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Pul on Collective Conscience

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In the year gone by, the easternmost state of India, Arunachal Pradesh, unfailingly hit the headlines time and again, mostly for the wrong reasons. While the charade of democracy manifested itself as a vulgar dance of musical chairs of who commanded the so-called majority support in the assembly, the frequent change in the political equation showed that the democratic process had been entirely subverted.

It stands to reason that an electorate chooses party A over party B based on the ideology and principles it espouses. Since this principle was being subverted by the culture of defections, known as the politics of aaya ram gaya ram, Parliament in a commendable show of fortitude had passed the anti-defection law. But, this law, like any other law, was often circumvented. Arunachal Pradesh is a prime example of this, where almost the entire group of legislators shifted camp. When more than one contender believed he had the majority support of the honourable legislators and had not been invited to form the government, instead of waiting for a floor test, the matter was contested in courts of law, and judicial interventions actually saw the restoration of governments. This happened in Uttarakhand as well.

But, what makes the case of Arunachal Pradesh an eye-opener is the sheer number of times, in the space of a few months, that different persons occupied the chief minister’s chair or changed party affiliation. It was daylight murder of all democratic traditions. But, nobody had an inkling of the macabre details until former Chief Minister Kalikho Pul’s 60-page note was discovered along with his body in his official quarters. He had meticulously signed all the pages, and made explosive allegations of corruption at the highest level. Names, dates, amounts, and other details of financial corruption, especially to decide the chief minister’s post are dished out. Are these the mad rants of a lunatic, or the angst of a person sucked into the very vortex of the corrupt system that finally consumed him? What implications do the Pul notes have on the sensitive border state in particular, and the North East and the country at large?

For sure, the allegation about corruption within political parties does not cause much surprise, though the sheer magnitude of the sums involved is certainly amazing. But, the detailed allegation about corruption in the process of judicial verdicts is extremely damaging. It has the potential to not only subvert, but entirely destroy people’s faith in the judiciary, which is considered the last bastion of democracy. We cannot hope to hold aloft the principle of the moral superiority of the democratic state without an unblemished judiciary. Those on whom aspersions have been cast in Pul’s note occupy the highest echelons of the state, be it in the executive, the legislatures, both of the state and the centre, as well as the judiciary, right up to the Supreme Court. Obviously, this is a watershed moment for Indian democracy. It is important to either disprove the allegations or take corrective action. It simply cannot be ignored!

As it were, disturbing questions about the efficacy of policies meant for the North East are gaining ground. Were these actually designed to line pockets in Delhi? Tax benefits and subsidies meant to promote the economic development of the region have more often than not benefited groups with vested interests. There is a fine nexus that has been crafted between politicians, bureaucrats and suppliers. It is common knowledge that a percentage of any scheme sanctioned for the region has to be spent as “lubrication” and “speed” money in the corridors of power of the sanctioning authority. These transactions are usually in cash. How this cash gets generated is a whole other story.

Sanjeeb Kakoty

SHILLONG

Updated On : 19th May, 2017

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