The representatives in a democracy are elected by the people and as they owe their position to the commoners they sign an invisible bond to work selflessly for their good. However, democracy too is flawed and is far from what we should have ideally. Therefore, the tainted, infected, from governance that we have is practically nothing short of oligarchy.
According to the World Bank Report, 1997, political corruption is the abuse of public power for illegitimate, usually secret and private benefits. Political corruption in democratic counties comes in various visages, each one being more grotesque than the other. Of them, the most common ones are patronage, bribery, graft, extortion, influence padding, embezzlement and nepotism. However, what constitute corruption differs depending on the country and its jurisdiction. For example, certain political funding practices that are legal in one country may be illegal in others.
If we try to analyze human history and the position of democracy in it, we notice that this is the second time we are experimenting with it. Earlier, it was prevalent in the Greco Roman period but due to an unfortunate combination of incompetent rulers and brazen political corruption, it met its end. This leaves us with the lesson that if our democracy is not taken care of then it might suffer a similar fate.
The major causes behind the emergence of corrupt politicians in any democracy are adverse government structures, concentration of powers in the hands of the decision makers who are practically not accountable to the people, lack of transparency in decision making, contempt for freedom of speech, lack of timely financial management, weak legal profession and most importantly imperfect electoral processes in India, these conditions are further aggravated by illiterate, apathetic and ignorant populace and communication gap resulting due to the one way flow of information for politicians to public via bureaucrats and not the other way round. Another very important factors is that our country does not posses even rudiments of a regulated system of campaign financing. Most party funds including campaign finances, therefore have to be secured through non-transparent channels, in so called ‘black’ money, from friendly corporate interests to though kickbacks secured on defence deals.
Corruption in the Indian political arena stared as early as in the pre-independence days it is very much evident from the outburst of Mahatma Gandhi against the rampant corruption in Congress ministries formed in six states in the year 137 under 1935 Act. After the establishment of democracy in post-independence we Indian dreamt of a Govt. which was by the people, of the people and for the people, but it got shattered in 1948 when the first case of corruption cropped up in independent India with the ‘Jeep Scandal’, a transaction concerting purchase of jeep for the Kashmir operation by the Army, was entered into, by V.K. Krishna Menon, the then High commissioner for India in Long, with a foreign firm without observing the normal procedure. Contrary to demand for enquiry as suggested by the Enquiry Committee led by Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, the then Govt. announced that the case was closed and soon Mr. Menon was inducted in the Nehru Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio. It continued in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the Mudgal case (1951). Mundra deals (1957-58), Malaviya-Sirajuddin scandal (1963) and Pratap Singh Kairon case (1963) where, in spite of these cases being launched against Congress and Chief Ministers, no one resigned. The trend continued in the 1980’s with the infamous V.P. Malhotra case, Fairfax deal, HBJ pipeline deal and HDW submarine deal. The 199’s saw the notorious Bofors deal, Rs. 2,500 crores Airbus A-320 deal with France involving kickbacks (1990). Harshad Mehta security scam (1992), Hawala Scam of 65 crore and the Urea scam (1996). The direct effect of political corruption on a democracy is that it mars the prerequisites of a people’s government like transparency, responsiveness, accountability, probity in public life, mutual understanding between the ruling and the opposition parties and good governance. It undermines democracy by flouting or even subverting formal processes in elections and legislative bodies. Thus corrupt politicians distort the representation in policy making the destroy democratic values like trust and tolerance. The corrupt politicians have also led to the gradual criminalization of politics. Thus political corruption is a multifaceted evils which gradually kills a system.
Coming to the solution for this problem one has to first concentrate on the roots and its process of growth before moving into its eradication. Since political corruption has spread at all levels, solution also has to be found in many levels. Firstly, judiciary would have to improve the equality of investigation and trail of cases and show a sense of urgency. Secondly, an open and transparent system of administration will be needed. Thirdly, the media and the intelligentsia will have to play an important and constructive role in it. Independent commissions against corruption like those present in Australia, Macau, Hong Kong would also serve as an effective check.
Our democracy is being affected by corrupt politicians and since politics relates to people, an effective measure to amend the corrupt in this realm is not possible without the initiative of the common man.