The last few weeks have been traumatic for politicians, with several of them being accused of impropriety in office. But if you heard out each political party—including the rapidly mainstreaming Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)—then there are clear degrees of impropriety. The implicit claim is that these are not necessarily culpable offences.

Of course, this depends upon who you are speaking to. For instance, if you heard out the various Congress spokespersons all over the television networks, then all of a sudden, the country’s oldest party, which otherwise was voted out of power with the taint of corruption in public office, wants to be known as the new anti-corruption crusader.

Similarly, if you spoke to the BJP, the impression you gather is that there are errors of omission and of commission—the first, according to them, is pardonable in select circumstances. And AAP would have us believe that all of this is nothing but a gigantic conspiracy against them.

What were these improprieties?

First, there was the sordid episode involving Jitender Singh Tomar, the law minister in the AAP government and his claims regarding his education qualifications—the law degree, which his detractors allege is fake, to be precise.

Second, there was the act of impropriety by Sushma Swaraj, senior member of the BJP and external affairs minister, in requesting the British authorities, weeks after she took charge in South Block, to help Lalit Modi (the much-reviled cricket administrator) to travel to Portugal to be with his ailing wife—and this despite him being wanted by the Enforcement Directorate of India.

Third, the surfacing of allegations against Vasundhra Raje, senior BJP member and the popular chief minister of Rajasthan, for secretly interceding on the behalf of Lalit Modi when he sought immigration to Britain in 2010. Later, fresh allegations were levelled that Lalit Modi had acquired stock in Raje’s son’s enterprise at an inflated price. The implicit allegation is that the assistance was a quid pro quo.

Fourth, the Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday found sufficient evidence to initiate an inquiry against Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh for allegedly amassing wealth disproportionate to the known sources of income while serving as Union minister of steel in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Typically, this is being claimed as a case of vendetta against a political rival.

There are two things common to all four examples: alleged impropriety in public office and reluctance to accept any collateral damage. Coincidentally, in all instances, their past seems to be catching up with them.

If you take a step back, then there is a clear inevitable pattern in play: the politicians have evolved a lexicon of impropriety that is in complete variance to that defined for an average citizen by the country’s legal redress system.

It was only recently that the Supreme Court nixed the ‘people’s court’ argument fostered by the likes of Lalu Prasad Yadav. According to this theory, even if a court convicts, but an election returns a victory, then the politician is above reproach. And of course, if you have established ‘secular’ credentials, then once again, you are entitled to a pass. (Of course, this is not to paint every politician with the same brush.)

This logic to us from the outside sounds ludicrous. Take Tomar for instance: a fake degree is exactly what it is. Or in the case of Swaraj, the defence is so unconvincing. Without taking away her brilliance as an MP or a minister, the action of helping someone (in whatever small way) when another arm of the government has declared him wanted is nothing but an act of impropriety. (It’s another thing that this may not have caused undue harm to the proceedings and the taint may have gone away with an immediate apology.)

In contrast, if as a regular citizen or aam aadmi as the new catch phrase goes, god forbid if you had to commit an infraction. Not only will the book be thrown at you, but you will probably spend the rest of your life running around various courts trying to extricate yourself.

Anil Padmanabhan is deputy managing editor of Mint and writes every week on the intersection of politics and economics. Comments are welcome at His Twitter handle is @capitalcalculus