Dil ka darwaja khulla hai Raja,
Aath roj ki tu chutti leke aaja. [Main Khiladi Tu Anadi]
Madhu Koda. The Reddys. Yedurappa. Adarsh. Suresh Kalmadi. Telgi. Raja. As one swirls one’s spoon on the surface of the murky alphabet soup that is Indian politics, the letters arrange themselves for a while, floating on the surface. Wisps of smoke twirl up. Then with a whiff of blown air, the alphabets rearrange themselves, new names are formed, and the old ones vanish into the depths.
The tragedy of Indian corruption is not just its Dolly Bindra-n scale but the way each outrage is buried by increasingly bigger outrages. If today we wonder, in stunned silence, the “1 G 2G roji suno ji one two ka four four two ka one” telecom bandwidth allocation lafda which, with its number of zeroes, has surely made a case for using a log-scale to represent scam-amounts, most of us know that in an atmosphere of “karta hoon main woh jo tum bhi karo ji” it will be months, if not weeks, before this is eclipsed by something even bigger.
In the middle of this of course, we have had Bullah’s very own Rakhta Hoon Main Khulla Open Magazine’s carrying of the Nira Radia tapes, setting off a storm on the chatterati’s metal echo chamber otherwise known as Twitter. To those shocked by “Ek Rahein Eer Ek Rahein Veer” Sanghvi taking his talking points from a lobbyist and by “Ek Rahein Hum” Barkha acting as a go-in-between two political parties (which I honestly think isn’t that big a deal, compared to how Sanghvi has been caught “forming his opinions”, not that I don’t find her claim that she was “sourcing information” hilarious) all I can say is that welcome to the real world. If you thought that journalists were kurta-wearing bespectacled idealists fighting the system (like Sekhar Suman’s character in Tridev who dies and gets Sunny Deol’s hilarious send-off “Ek aur desh ke liye saheed ho gaye), as distinct for the system, you really do need to get out more. In the real world, there aren’t distinct islands ———-“press”, “politician”, “bureaucrat”, “police”; so if you get say “Oh my God how can the press do this”, then frankly you are Bullah’s brother (for those who havent seen Gunda, his name was Chutiya).
Remember there are just two classes in today’s India——a closed incestuous circle of “the empowered”, like the popular kids in school, comprising of politicians, bureaucrats, entertainment professionals, lobbyists, big business and top brass of the national press (I shouldn’t even say “today” with respect to the press, in his days Khushwant Singh was a kingmaker in his own right) . And then there is the rest of us, impotently outraged, secretly intimidated (which is why for most bravery is sprouting venom under anonymous monikers on the Net) and collectively suffering from amnesia wherein today’s villains become tomorrow’s heroes, with all sins being forgiven if those tainted “tender in their resignation”. Finally to those who feel they have lost faith in the Indian press after this incident (which honestly isn’t a big thing, unethical perhaps but definitely not illegal, since quid-pro-quo has not been proven) and the silence of certain news outlets, do read about the “Indian Paid News Scandal” which, honestly is a hundred, no make it thousand times, more damning for the Indian press. If you have never heard of it, I don’t blame you. The Indian press, by and large, have suppressed it. And for good reason. I would sweep it under the almirah too if I was them and I had the absolute power over information.
So for me, this press thing does not really bother me. Well a little. But spending time over it is like fretting over chipped paint on the wall when the house has been burnt down. The Radia tapes are merely a sidelight, a spicy one no doubt but one that has the potential to take away attention from the larger roadshow involving political expedient inaction from the PMO and the kind of economic holocaust that should really shake the Indian political system (and no this is not merely a Congress malaise as the Rappahs and the Ever Reddys show).
Except it wont. Because no matter how much the Net public fulminate and tweet, to the “real India” corruption is a non-issue. All that matters are caste, religion and personalities and corruption is considered to be a victimless crime. That is why faced with the possibility of a JPC, Pranab-Babu threatens mid-term elections because he would rather take his chances with the people. If I had a penny for every time a corrupt politician has said “All corruption charges against me are baseless and are the result of conspiracy. If I was guilty, I would not have won so-and-so elections. The people have rejected the falsehoods” I would have enough money as Madhu Koda.
There was a time though in the 80s when corruption mattered, at least at the center. Involving money that would be looked upon as a rounding-off error in today’s 2G scam, the Bofors scandal changed Indian history taking down Mr. Clean and his Knights of Camelot, in a turn-around no one could have foreseen when Rajiv Gandhi almost won all Parliamentary seats in 1984. The difference between the 80s and now is that in those days, the opposition had a charismatic personality to pit against Rajiv Gandhi (it’s another matter that that personality, we later found out, was more poisonous than the person he was trying to take down). Now Congress still has personalities like Sonia and Rahul. Polarizing them may be, engendering violent opposition and pathogenic love, they still are electoral gold. Personalities who can galvanize the base and can make the electorate unite above caste and religion. But the opposition i.e. the BJP today has none. None that can stand up to the larger-than-life Gods and take them on eyeball-to-eyeball.
Well they do have one. But like Lord Voldemort, his name may not be uttered.
And so my friends it will continue, one wave of corruption followed by yet another larger wave, raising the shock threshold every time. Fire up your rage within 140 characters. Try make it funny and pray for re-tweets. Cause, honestly, that’s really all you can do.