Corruption scandal hits Indian opposition | Asia Pacific

Corruption scandal hits Indian opposition

Corruption scandal hits Indian opposition

Posted 17 October 2011, 21:21 AEST

India's opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has suffered a major setback, with one of its political stars arrested on corruption charges.

The former chief minister of Karnataka state, B.S. Yeddyurappa

The arrest is particularly embarrassing, coming just days after BJP leader LK Advani embarked on a five-week anti-corruption road show.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: B.G. Verghese, newspaper columnist and visiting professor, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

VERGHESE: Well, I think the road show was abit of a humbug, purely politically-motivated, to try and gain some mileage out of the embarassment of the Congress (party) and various charges of scams that they're facing and taking advantage of the fact that the Congress is facing some embarrassment and flak because of various charges of corruption and other scandals that under investigation. They thought this would be a good time to launch a .. (road show) on the eve of five state general elections to take place early next year. But then, the embarassment that the Chief Minister was already under heavy pressure to quit, following the report of an Ombudsman, former Supreme Court judge, on various charges of having connived with his ministerial colleagues and buddies, to give away illegal mining leases and get some money for his own family and so on.

LAM: But do you think the Yeddyurappa case highlights how corruption is endemic across INdia and across political parties?

VERGHESE: Well, across political parties, it certainly is. It may be exaggerated in some ways. Every politician, every government is not corrupt, but there's enough of it, to arouse a great deal of public anger and concern and also within government, that something has to be done to root this out, by taking more stringent action.

LAM: And India was mesmerised over the summer by the socialist activist Anna Hazare, so what is the current state of the anti-graft movement, do you think.. Do you think it still resonates across India?

VERGHESE: I think irrespective of Anna Hazare's movement, which I think also has its own set of problems and it's received a great deal of excessive magnification and coverage by the media in a rather subjective fashion. I think the point is that the government was already moving to take action, it was in slow motion. May be this has accelerated this slightly but when you don't have a complete majority in parliament and you have to carry your allies with you, and you have a minority in the UPper House, you have to negotiate. And everyone demands their pound of flesh.

LAM: The Congress-led administration may take some comfort in the current embarassment that the BJP faces, but from your viewpoint, how much political will is there, in the current Congress-led government in cracking down on corruption, in fighting corruption?

VERGHESE: I think the will is there. Certainly the Prime Minister and senior colleagues and senior people in the party realise that things have been allowed to drift and they need to crack down more harder, more harshly on anyone and give wider powers to the investigating agencies and the regulatory authorities, so that matters can be nipped in the bud quite early on.
But as I say, unfortunately, the issue has been politicised to a point, that everything is seen through the lens of politics and the next elections or by-elections, or whatever. And that has led to a certain distortion and a media hype.

LAM: What do you think should be the government's first point of business, if it's serious in cracking down on corruption?

VERGHESE: Well, it's got to go ahead with all the legislations that it has on the anvil that's promised. One of the roots, one of the major roots corruption is the election process.. because elections cost a lot of money, therefore people get funding from most of the dubious sources, for elections and they need to recover that money. And then that's more money for the next round and I think that problem has to be attacked. Then police reform, judicial reforms, all this, the judicial processes need to be speeded up. So there's a whole web of action that needs to be taken. I think all these issues are now onboard and they're moving forward, amid the general sense of anger in the country and the realisation that you may have money but you'll still lose elections unless you pull your socks up.

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