|NEW DELHI, INDIA:
Jain Hawala Case has so far put the
career of 24 politicians in Jam. So far India was famous for letting
off the politicians who were charged with accepting bribes. But the
recent case has shown that even politicians are not spared in India.
So far, 24 politicians have been charged
with being beneficiaries of 65crore in bribes and gifts from businessman
and alleged influence-peddler Surendra Kumar Jain who, unfortunately for
the recipients, kept a diary.
The accused include seven serving Cabinet
ministers, all of whom have resigned; the president of the leading
opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, who gave up his parliamentary seat; and
the chief minister of the local government in New Delhi, who also quit.
The broad political gamut of the suspects
-- from honored stalwarts of the ruling Congress (I) party to the
conservative BJP and leftist Janata Dal -only buttresses the scornful
verdict many Indians have of those who govern them: Sab chor hain.
While corruption in India is as ancient
and solidly grounded as the Taj Mahal or Qutab Minar, this sordid episode
marks the first time in independent India's nearly 50-year existence that
members of the government or parliament have been charged or hauled into
court for alleged criminal acts.
"It is like a cyclonic storm in
INDIA'S politics" says one delhi resident.
The hawala, or illegal foreign exchange
affair, has captured headlines and the public agenda as India prepares for
a general election, expected in April. Most immediately, many pundits say,
the scandal may have boosted Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, though he
also has been implicated.
Rao's increased chances for a second term
will be good news for Western investors and corporations, since it was the
southern Brahmin and his finance minister Dr.Manmohan Singh who scrapped
India's socialist ideology and launched free market reforms in 1991, when
India was on the verge of mortgaging its gold by the previous finance
minister Yashwant Sinha in the Chandrasekhar government.
In a wider sense, however, the daily diet
of shocking headlines is a wake-up call that the self-sacrifice and
abiding sense of dharma, or duty, that distinguished many Indian leaders
during the anti-colonial struggle and post-independence politics are in
danger of being smothered under a mountain of rupee notes.
"My regret," laments Atal
Behari Vajpayee, the BJP's parliamentary leader, "is that politics
has become more of a business than a mission."
In 1993, without offering any independent
corroboration, stockbroker Harshad Mehta claimed he had handed Rao a
suitcase worth 1 crore rupees at his official residence. Other scandals
followed: government purchases of sugar and locomotives; bidding for state
telecommunications rights, a 2 crore rupees dollar loan to Rao's youngest
son; and Rao's own alleged involvement as foreign minister in a 1989
forgery designed to smear a challenger to Rajiv Gandhi.
Early this year, however, the ground
unexpectedly shifted. The seeds of change were sown as long as 2-1/2 years
ago, when the Supreme Court, which had been the epitome of India's
politically obedient judiciary, began showing new independence. Public
resentment and pressure to act against graft were also mounting, and may
have tipped the scales.
"If you want to build a house, get a
phone connection, ration card, driving license, electricity connection,
addmision in school or colleges, without bribery nothing moves these
days in India".
The Jain Hawala Case has shown that
corruption has now taken the front seat in India.