Jaitley’s speech: The reality beyond the rhetoric

Bright speeches not enough. The political class must be the change it promises to bring. There’s no escape from corruption till the nature politics changes.

Akshaya Mishra August 24, 2011 18:06:44 IST
Jaitley’s speech: The reality beyond the rhetoric

"...I believe that this opportunity presents a historic challenge to us. Parliament is the ultimate law-making authority... movements outside Parliament are all intended to convey public opinion and the intensity of public opinion to us... That message coming to all of us could not be louder and clearer. That the country is expecting Parliament to perform its obligation and duty and take effective steps so we are able to substantially tackle the problem of corruption."

This was senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley during a debate in Parliament today.

He went on to add, "We must also have the honesty of purpose to analyse where we have gone wrong. There is erosion of credibility as far as governance is concerned. People are losing faith that normal mechanisms will be adequate to tackle the problem. So it is extremely important that we introspect honestly. We must truthfully accept the situation on the ground. We should raise the bar for accountability."

Jaitleys speech The reality beyond the rhetoric

AFP Photo

A hint of the statesman in Jaitley there. He goes beyond the usual rhetorical flourish to make serious points on the institution of Parliament — the values it is supposed to stand for, its meaning for the people, the obligations it has to the nation and its many failures. His statement could be in the limited context of the issue of the Lokpal Bill, but it applies to the general state of the august institution.

"Enormity of protests is proportionate to (public) anger...,’’ said Jaitley. "It’s time to clean up the House,’’ said another MP. Not many of the parliamentarians making snide remarks every now and then during the debate would have grasped the import of it.

There’s too much pent up fury outside — Anna’s movement is one big outlet, but it has been coming in dribs and drabs from all places of the country for sometime now in different forms — and it’s not wholly about corruption. It’s against the self-serving political class, its apathy, arrogance and its indifference to people it represents.

The connection might be a bit tenuous but it’s evident that the chasm between the common man and the leaders has gone wider in the post-liberalisation decades. Politics was always about power, pelf and privileges — though that sad joke "we are here to serve people’’ keeps doing the rounds — but the competition for all these have gone sharper with the economy opening up and throwing up more opportunities for making money. The stakes are much higher for the politicians and parties now.

The other obsessions of the leaders have alienated them from people and their issues. The death of ideology has helped the chasm grow. That more and more people are taking up cudgels on their own on issues, bypassing the politicians is a reminder to the trend.

The political class would serve the nation by being honest to itself. It could begin by admitting that politics is the wellspring of corruption. All parties have launched into a tirade over corruption in the wake of Anna’s movement. The irony is difficult to miss. It is akin to the devil quoting the scripture. What is conspicuously absent in the exercise is sincerity and what Jaitely calls "the honesty of purpose’’.

The BJP leader asks the government to introspect. Actually, it is time the whole political spectrum went into the introspective mode. The origin of political corruption lies in the funds the parties need to contest elections, run the respective organisations and keep workers satisfied financially. Why not make a legal arrangement for this? State funding of elections is not a bad idea. There should be a clean system of salaries for the party’s office-bearers at the lower levels too.

A dishonest politician has no moral authority to keep corrupt bureaucrats in check. The spiral of corruption then just gets bigger and bigger with other interests joining in. The change has to begin at the political level. Is there a will to do that? If there’s the will, the way must be found too.

Ranting against corruption does not help.

A Lokpal will not help reduce corruption without corresponding changes in other areas. It will only help the corrupt find more cunning ways to make money.

"The message coming to all of us could not be louder and clearer,’’ says Jaitley. Hope everybody has heard that. The next big popular movement could be directed at the political class itself.

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