Amar Singh is the symptom, let’s fix the disease first
The former Samajwadi Party leader personifies whatever is wrong with our politicians. But he is also the product of the unholy political circumstances created by our parties.
Mr Fixed, said one of the headlines on Amar Singh’s arrest. 'Mr Fixer Fixed' is what it implied. A short but apt description of the man and the occasion. "Right man in the right place," said the Left reacting to his being sent to Tihar jail.
Amar Singh, the high profile political manipulator, wheeler-dealer and survivor, evokes disgust and disrespect in equal measure. He was a high network individual with right, usable and disposable contacts everywhere—in politics and outside it—but no friends. And he enjoyed all the good things in life, a benefit, many felt, was grossly disproportionate to what he deserved. In many ways, he fit into the image of the evil politician in our movies – crude, clever, unscrupulous, opportunistic, and finally successful.
He personified all that we find wrong with our politicians.
But let’s not blame him too much. He was simply a product of a political system that seeks out manipulators to fix complex situations. In the grey world of everyday politics, he was a shade darker than others. There are people like him in all parties and there’s a bit of Amar Singh in every politician. His problem was he was too visible, too loud and towards the end, too indiscreet. Manipulators are supposed to be low-key people.
Is he a victim or the villain? It’s not easy to jump to a conclusion. Obviously, it was none of his problems if the UPA government was voted out in 2008. His relationship with the Congress top leadership has been strained in the best of the times. There’s no apparent reason why he should go to the extent of bribing BJP leaders to bail out the government and court trouble.
He was doing the bidding for someone else, under the circumstances, it has to be someone in the Congress. He could have been promised huge money in return or given the assurance of political rehabilitation. The allurement must have been interesting enough to make the wily Singh fall for it.
But there’s no reason to make him the lone scapegoat. His act was the result of the unprincipled politics of the day. Wind back to October 2008. The issue was the Civil Nuclear Bill. It was an international commitment that had to be honoured. The Left had broken ranks with the UPA and made its opposition to the bill clear. Its 60-plus members were crucial to the survival of the government.
The BJP, which had initiated the brilliant idea of the civil nuclear agreement with the US and sought to end the global nuclear apartheid against India, was happy to dump principles and forget the country’s international commitment, citing minor disagreements then. It saw greater political dividend in bringing down the government. It had no qualms in joining forces with bitter ideological adversary, the Left. It was bad politics at play from opposition parties then and nobody ended up looking better than the other.
Interestingly, no question has ever been asked about the circumstances leading up to the cash-for-vote scandal. In Karanataka, when the Yeddyurappa government was faced with a trust vote, there were allegations of horse trading. We, of course, know the controversial role played by the Speaker. But why blame the BJP or the then Karnataka Chief Minister if he tried to save the government, by whichever means?
One cannot be indifferent to the nasty politicking leading up to such crises. Since there’s no possibility of an honest solution to the situation, other means kick in. Amar Singhs of the world are creation of such circumstances.
The purpose here is not to defend the action of the UPA government or its Karanataka counterpart but to raise questions on the quality of our politics, especially coalition politics. In the cash-for-vote scandal the major parties—the Congress and the BJP—are equally culpable on grounds of principle.
Amar Singh is just a symptom of the disease afflicting our political class, not the disease itself. Arresting him or hating him is not a solution to the bigger issue. Fixers will be in demand so long as the political circumstances remain unstable and devoid of principles.
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