Recent revelations of secret phone tapping and attempts to get call details of senior political leaders like Arun Jaitley are an eerie reminder of events that took place this very week 42 years ago, which led to the resignation of American President Richard Nixon. The voice-activated taping system that was installed in selected rooms in the White House around the middle of February in 1971 eventually gave birth to a term that would forever accompany corruption in high places. Named after an office building that headquartered the Democratic National Committee in Washington, Watergate became the rubicon for political morality in the US. The Articles of Impeachment in the case against Nixon stated that the charges against the President qualified as “high crimes and misdemeanors”, justifying impeachment.
As scam after scam engulfs the government and its administration in India, it begs the question, will there be a Watergate in India leading to a similar cleansing? Each day newer scams are unravelled till the scams themselves, not just the scamsters, become the news. So much muck is flying around that we don’t flinch any more. But there are two vital inquiries that as citizens of this country we have to make.
One, should a party so mired in shame and scandal have the prerogative now to decide the timing of the elections where the people of the country who have been looted and pillaged get a chance to cast their votes and express their opinion. Does a political class as discredited as the one we have deserve the right to say, “Do as you will, we have the divine right to rule till a certain date”.
Two, shouldn’t we drop the notion that frequent elections are wasteful and need to be avoided. For long we have been sold the scare that elections are expensive affairs and in a poor country like ours even a corrupt and bankrupt government should be endured for its full term. Perhaps not. Since taxpayer money is being swallowed by our politicians to satisfy their money-grubbing appetites, maybe it is not such a bad idea to actually allow frequent elections once a government loses its moral right to stay in power. And reward ourselves with better governance.
In this state of rottenness, it is useful to recall the memorable words of Oliver Cromwell in his speech given to the House of Commons on 20 April 1653, calling for the dissolution of the Long Parliament: “Have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!”