in the last Budget will make politics less profitable? Obviously the money you make as an MLA comes from helping businesses to get contracts, a large loan from a PSU bank or other favours. These favours are repaid in cash. If now cash so obtained cannot get into a bank account nor can it be spent on large transactions without disclosing identity, then it becomes difficult to engage in corruption. If in addition, political parties cannot receive large wads of cash, they will have to be more transparent. The benami bonds are a possible source of corruption but ultimately there would be information on the identity of the giver as purchaser of the bonds. If Modi can clean up politics, it would be the real Swachh Bharat.

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First published on: 19-02-2017 at 02:06:46 am
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