Finally the powers that be have acted. Union telecom minister A. Raja was forced to resign from the cabinet late on Sunday night. It was, at best, a costly delay.
Raja, a nominee of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a partner in the ruling coalition, remained unrepentant till the end. He brushed aside all arguments about the huge notional losses incurred by the government due to his arbitrary licence allocation policy and contemptuously disregarded advice tendered by civil servants. In fact, more than ignoring such advice, its mere tendering attracted his ire. His hounding of Manju Madhavan, member, Telecom Commission, in 2007 and blatant overruling of telecom secretary D.S. Mathur’s opposition show what he was all about. Were it not for the inability of the Indian judicial system to punish politicians for administrative misdemeanours, Raja could well be labelled a corrupt politician. To merely label him an incompetent administrator would beggar belief. His call for letting the law take its own course adds insult to injury.
There are, however, larger forces at work here. Today the biggest promoters of corruption are the political parties operating in an expensive electoral system. That alone explains their cussed resistance to give up discretionary powers that vest in ministries to regulatory institutions. Here the case of Raja and his party, the DMK, is illustrative. The DMK is a regional party with a narrow linguistic and caste appeal. Rationally, such parties can be expected to corner ministries concerned with their interests. Rural development, poverty alleviation and other patronage-rich portfolios would fit well in their scheme. That trend has passed.
Today regional parties with a dozen odd members of Parliament want ministries that can fetch pelf, something essential to oil the electoral machinery. The complexion of the coalition, Left or Right, does not matter. Come what may, these parties get their way. These are the wages of a fractured political landscape.
This perversion of democracy is harming India even if it permits the appellation “democracy” in international settings. The fact is that today India is fast turning into a corrupt oligarchy with bleak economic and political prospects. Raja may have caused immense damage in the telecom sector, but don’t be surprised if he looks like an angel when bigger scams break out in the times to come.
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