has a well-developed market for public office
was a time when politics meant sacrifice and privation in
India. Even now, many politicians continue to be upright,
principled and public-spirited against heavy odds. But political
plunder is the norm today.
to news reports, two young men of Mumbai, both scions of political
families, have purchased a 4.8-acre property of Kohinoor Mills
in a competitive bidding process at an astronomical price
of Rs 421 crore. In a market economy, it is no sin to be wealthy.
As Deng Hsiao Ping said, it is glorious to be rich.
this transaction indicates two things. First, vast amount
of money is getting concentrated in political families. While
creative accounting may legitimise these resources, their
origin is linked to exercise of power and rent-seeking. Second,
politics has become big business. Most politicians no longer
need contributions for political activity and election expenditure.
Gone are the days when a party in power or a powerful politician
would telephone entrepreneurs, traders and license seekers,
and solicit funds for elections. Now, increasingly a class
of political entrepreneurs has taken over the establishment.
Vast amount of money is raised through political office and
control over levers of power. A part of this is invested
in elections, and in a no-holds-barred competition to gain
the marginal vote which ensures power, vast amounts of money
are spent for buying the vote, bribing officials, browbeating
opponents, bamboozling the public, and hiring musclemen and
mercenaries. Once they regain power, multiple returns are
assured. A vicious cycle of money power, electoral victory,
abuse of political office, and massive financial clout is
is how liquor business, transport, infrastructure projects,
procurement contracts, real estate, large public works, educational
enterprises - all of them are increasingly controlled by politicians
in private capacity. Gone are the days of licence raj when
wealth creators paid off politicians to obtain the right to
do business. Now politician is the entrepreneur in public
affairs as well as in private capacity.
the dismantling of the LPQ raj, political corruption is increasingly
driven to public procurement, transfers and postings of bureaucrats
for a price, and interference in crime investigation. For
long, there has been a well-developed market for public office
in India. Now this market envelops the political process and
elective office. With the failure of state in the core areas,
even policing and justice administration are now privatized
and huge sums of money are made by settling disputes and dispensing
rough and ready justice, using public office as
a shield. Clearly, this process distorts markets, undermines
public confidence in wealth creation, erodes rule of law,
sets horrible example to our young people, and retards economic
we stem this rot? Yes, but not through palliatives. We need
to transform our political culture and strengthen institutions
of state. Creating a system which allows the best and most
public-spirited to get elected and survive in power through
honest means, and overcoming institutional rigidities to allow
competent delivery are the two great challenges of today.
Will we wake up?