Chasing shadows?

Here are a few sample questions that the JPC on 2G scam asked the CBI Director A.P.Singh on 24 July: Why did the CBI show lenience towards PM MSingh? Why was P Chidambaram not interrogated? Why did it believe in the innocence of Attorney General Vahnavati? Why was Dayanadhi Maran not arrested when Raja was for the same reasons? Why did the CBI not fully investigate the above persons’ role in the 2G scam? Pointed questions indeed, that have been lingering on the lips of every citizen for a long time. And the CBI head’s replies: ‘We did not know at that time’. ‘We did not have enough evidence’. ‘Our advice or action was based on so-and-so’s statement’. ‘We had no reason to suspect at that time’. ‘We believed …’. ‘ I dont know’. ‘it did not occur to us’. Aah, how much more twisted can official tongues get!

That the nation’s premier vigilance watchdog will only wag its tail to his master’s voice is no surprise. But the underlying quality and conduct of those in powerful posts, as reflected by the above ‘enquiry’ session is most revealing. Just as bad blood ruins the whole body, just as contaminated water is the root cause of all infections, just as toxic emissions foul up the entire air, callous and characterless persons holding responsible public offices run riot with the system. Really, scams and scamsters should no longer concern us. For, swatting the flies and counting the maladies make no sense when the cesspool itself remains full and fertile from fountainhead upward. From corruption to bad roads to uncleared garbage to inflation, all social and economic ailments are only symptomatic of a completely diseased, rather, deceased, core. It is not corrosion of the good, but total absence of anything good, and worse, the pervasion of the bad!

In this context, even Team Anna’s renewed activism looks a futile exercise. One can have differences with their methods and even the motives of some. For instance, the so-called Gandhian fasting is a suspect tool as it goes against the natural biological law. And it is ridiculous, even rude: Crowds coming to Jantar Mantar or some such chosen centre to fast in front of cameras looks silly and vulgar in the face of people going hungry as a routine in villages with nary a rallying cry and not an eye bothering to look at them! Again, many members do have bones if not skeletons in their closets. But none can deny that they have brought the fight against sleaze to a feverish national pitch. Anna’s movement is undoubtedly the best effort in recent times and comes from the best of the available lot. Indeed, it would be difficult to whip up this kind of frenzy in future. Its failure so far is a continuing national disaster.

Two distressing conclusions are obvious. First, whatever the convictions, commitment and common appeal of a good cause, it can be blunted and frustrated by a regime determined to brazen it out. The villainous trait of the vile is always more potent than the pious inclinations of samaritans. Also, while the bad are fighting for their self, the do-gooder is in the ring for a public cause. Selfishness is always a stronger adversary that can wear out an opponent’s frail public interest. The power of the State can bulldoze the will of any activist over time. Add the weapon of slander, as those in power are doing now against Anna & Co, and even the most diehard is likely to wilt. With a pliable media and a gullible public, their sheen at least will be shed for good. The path to Lokpal has been witness to such blatant stalling, stonewalling and sabotaging by the powerful.

This leads to the second disconcerting decision: Playing along. If you can’t fight them, fall in line with them for the sake of whatever nuggets of benefits that can be salvaged. Indeed, the last few polls have been an offshoot of this tendency. So-called spectacular electoral ‘changes’ have only led to status quo! Left, right and centre are but the parts of the same body politic. And the sum of those parts is staggering owing to the strict code of ‘Honour among thieves’. One corrupt politician is the best insurance for another. And with the common man having to shake hands with one or the many arms of the governmental octupus, the grease sticks to him too, despite his distaste for it! The cesspool is actually an ocean of filth!

The solution? We the people may be groping in the dark and dirt. But if the preoccupation of the blissfully self-serving political class in the last two months is a clue, they seem to have found a cure to all ills: Making Pranab the President! If there can be so much ado about a post that means nothing to the people, though everything for Pranab and his clan, surely our problems are only a step or two away from final resolution. May be pacifying Pawar’s personal power pangs is the penultimate thing. And the ultimate clincher of national deliverance? What else, but a larger role for Rahul, whatever that means!

Anna, Baba & Co and all the rest of us are tilting at windmills that aren’t even facing us. That’s more quixotic than even Quixote!

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Jawahar T R