Chickens Come Home To Roost
The long arm of the law has at last caught up with RJD leader and Member of Parliament, Lalu Prasad Yadav. The verdict of the CBI-designated court, declaring Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav guilty in the fodder scam case (along with 44 others), following which the former Bihar Chief Minister was jailed in Ranchi, would be one of the few instances when politicians have been convicted for a scam. And, after Rahul Gandhi’s dramatic opposition to the government’s ordinance seeking to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling on immediate disqualification of convicted MPs and MLAs, Lalu is likely to become the first big casualty of the apex court’s ruling. This might seem to vindicate the notion that such a law is necessary to combat the criminalisation of politics. But it has taken 17 years for justice to be done. And given the present scenario, where corrupt politicians are mushrooming in the politics, it is not enough to merely convict the Bihar strongman. A massive campaign should be launched to punish corrupt politicians whose cases are pending in various courts for inexorably long periods. The special CBI court’s verdict in the fodder scam case has strengthened the common man’s belief that the judiciary is the saviour of the nation. From 1990 to 2005, Lalu Prasad Yadav and his party gave to Bihar the worst possible government. In fact, his government was popularly referred to as the “jungle raj”. It was governance at its worst. Bihar became a basket case even as politicians and bureaucrats exploited its wealth to feather their own nests. The state witnessed mis-governance, corruption, kidnaps, etc, under Lalu Prasad’s rule. The state has traditionally been very low on growth parameters, thanks to individuals like Lalu Prasad Yadav. But Lalu’s fall was as dramatic as his rise. By May 1997, the CBI had stated breathing down Lalu’s neck, which led to his arrest and removal from office in July of the same year. At that time there was no second in command in the party. His wife became the Chief Minister and a caste polarised state accepted her as the CM. However, in 2005, the electorate registered a severe jolt to this regime, but by then Lalu had moved to the Centre as a Union Minister. But finally law prevailed.
Though the verdict on Lalu Prasad Yadav is welcome, it is certainly inglorious in the sense that it took 17 long years to come to this stage due to a combination of factors including exploitation by Lalu Prasad of loopholes in judicial process that need to be urgently plugged, and political interference to suit the exigencies of the ruling party at various times. There is still a long way to go because Lalu Prasad can go in appeal to higher courts. The people of this land are fed up with these long overdrawn judicial processes, something that this poor country can ill afford. One hopes at least the next leg of the legal battle in Lalu Prasad’s case will be decided quickly enough, within a year or so, so that just punishment is meted out to all those convicted. One hopes for a quick disposal of the pending cases too leading to the recovery of people’s money that was looted by a few greedy politicians and bureaucrats. This must be a precedent for many other politicians who face similar charges. Also, it is so sad to note that the UPA government brought an ordinance to protect such corrupt persons. I beg to ask why the government has to act in such a way that the whole system smacks of cosy understanding, behind the door agreements, of unholy political alliances. This is the question that every Indian has. I think the government had no answers but to stage a cameo–Rahul Gandhi nonsensing the ordinance. So, it is not apt to say that it was Rahul Gandhi’s fulmination that brought an end to the ordinance on convicted netas. Prior to that President Pranab Mukherjee had clearly hinted his disapproval of the ordinance by calling three Union Ministers, asking them to explain to him the need and urgency of this ordinance. In my view, it was this signal from the President that prompted Rahul Gandhi to fulminate in public, in an effort to occupy the moral high ground. Now, we must ask the Prime Minister after his return from distant lands, as to why he and his cabinet keeps shielding corrupt and criminals. Furthermore, CBI, which is used like a tool to fight the political rivals of the ruling government, is the source of the delay. With credibility crisis in the ruling central government coupled with the recent ordinance fiasco, a renaissance is necessary for us to see the corruption free India we all dream of. Justice is one of the key pillars on which democracy rests. Elected representatives are drivers of parliamentary democracy. The perception that political leaders can get away with almost anything undermines people’s faith in democracy and its institutions. That the gap between publicly held beliefs and judicially attested convictions is narrowing is a healthy sign for democracy.