Dear politician, your greed should not cost my greed

A crore is still big money but it does not inspire awe anymore. The new economy, for better or for worse, has taken the sheen off the big numbers. With the billion as a subject of routine conversation, the crore does not stand a chance. The crorepati is the new lakhpati. And it does not surprise when ministers turn out to be crorepatis.

What surprises is how the crores jump several folds within a brief span of time, particularly when the politicians are in power or in a position to leverage their influence. There's no clear explanation for it from the men in question. That is when suspicion creeps in and the question of honesty starts doing the rounds.

The astounding jump in Jagan Mohan Reddy's assets – he is the son of late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Reddy and an MP — in five years is a case in point. Between 2004 and 2009 his wealth shot up from a measly Rs 11 lakh to a staggering Rs 374 crore. The Income Tax department says his personal wealth registered a 1,200 percent jump in the first six months (April-September) last year. There has been no explanation on the geometric progression in growth of his assets from Jagan Mohan as yet.

According to a report in The Times of India, at least 77 percent of the ministers in the Union Council of Ministers are crorepatis with average asset value of Rs 10.3 crore. Given so many industrialists and entrepreneurs among our ministers the numbers do not shock. But what is intriguing is the fact that their average asset value of the ministers has gone up by Rs 3 crore in just two years. This is when 15 ministers have shown a dip in their assets over 2009.

Obviously, something does not wash. No wonder, there's a swirl of corruption charges around our ministers these days. But our politicians and their unaccounted-for money are old hat. It is a welcome development that they are increasingly coming under scrutiny.

Let's place it in the broader framework of the dynamics of the liberalized economy, their impact on the society and the present unrest in country. Politicians are not the only people who have made money in all these years. The rich and those with the potential to be rich have exploited the opportunities to get richer. The rarefied world of millionaires and billionaires has been breached by new challengers. There's a more prosperous middle class. It's not a negative development at all. But there are logical consequences to it.

 Dear politician, your greed should not cost my greed

Your greed cannot be at the cost of our greed, the lakhs of middle class supporters of the Anna movement seemed to convey. AFP

Liberalization is a complex beast. It unleashes productive potential, lets loose bottled up individual and collective energy and creates opportunities hitherto unavailable. But it also unchains forces of disharmony in the societyscape. It creates disparity – in economy and and society as well. That the nation is in a churn right now and that so much of it has to do with matters money are a consequence of 20 years of liberalization.

It is a positive sign. Some introspection and course correction was long overdue. That land owners and farmers are seeking better dues and so many questions are being asked on corruption are indication that people everywhere are aware of the centrality of money in their lives. They do not want to lose out when others are benefiting.

The 'greed is good' credo of the new economy is not so bad after all.

How do politicians and their money fit in here? Well, the society at large is not against making money but it wants accountability, fair play and a level playing field. Corruption distorts the game and makes it unequal. Politicians enjoy too much power and too much influence to manipulate things in their favour or in the favour of their cronies.

They along with the bureaucrats operate in an opaque world. The Anna Hazare movement to a big extent was aimed at breaking open the doors of that secretive world and bring about accountability. The message: make your crores but show us the sources and show us that it is not illegitimate.

Your greed cannot be at the cost of our greed, the lakhs of middle class supporters of the Anna movement seemed to convey. That Anna, a simple man with innocent convictions and an honest approach, was the symbol they rallied around, spoke a lot about their desires and expectations.

That the politicians would be the perennial target of uncomfortable questions is obvious. They are more visible than the others in the crorepati club and they receive their mandate from people unlike the corporate big guns and others. They seem to be making money the easy way, unlike others.

Liberalisation makes money-making legitimate but does not approve of easy ways of doing it. Hope the crorepati politicians realise it.

 

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Updated Date: Sep 16, 2011 16:22:24 IST