Thursday, December 16, 2010

Morality vs political economy

Pratap Bhanu Mehta discusses the current political juncture of Indi and the present government. Many of his questions asked below is relevant in both reforming of structural and institutional point of view.

  • Can there be any greater denigration of the office when the prime minister does not appear to be in charge of government? The Congress president engages in similar abstractions when she speaks of our shrinking moral universe in the context of corruption. 
  • It is a strikingly resonant phrase. But the leader of the ruling party does not have the luxury of an academic discourse on corruption. The shrinking moral universe is not a fact of nature; it is a consequence of decisions taken by leaders. 
  • The second rhetorical trope in this repertoire is something to the effect that “we will get to the bottom of this”. This invitation to plumb dark depths is a clear obfuscation. It is inviting us to stare at a bottomless pit of investigations when the basic political questions are clear. Simply put, it is this. Did the prime minister and the cabinet endorse Raja’s actions? If they did, what was the rationale? If they did not, what did they do for two years to curb actions that they knew to be wrong? Answering these questions does not require an inquiry. It will take the prime minister no more than 10 minutes to set the record straight on these questions. The Congress is asking us to look into the depths because it does not want to look us in the eye. The third rhetorical tactic is an appeal to institutions. 
  • The opposition may well be playing brinkmanship when it comes to a JPC. But the simple fact is that the prime minister’s demeanour has consistently undermined the authority of Parliament. Even during the well-conducted previous session the prime minister barely spoke in Parliament; he refused to engage in any serious debate or any serious crisis, except the civilian nuclear liability bill. He refused to invest Parliament with the gravitas it deserves. The CVC, P.J. Thomas, may be entirely innocent. But the Congress cannot get away from the fact that it brazenly ignored the one mechanism we have for ensuring that constitutional offices have bipartisan credibility
  • The fourth element in this rhetorical strategy is to hide behind the poor — or worse still, allow other Congress leaders to flirt with the communal card. The Congress leadership has to get over the idea that just because it has promulgated a few schemes for the poor, it can be absolved of the larger structural crisis they have produced in the economy. Even within the terms of their own paradigm, how do they explain that a pro-poor government is now embedded in a nexus of regulatory arbitrariness that has benefited some corporations at the expense often of honest and genuine small business? What pro-poor policy can explain that it has become nearly impossible to be an honest businessman in this country? The Congress president is insulting the country by implicitly suggesting that the sense of moral crisis and betrayal large numbers of citizens feel is entirely a product of opposition politics. 
  • As for the prime minister: his worst failing may not be corruption, it may not even be standing idly by. His worst failing will be that by not coming clean he has undermined any reason to trust so-called good men

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