One common grain of thought in all this is how people of these States have shown to the world that corruption is no more going to be tolerated. Even if the Governments perform, corruption and nepotism can bring down governments.
Is it really the case? Have we as voters of this nation come around really to stop tolerating corruption and nepotism? Or is it just a hallucination or a convenient media-hyped hypothesis or pop-analysis in the absence of a full understanding of what these results mean?
It was interesting early on Friday morning, when the trends of the results had just started coming in, a senior BJP leader from Delhi, known for being a clean politician, expressed shock and dismay over the Tamil Nadu trends. It was showing that both the DMK and AIADMK coalitions were running neck to neck. The leader, a guest on one of the Hindi TV channels, said this was not a good sign for Indian democracy, as the people of Tamil Nadu don’t seem to have taken note of the massive corruption of the DMK leaders.
He left the studio, before trends changed and finally the landslide win for the Jayalalitha-led AIADMK became a reality. He surely must have later rejoiced and withdrawn his remarks or rather perception of the voters of Tamil Nadu.
In Kerala too, as the pendulum swung through the day, between the Left Democratic Front(LDF) and United Democratic Front(UDF), the discussion focused on how the LDF Chief Minister V.S.Achuthanandan with his strong stand against corruption almost managed to do the unthinkable in Kerala politics— retain power. But alas, the LDF lost by a whisker, and out went all those claims of Keralites voting for someone who took a firm stand against corruption.
On the other hand, in West Bengal, where real history was made, there were no serious issues of corruption. It was the “goonda raj” as the heroine of the election, Mamta Banerjee repeatedly reminded us, that she was fighting against and wanted to put an end to. And she did. It’s another matter that she has herself been charged with unleashing the Maoists and her own violent cadre and creating violence, by the Communists. Obviously her charges appealed more to the people of Bengal, than the counter-charges of the Communists.
In Assam, though there were charges of corruption against the lesser known ministers in the Tarun Gogoi government, it was commonly agreed that Gogoi’s own clean reputation pulled off his third victory in succession.
In Pondicherry, the issues that dominated the elections were never known to those outside the tiny former French colony, and it did not matter to the nation, who won or who lost.
So where was corruption actually a major issue among these five States? Tamil Nadu, of course. Here nepotism and corruption were inter-twined, and going by the results, it is the only thing which seems to have mattered. Jayalalitha’s bitter campaign against her bitter rival, Karunanidhi and his family members looting the State and the nation too, and filling the family coffers, found huge reasonance among the people.
It is another matter that the extent, to which Amma’s campaign had made inroads into the minds of the Tamil Nadu voter, had completely missed all political observers and pollsters, including this columnist. The Tamil voters, who had been pampered like nowhere else with cheap rice and ration, TV sets, houses and what not, by the DMK government in the last five years, felt no sense of gratitude and mercilessly voted against the incumbent. Apparently they were enraged with the nepotism and corruption of the Karunanidhi family.
Now was this vote really against corruption or/and nepotism? Is Jayalalalitha really the anti-thesis to corruption and nepotism? Do people of Tamil Nadu really believe that they have voted out a corrupt government and brought in a squeaky clean one? Is the memory of the voters of the State so short? All these questions inevitably have to be raised, though it may not sound politically correct in an atmosphere where the nation is rejoicing a major blow against the corrupt.
In fact, Jayalalitha’s past performance and behavior while in power twice, during 1991-96 and 2001-2006, does not really evoke confidence, though one can always hope for a change in her third stint. One however has to remember that the cases against her, for owning disproportionate assets worth Rs.66 crore is still to be decided and she may still have to appear in courts.
Certainly the voters also may not have forgotten the role of the adopted family of Jayalalitha, her friend Shashikala’s nephews and nieces and other close relatives, who dominated the decision making during those two terms, and now are certainly waiting in the wings to move in and occupy the positions and places vacated by the Karunanidhi family.
So the final question. Is Jayalalitha really the anti-thesis to corruption and nepotism? Or is she the synthesis of both! Have people really voted against corruption, or just replaced one corrupt regime with another? And in a larger context, are we as a nation really prepared to say no to corruption decisively, especially when the choice is between the devil and the deep sea?
Just a thought to ponder upon before ending— B.S.Yeddyurappa-led BJP Government in neighbouring Karnataka, won all the three by-elections on the same day. What is the message from those emphatic victories? That we are ready to take on those who indulge in corruption and nepotism and defeat them?