ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

Events are unfolding at an extremely fast pace. It is at this moment difficult to guess how India's ruling superstructure is going to crumble, or whether it is going to crumble at all. For there is hardly any scope for illusion. Irrespective of the particular corner of the political spectrum you decide to depend upon, the story is the same. Do we then wait for the Waiting-For-Godot principle? Rather, should not the wait be for a milieu where Godotdisbelievers have come to the fore?

Decades ago, a Hollywood film made waves. The plot revolved around the theme how a philandering husband could still save his marriage. The technique he pursued was simple and straightforward; even if he was caught flagrante, the husband would pretend that the wife was experiencing a hallucination; why, there was no second woman in the room, it was all in the wife’s imagination. When this ploy was repeated a number of times and, on each occasion, the husband was nonchalant even when caught mooching one young woman after another, the wife finally had a nervous breakdown and increased the frequency of her visits to the family shrink.

The goings-on in New Delhi resembled closely, at least initially, that Hollywood comedy version. The veracity of the videotapes could not be denied. The trap was admittedly laid in the name of a fictitious company. That the company was bogus did not however obliterate the reality that ruling politicians, ministers and civil servants are open to tempting offers from middlemen, they accept bribes and candidly discuss the price for swinging a particular contract. Politicians caught with their pants down tried to brazen it out in the beginning, much in the manner of the philandering husband in that film: who, what, when, you must be dreaming, our hands are absolutely clean. But the tension was explosive, and they soon capitulated. The spin-off of a spate of resignations is bound to be far-reaching. If the genuineness of the evidence furnished by the videotapes is to be accepted in some instances, it must be accepted in the other instances as well. To illustrate, if a middleman lets out the secret that some ministers, when bribed, will deliver one hundred per cent, while a few other ministers will deliver only to the extent of 70 per cent, the credibility of such a claim will be difficult to contest. In other words, one minister, while accepting a cut of 10 per cent, will arrange to award a contract worth 100 crore of rupees, another one will award a barat of only up to Rs 70 crore; the amount of the bribe will remain the same though in the two instances. Bribe-taking on the part of ministers is to be accepted as a universal datum, even when some fulfil one hundred per cent of the commitment while others do so only to the extent of 70 per cent. But, then, things have come to such a pass that a minister who satisfies only up to 70 per cent will have the audacity to suggest that he or she is actually one hundred per cent non-corrupt and a paragon of virtue, in stark contrast to that wretch of a minister who delivers up to one hundred per cent and therefore is corrupt through and through.

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