Saturday, August 20, 2011

Corrupt Politicians In India

India, which is the largest democracy in the world, has finally been spotted at the most corrupt nation, where corruption has been safe-guarded by parties in power for decades. It was disclosed when recent anti-corruption protest of activist Anna Hazare turned into "hazardous" for the ruling party in India as well as the corrupts bureaucracy and law enforcing agencies.

According to India Against Corruption [IAC], a citizen's movement to demand strong anti-corruption laws, bills were introduced several times since 1968 in Indian Parliament for formation of 'Lok Pal', which would combat corruption. But each of the times, such bills were almost unanimously, if not enthusiastically turned down by the members of the parliament. Since independence in 1948, India has been mostly ruled by Indian National Congress [INC], which is popularly known as Congress Party. Under the current bi-party political culture in India, INC is one of the two major political parties the other being Bharatiya Janata Party [Hindu Nationalist].

Founded in 1885 by members of the occultist movement Theosophical Society—Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Wacha, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Surendranath Banerjee, Monomohun Ghose, Mahadev Govind Ranade and William Wedderburn—the Indian National Congress became the leader of the Indian Independence Movement, with over 15 million members and over 70 million participants in its struggle against British rule in India. After independence in 1947, it became the nation's dominant political party, led by the Nehru-Gandhi family for the most part; major challenges for party leadership have only recently formed. In the 2009 general elections, the Congress emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha, with 205 of its candidates getting elected to the 543-member house. Consequently it, along with a coalition of allies called the United Progressive Alliance [UPA], was able to gain a majority and form the government. The history of the Indian National Congress falls into two distinct eras:
  • The pre-independence era, when the party was at the forefront of the struggle for independence and was instrumental in the whole of India;
  • The post-independence era, when the party has enjoyed a prominent place in Indian politics, ruling the country for 48 of the 60 years since independence in 1947.
In the pre-independence era, the Congress was divided in two groups, moderate and activist. The moderates were more educated and wanted to win people's faith to lead the nation to independence without bloodshed; the activists however wanted to follow a revolutionary path and make it a militant organization. The first serious challenge to Congress hegemony came in 1967 when a united opposition, under the banner of Samyukt Vidhayak Dal, won control over several states in the Hindi belt. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Nehru, and Congress president, was then challenged by the majority of the party leadership. The conflict led to a split, and Indira launched a separate INC. Initially this party was known as Congress (R), but it soon came to be generally known as the "New Congress". The official party became the Indian National Congress [Organization] led by Kamaraj. It was informally called the "Old Congress". As Indira Gandhi had control over the national state machinery, her faction was recognized as the true INC by the Election Commission of India, although her organization was the break-away group.

The split can in some ways be seen as a left-wing/right-wing division. Indira Gandhi wanted to use a populist agenda in order to mobilize popular support for the party. She raised slogans such as Garibi Hatao [Remove Poverty], and wanted to develop closer ties with the Soviet Union. The regional party elites, who formed the INC [O], stood for a more conservative agenda, and distrusted Soviet help. INC [O] later merged into the Janata Party.

Gradually, Indira Gandhi grew more authoritarian. Following allegations of electoral malpractice in the general elections, a court overturned Gandhi's victory in her parliamentary constituency in 1971 General Elections. Facing growing criticism and widespread demonstrations by opposition in the country, she proclaimed a state of National Emergency in 1975, imprisoned most of Opposition leaders, and unleashed a police state.
After she lifted the emergency in 1977, more Congress factions were formed, the one remaining loyal to Indira Gandhi being popularly known as Congress [I] with an 'I' for Indira. Congress [I] was routed in the general elections by the Janata Party, but the resulting coalition government fell apart in two years. The Congress party returned to power in the ensuing 1980 elections. In 1984 Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, in revenge for the disastrous Operation Blue Star. In the following days anti-Sikh riots broke out in Capital Delhi and elsewhere in which more than six thousand Sikhs were killed, [mostly in Delhi], allegedly by activists and leaders of the Congress Party. Afterward, former treasurer Sitaram Kesri took over the reins of the party and oversaw the Congress support to the United Front governments that ran from 1996 to 1998. During his tenure, several key leaders broke away from the party, and serious infighting broke out among those left. In 1998, Sonia Gandhi finally accepted the post of Congress President, in a move that may have saved the party from extinction.

After her election as party leader, a section of the party, which objected to the choice, broke away and formed the Nationalist Congress Party. The use of "Congress [I]" continues to denote the party run by Indira Gandhi's successors. There have been repeated attempts by the Indian nationalist groups [such as the Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP] to discredit Sonia Gandhi's leadership on the basis of her foreign origin—she is of Italian ethnicity.

Although the Congress expedited the downfall of the National Democratic Alliance [NDA] government in 1999 by promising an alternative, Sonia Gandhi's decision was followed by fresh elections and the Congress party's worst-ever tally in the lower house. The party spent the interval period forging alliances and overseeing changes in the state and central organizations to revive the party. It has had many electoral successes which led up to the formation of a Congress-led government in 2004. In the next general election in 2009 which made Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister once again, and Congress was the first party to get 206 seats during a coalition era of politics.

The biggest corruption scam in Indian politics was Bofors Scandal.

The Bofors scandal was a major corruption scandal in India in the 1980s. Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was simultaneously serving as the president of Congress [I], and his associates the late Win Chadha and Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi were accused of receiving kickbacks to help Bofors win a bid in 1986 to sell 155 mm field howitzers to the Indian Army. The scale of this corruption was far worse than any that India had seen before, and directly led to the defeat of Gandhi's ruling Congress party in the November 1989 general elections. It has been speculated that the scale of the scandal was to the tune of Rs. 400 million.
The case came to light during Vishwanath Pratap Singh's tenure as defence minister, and was revealed through investigative journalism by Chitra Subramaniam and N. Ram of the newspapers the Indian Express and The Hindu.

Ottavio Quattrocchi was accused as the middleman in the scandal because of his intimacy with Rajiv Gandhi and his Italian-born wife Sonia Gandhi. Ottavio Quattrocchi represented the petrochemicals firm Snamprogetti. Because of his connections with Gandhi family, Ottavio Quattrocchi emerged as a powerful broker in the 1980s between big businesses and the Indian government. While the case was being investigated, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 for an unrelated cause. In 1997, the Swiss banks released some 500 documents after years of legal battle and the Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI] filed a case against Quattrocchi, Win Chadha, also naming Rajiv Gandhi, the defense secretary S. K. Bhatnagar and a number of others. In the meantime, Win Chadha also died.

The very latest corruption allegation against Congress is known as 2G Spectrum Scam. The 2G spectrum scam in India involved the issue of 1232 licenses by the ruling Congress-led UPA alliance of the 2G spectrum to 85 companies including many new telecom companies with little or no experience in the telecom sector at a price set in the year 2001.

The scam involved allegations regarding the under pricing of the 2G spectrum by the Department of Telecommunications which resulted in a heavy loss to the exchequer, and the illegal manipulation of the spectrum allocation process to favour select companies The issue came to light after the auction of airwaves for 3G services which amounted to Indian Rupees 67,719 crore [US$15.1 billion] to the exchequer. A report submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General based on the money collected from 3G licenses estimated that the loss to the exchequer due to under pricing of the 2G spectrum was Indian Rupees 176,379 Crore [US$39.33 billion]. The scam came to public notice when the Supreme Court of India took Subramaniam Swamy's complaints on record [With Case type: Writ Petition [Civil], Case No:10, Year: 2011].
All the accused have been booked under sections 120-B [Sedition], 468 [Forgery for purpose of cheating], 471 [using as genuine a forged document or electronic record], 420 [cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property] and 109 [abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence, and where no express provision is made for its punishment] of the Indian Penal Code.

Dayanidhi Maran, former Union Cabinet Minister for Textiles : The main allegation revealed by Tehelka magazine and followed up in several other reports, is that Maran forced C Sivasankaran, owner of Aircel, to sell the telecom company to Maran's Malaysia-based friend T Ananda Krishnan in 2006. The reports allege that Maran deliberately delayed issuing spectrum licenses to Aircel's sister concern, Dishnet Wireless, when it was owned by Sivasankaran. He issued the licenses soon after it changed hands to Ananda Krishnan who owns Maxis.

P. Chidambaram, current Union Cabinet Minister for Home Affairs : Subramaniam Swamy states that when the 2G Spectrum rate was finalized, P.Chidambaram was the finance minister of India and he had a major role in deciding the spectrum price with A. Raja. Subramaniam alleges that Chidambaram had received kickbacks and undervalued the spectrum cost.