Why does India worship its criminals?

Last Updated: Wed, Oct 08, 2014 18:52 hrs

The reaction to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's conviction defies logic. There's hardly a person around who doubts that Jaya was not involved in corruption in the 1990s. The raid on her residence in 1997 yielded 28 kgs of gold, 800 kgs of silver and more than 10,000 saris.

The marriage of her foster son was so ostentatious, that people remember it to this very day.

All this seems not to matter to the people of Tamil Nadu. When the news of her conviction came, 6 committed suicide and 10 died of heart attack. The whole State went berserk and one poster even threatened Kannadigas even though the case was merely transferred to Bengaluru and they had absolutely nothing to do with it.

This is not an aberration. Laloo Prasad Yadav became Chief Minister of Bihar in 1990, became a Fodder Scam accused in 1996 and was arrested in 1997. It didn't make any difference to the people of Bihar. He and his wife ruled for a whopping 15 years, till 2005.

Nobody doubted that a scam had taken place and that Laloo was guilty. He was convicted again in 2013 but is still not out of reckoning in State politics and JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar had absolutely no problem in getting together with a convict.

This even as development CMs like SM Krishna and N Chandrababu Naidu were kicked out after their first term.

More than a 100 chargesheeted politicians easily make it to the Lok Sabha. The problem is that the electorate are not in the dark and know very well about their leaders. While one may understand the "system is corrupt" and "all politicians are corrupt" attitude, why does the electorate shamelessly elect rapists and murderers? It totally defies logic.

We have become cynical of all politicians and the bar is set very low. We are OK if they are corrupt, communal, casteist and criminals.

We still like them if they happen to be from our caste, or if we like their personalities or if we think that we will benefit in any way from them. That's the case with Jaya. She has been around for decades and has become a larger than life figure.

More importantly, she was seen as taking Tamil Nadu to new heights. When lesser politicians can be forgiven for rape and murder, what is a little bit of corruption for such a great leader?

The second issue is that it's not just the politicians who are corrupt. They cannot be corrupt in vacuum. Politicians, bureaucrats, government officials and private contractors together to form the corruption pyramid.

Add the hundreds of people who feed on each and every politician and the employees of all the corrupt private entities and their families and you could have a number well into crores. In the case of Tamil Nadu, both the DMK and ADMK shower the electorate with gifts.

Can they be counted as bribes? Are all the people who get these bribes corrupt? If that is one way of looking at it, then their empathy with Jaya is quite understandable.

They must feel that Jaya has got a raw deal. Other CM convicts like Laloo and former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala are happily out on bail.

The Supreme Court's move to disqualify an MP or an MLA for 6 years on the date of conviction was a masterstroke. It squashed the loophole of a convicted politician appealing to higher and higher courts.

It was almost struck down by UPA2, but that was not to be. Now it will go a long way in ridding India of corrupt politicians. Before a convicted politician could drag a case for decades by which time his career would naturally come to an end.

Now by being disqualified for a period of 6 years, he or she will find it a tough task to continue calling the shots as one will not even be able to enter the Lok Sabha or any Assembly as a member.

It is doubtful that Jaya will be able to remote control the State till 2020. Even if the High Court ill overturn the conviction, it may take at least 2-3 years.

The courts have done their duty.

But now who will change the mind-set of the electorate which seems to love criminals!