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Of scams, politicians and jails

May 25, 2011 16:43 IST

India has seen any number of cases where people were detained as if the judicial custody prior to trial was in itself adequate -- motions are gone through, cases allowed to fail in courts and then keep saying 'law will take its course', says Mahesh Vijapurkar.

A father, a mother, siblings visiting a person held in jail is not only permitted under the rules but normal. So important it is to some that people are known to bribe the jails to facilitate out-of-turn contacts with the jailed.

It would have been a touching scene had it not recently involved a defeated chief minister, M Karunanidhi who also cracked the whip in the party visiting a daughter who is a Member of Parliament, Kanimozhi, locked up after a chargesheet in a major scam. It takes an altogether different dimension. It also marks the lowest moment in public life in India in a long while.

It is not just a parent-child issue here. It is much more a disgrace because it involves people of the ilk who never think the state and the government were anything beyond being an extension of a family, and who think politics as a means to pelf. That kind of pelf, as mentioned in the 2G scam chargesheets and the CWG scandals, have only further empowered the politicians. Such is the power, the network and rewards that since they sabotaged a system, it was assumed that they would never be called to account for it.

A Wikileaks account of Dayanidhi Maran's conversations with the US diplomats is a sure giveaway of the realities. He was of the same party, and also the extended family.

Indian political class comprises of only such. More the Right to Information Act is used by the people who in the past were forced to remain mute spectators to the venality flooding public life, more we see such first families from the gram panchayats to the Indian government in New Delhi. The media revelations, also backed by the RTI as a means of verifiable information being used to suffuse the stories with facts, also underscored how this country is run by scamsters at all levels. They are either that, or they just turn a Nelson's eye because it is their god-given right to govern the country or parts of it. Here, unfortunately, rule, and rule by any means, is considered synonym with governance, the latter actually being a different kettle of fish.

Apart from the poignant aspect of a former CM meeting his MP daughter, breaking down in tears as some accounts have it, there is a sadder feature to it as well, played outside the Tihar Jail. A miffed Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam sent only a single representative to the United Progressive Alliance-II celebrations at the prime minister's home, indicating that it was disappointed in the lack of support from the government in getting out of the mess.

The prime minister and the Congress chief, as another account has it, were trying to be extra-nice to that representative at the celebrations. Apparently, it was a 'valued' ally, never mind the price. If the DMK's defeat has not been as resounding as it has been, perhaps even that lone representative would have been absent at the dinner, even out of the UPA-II, arm-twisting the misuse of the CBI.

Such attentiveness to a party which has at least two of its MPs in jail does not jell with the assertion that the UPA-II would now focus on governance which includes intolerance to corruption. One wonders if I am to read the body language of the hosts or the words. Even if I read the lips, it does not ring true; at best, it seems to be lip-service to a cause the people expect of the government. I wonder how long the rubber band would be stretched before it snaps. If and when it does, the establishment across the country would be hard-pressed to cope with.

When mulling over this, suddenly Gulam Nabi Azad, the Congress party's pointsman for Tamil Nadu springs up on the television news channel saying now "DMK knows Congress cannot do much about it." The natural inference is that there was an expectation of the Congress help bailout the DMK family. Fact of the matter is that it tried; it is not a coincidence that she was picked up by the CBI only after the Tamil Nadu polls were over. That was accommodating of CBI which does not add lustre to its presumed, if any, credibility. This CBI is an odd kind of a beast. Even when courts monitor a case, they can manage to thrown a case.

How politics and laws get intertwined is best exemplified by the reactions of two major political parties' reaction to the affidavit filed by Sanjay Bhatt in the Gujarat cases. The BJP -- as the television news networks headlined in their breaking news -- slammed Bhatt and the Congress called the BJP a party involved in genocide. The point is that it was a matter under the purview of the courts, the courts were engaged in it, so where was the need for the spokespersons to blare their views? It is as if they are trying to try the cases outside the courts simultaneously. Which, mildly put, is very sad.

All parties, regardless of what they say, have used CBI as a handmaiden. If only the present spate of arrests are not punitive, being pre-trial and meant to assuage strong public opinion. India has seen any number of cases where people were detained as if the judicial custody prior to trial was in itself adequate -- motions are gone through, cases allowed to fail in courts and then keep saying 'law will take its course'. In India, the law is sabotaged. Bal Thackeray has always proclaimed that he intervened in ensuring that Sanjay Dutt was freed on bail. At his behest the Maharashtra government did not press for it.

So where does all this take us? Anywhere beyond the headlines for the day, much verbal spouting by the talking heads on the nightly news, shibboleths by the politicians, and a lurking fear among the citizens that all this is only an elaborate drama? I wish it were not so. I cannot bet is it not a charade. Really.

Mahesh Vijapurkar is a Thane-based commentator on public affairs

Mahesh Vijapurkar