20 YEARS BEHIND BIHAR
Tamil Nadu is miles ahead of Bihar in almost all human development indices. Be it literacy, mortality, or the scale of industrialisation, it is unquestionably one of the front-ranking states in the Union. Bihar continues to be a laggard, languishing most stubbornly near the bottom in successive decadal UN Human Development Index.
Yet, when it comes to the poverty of its politics, as the recent events in the state bear evidence, Tamil Nadu is at least twenty years behind Bihar. A simple housewife, Rabri Devi, found herself foisted as Chief Minister when her husband Lalu Yadav was made to step down following his conviction in the fodder scam. Twenty years later, in the Tamil Nadu version, Sasikala, the long-time companion of the demised Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, had virtually anointed herself successor, ready to take over the reins of the state until, mercifully, in the nick of time the Apex Court finally delivered its long-delayed order in the disproportionate assets case.
Sasikala spending time in jail in faraway Bengaluru, however, is no vindication of Indian democracy. For, in Edappadi Palaniswami, who took over as Chief Minister after putting paid to the incipient challenge of the perennial chair-warmer, O. Panneerselvam, she has got her own factotum who will do her bidding.
The convenient arrangement first tried in Bihar has had to be endorsed by the biped cattle who masquerade as the elected representatives of the people. Why should the MLAs behave as deaf and dumb slaves of Sasikala reveals the vice-like grip of money and muscle power in politics. As the boss of the Mannargudi mafia, Sasikala Natarajan controls the enormous illicit wealth amassed by Jayalalithaa. Indeed, it is only a matter of time before Sasikala arranges the succession of her own chosen heir Dinakaran, the disgraced nephew ejected out of the AIADMK by Jayalalithaa, but, upon her death, promptly appointed the boss of the party in her absence, as the next Chief Minister. Since the present incumbent, Palaniswami, subsists at the mercy of Sasikala, he has little option but to step down in favour of Dinakaran as and when Bengaluru jail’s Qaidi Number 9234 decides to affect the switchover. Handing the throne of Chennai from an outsider to a family insider is a cinch for this former video-library operator who is now the virtual ruler of Tamil Nadu, despite being confined to a tiny cell at the Central Jail in Bengaluru.
Even while making a generous allowance for the vagaries and imperfections of a democratic system, every now and then we are rudely reminded about the slavish mindset of our people, which alone explains why we continue to treat the so-called public servants as our masters. We seem to be internally programmed to worship all the wrong totems. The mai-baap culture permeates the collective psyche of the nation, though in Tamil Nadu thanks partly to the influence of the local cinema, the cult of the leader is so strong that he/she is virtually treated as a demigod.
Look at the photograph after the swearing-in of Palaniswami. The obligatory visit to the samadhi of Jayalalithaa reveals the new hierarchy, with the Chief Minister dutifully standing behind Dinakaran, as the latter offers flowers to a dead Jayalalithaa, who while alive had disdainfully kicked Dinakaran out of the AIADMK for bringing notoriety to her. Dinakaran was not only back in the AIADMK, but was its supreme boss, standing in for the corrupt and convicted aunt who was now cooling her heels in jail. He might well try to seek entry into the Assembly from the seat fallen vacant on Jayalalithaa’s death.
Of course, at one level you could argue that the wheels of justice grind but grind not only slowly but ever so selectively that for every Sasikala or a Chautala who is thrown in jail for corruption, there are a number of Mayawatis and Mulayams, Kamal Naths and Chidambarams, who go unpunished. In fact, the number of politicians who can stay out of jail should the justice system catch every corrupt leader can be virtually counted on one’s fingertips. Why even the newbie AAP is teeming with people who are raking it in big.
SAMAJWADI DNA CANNOT CHANGE
The country’s iconic IT services multinational was so frustrated by the strong-arm tactics of a Samajwadi leader that it decided to virtually shut down its Lucknow operations. It will divide the work handled by its Lucknow branch between new offices in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Having been first wooed by the Samajwadi leader to rent his building, the globally renowned IT major got fed up of the rough and ready tactics aimed at forcing it to repeatedly raise rent. After obliging a couple of times, when the company could no longer handle threats and pressure, instead of paying rent far in excess of the prevailing market rates, it felt it wise to move out. So much then for law and order and development under Akhilesh Yadav.
The diversionary charade of a mock fight between the father and son should not detract from the fact that essentially at its core the Samajwadi Party remains a criminal enterprise, teeming with bahubalis and corrupt elements. The latest to join the dubious roll of honour is a senior Samajwadi minister who is accused of involvement in a case of rape and murder of a young woman. A few days earlier, a sitting SP MLA, seeking re-election, was accused of rape and death of another young woman. In the first case, a court had to order the registration of an FIR, while in the second the victim’s family had named the SP legislator as an accused.
AND YOU SAID THEY WERE DIFFERENT?
Whether or not the AAP government in Delhi did any remarkable work in the last two years it has been in power, its ministers have made full use of taxpayers’ money to see the world. The CAG has questioned the foreign visits undertaken by AAP ministers on the flimsiest of excuses.
No one is more guilty in this regard than Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. He visited Athens, Finland, Sao Paulo, Rio De Janeiro, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, etc., in a span of 18 months. Often extending one- or two-day official visits—and calling them private—in order to take in more exotic destinations, Sisodia courted controversy last September when he chose to be abroad when Delhi was in the grip of a severe dengue epidemic.
Likewise, his other ministerial colleagues, including AAP MLAs, have been on foreign jaunts. Nothing surprising, but didn’t they claim they were different?