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

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The Anti-Corruption Crusade

There is reason to be despondent and not optimistic about the current anti-corruption campaign.

Corruption is neither a new phenomenon of the past few years nor has it been the preserve of the Congress Party. Allegations of corruption had emerged even prior to Independence on the formation of the Congress and Muslim League ministries in 1937 and it has been a constant companion of all parties ruling at the centre since 1947. Corruption has only grown bigger and its tentacles have burrowed deeper over the years. There have been two previous occasions when corruption came to dominate the national discourse, as defined by the media and the politically active sections of the population. The first time was in the mid-1970s, which climaxed in the JP movement, Emergency and the eventual unseating of the Congress from power. The second occasion was in the late 1980s, when the V P Singh-led campaign, though much weaker than the JP movement, did manage to overthrow the Congress government. Two decades later we find a similar upsurge on corruption.

On each of the previous two occasions, the culmination of the anti-corruption movement did not lead to a decrease in either its spread or intensity. What did happen on each of these junctures was that the electoral fronts of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in the 1970s and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) later – gained access to state power. That in itself should lead to some caution and introspection about the present anti-corruption upsurge. This, however, is not to deflect blame from the Congress which has been the haven of choice for the corrupt and criminal as it has had the longest stint in power. It is also not to tar all the three movements with the same brush; the JP movement remains a significant step in the democratisation of the Indian polity and united many popular struggles, while the V P Singh-led movement too was radical in its agenda. What this caution and call for introspection does is to alert us to the possibility that anti-corruption struggles, under their apparent progressive exterior may be a Trojan Horse for another, more dangerous form of politics, one which has contempt for the vote, mass politics, and democratic institutions.

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