The Aam Aadmi Party’s national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has vowed to send all the corrupt politicians of Goa to jail if his party is voted to power. This is not the first time a political party has promised to hang the robbers of public exchequer. Kejriwal rode to power in Delhi promising to end corruption but two years down the line he has failed to deliver on his promise, barring action against some petty officials taking bribes. No politician or big officer has been sent to jail. Action against corruption of the ‘high and mighty’ has been limited to filing of FIRs against a few politicians, including Sheila Dikshit, the former chief minister of Delhi. With such uninspiring track record, voters in Goa might find it difficult to believe him when he promises hell for corrupt politicians and officers. His promise sounds no better or worse than the usual rhetoric of politicians against corruption. Fight against corruption is a plank every party has used to gain sympathy of voters. The BJP government in the state won using the plank in the 2012 Assembly elections. Voters perceived the then Congress government to be corrupt and they voted the BJP to power. However, corruption continued with the BJP in power – merrily and quietly as leading Congressmen raised no storm fearing raids to pull out more skeletons from their cupboards. What guarantee is there that the AAP would not be following in the footsteps of the BJP if it gets into power using anti-corruption as a tool?
History is witness that a party that sweeps elections on the anti-corruption plank fails to pursue the charges of corruption against the politicians and officers of the previous regime. Even when they do, it is more for smearing their faces black in the public eye than to take the prosecution to the point of conviction. Politicians in power have used complaints and charges of corruption against the politicians of the past governments to further their own ends by flattening opposition in their political constituencies, rather than ending corruption. Establishing a clean system by punishing corrupt politicians to present examples of deterrence is not their mission: their whole intention is to weaken and enfeeble the rival claimants in their political space. In actual fact, therefore, the pursuit of complaints and charges against ministers of the outgoing government has meant a pursuit of an absolute and everlasting reign in constituencies by stigmatising the rivals.
A recent data released by Transparency International has revealed that Goa was one among the six states in the country where no one has been convicted for corruption in the last 15 years. In 2012, the BJP raised a storm over Rs 35,000-crore mining scam under the Congress rule during 2007-12 and promised action but took no action during its rule. It brought up charges of corruption against former chief minister Digambar Kamat and former PWD minister Churchill Alemao in the Louise Berger bribery case, but the cases have done their job of denting their political image but are yet to be taken to legal conclusion. In the Goa Cricket Association scam, Dayanand Narvekar has been implicated. The fact that none of the cases filed by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has resulted in conviction of the accused in the last 15 years goes to show that cases were filed without carrying out proper investigation or were motivated.
A commission was set up to implement the Goa Public Men’s Corruption (Investigations and Inquiries) Act which was passed in 1988 to check corruption of politicians and officers, but several loopholes in the legislation reduced the commission to a recommendatory body which was incapable of ordering investigation against or trying the accused. Although the number of charges of corruption since the enactment of the act went on rising, the accused escaped conviction. The appointment of Lokayukta to deal with charges of corruption has resulted in at least preventing alleged corruption in beach cleaning contract, raising some hope among the people. Cases of corruption need to be thoroughly probed and taken to conclusion. A preliminary probe should be conducted before registering a case against a politician as allegations could be motivated and aimed to vilify him and bring him down in public esteem. Once investigators find a prima facie case, all evidence should be collected for seeking conviction. Where AAP does not differ from other parties is the total lack of a road map to revolutionise the anti-graft institutions. Kejriwal has not told us whether he is going to make ACB an autonomous organisation with specialist investigators. Nor has he told us how he will make the Lokayukta truly a terror for the villains among the high and mighty.