Posted on 26-03-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Indian MP’s are upset.  They are outraged…outraged…that anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and his team are publicly referring to the unsavory past of many of their brethren.  It was enough for these whiny crybabies to trot out the tired old favorite about the ever present “foreign hand” motivating Hazare’s crusade.  Unfortunately, Indian politicians have the credibility of Casablanca’s Captain Renault being shocked at gambling taking place in a casino.

 

 

I am not an Anna Hazare fan.  In my opinion he displays many autocratic anti-democratic tendencies, does not seem to understand the critical importance of institutional legitimacy in sustaining a democracy and all too easily allowed his anti-corruption crusade to devolve into a personality cult.  Yet he struck a chord for a reason.  In my last trip to India the increasing prosperity of the middle class was evident.  However, a permeating sense of lawlessness and lack of accountability for the political class was also evident.  India’s politicians have become real estate barons and mining executives.  They no longer bother to hide their rapid rise in wealth without any clear legitimate source for such riches.  Corruption scandals have become all too commonplace at all levels of government with the dollar amount of graft rising exponentially.  Hazare’s cherished Lok Pal bill may create another bloated over-powerful bureaucracy but at least represents an effort to deal with the problem.

India’s electorate does punish graft by repeatedly voting out incumbent governments at the state and the national level (unlike the United States incumbency is an electoral liability).  Unfortunately the losers can often count on being recycled back into power at the next round of general elections.  A case in point is the recent elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh.  Voters ejected the megalomaniacal  Chief Minister Mayawati who used government funds to erect statues of herself around the state.  They returned to power the Samajwadi Party whose new young leader Akhilesh Yadav (the son of a former Chief Minister) promised a break from his party’s past history of  thuggishness and hostility to modernity.  It took less than 24 hours following the election for the promises to ring hollow.  Samajwadi Party goons have resumed their old habits and Akhilesh Yadav’s cabinet is dotted with the shady characters of years past.

Ultimately nothing will change in India as long as the same batch of thugs is recycled through parliament and legislators.  India’s middle class does not help matters by throwing up its hands and not bothering to vote.  Also, while the Indian populace reviles the corruption of its leaders it is often too willing to see governmental regulations as a nuisance to be bypassed.

Breaking a culture of corruption is hard.  It took the assassination of a President for the United States to start paring back the spoils system at the federal level.  It took another century to break up many of the state and city party machines.  And after all that, corruption does flourish in vast sectors of American life.  Combating a culture of corruption will take time in India.  However, a good start would be for the buffoons in India’s parliament to stop pretending that they are models of probity.

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