For blood or money

There was a particularly bounteously placed functionary in the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra, today highly placed in New Delhi, who once called in a carpenter to make a concealed safe within a bedroom wall.

The carpenter was not too sure he had the skills to do so but this functionary insisted – there was no one he could trust more as the carpenter had been serving the residents of that area for years.

The carpenter was eventually persuaded and discovered he had done a very skilful and marvellous job, after all. You could hardly make out there was a safe there at all -and then the owner had placed a painting over the spot. So no one who did not know would, well, know.

But within days every body knew. How? The foolish functionary did not realise he was living in a Patrakar (journalist) Colony. The carpenter was so pleased at what he had accomplished that he wanted to repeat the feat and show off his new-found skill to all. He went from door to door ringing their bells and asking them if he could do a similar safe for them. “I’ll conceal it so well within the walls, no one will ever know.”

Well, in no time at all, the original safe owner also knew that now every body knew about his newly minted well-concealed safe – journalists as well as politicians; those in his party as well as in the opposition. I am not sure he was able to conceal much in that safe after that. His holier-than-thou attitude with regard to the corruption indulged in by the Congress in the 45 years that they had been continuously in power disappeared soon thereafter – without anybody in the Congress ever having to publicly bringing up the issue at all.

Now, once again, the BJP’s campaign against some genuine grievances of the people against the ruling party has taken a fresh blow with the Bombay High Court’s blistering remarks against then minister of state for urban development Raj Purohit for his allegedly favouring a series of builders in various orders he passed in the decade of the Nineties. Purohit, close to senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, is defiant. He has been named as the face that will lead the BJP’s campaign at next year’s municipal elections and refuses to step down. It will be interesting to see how much holier-than-thou the Sena-BJP can get against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party, admittedly far too involved with builders and their kickbacks than they should be, after this.

Something similar seems to have happened with the BJP in parliament, too. They have managed to compel the Congress to give in to their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the 2G scam but the manner in which Union Minister for Telecom Kapil Sibal put the party on the mat for their culpability in the matter might be a precursor of things to come. I noticed even Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was not too far behind in reminding Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj how badly they had behaved while in government and how badly they are behaving even today. To which Swaraj’s reply was illuminating.

“It is simple arithmetic that 2001 comes before 2004. You behaved badly in 2001 and we only followed suit.” She had a very smug and clever expression on her face as she said that and it sickened me no end for it just reminded me of the argument the BJP always advances about the 2002 Gujarat massacres. As though it is ok to kill a few thousand Muslims because the Congress had earlier presided over the massacres of a few thousand Sikhs! Perhaps neither the Congress nor the BJP has ever pondered over the fact that two wrongs can never make a right.

There is a very memorable ad about a detergent powder: bhala uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaisi (how is his shirt whiter than mine)? Now the Congress and the BJP seem to have turned this on its head: whose crime/massacre/riot/corruption is greater than mine!

Union Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, rather rattled that the media had gone to town about the government paying, in his stead, the Rs 10 lakh fine imposed on him by the Supreme Court for interfering with a police investigation, had ranted last week that we did not understand how politics worked.

“Politics is the only means to accomplish social work, to do something for the vast under-privileged masses of the country. The media only knows how to gauge the depth of a well by sitting at its edge and peering inside. If someone were to push them in, they will still be gauging its depth while drowning without even finding a way to climb back out. That’s not how you judge politicians. You must be a part of the system to fathom its drawbacks and compulsions understand how it works.”

I guess now every political party round the country – including the small ones like the Shiv Sena or the Jharkand Mukti Morcha (both of who incidentally have the same party symbol of the bow and arrow – has been part of the system. And by that I mean every body’s hand is tainted with either blood or money. As the Hindi idiom very well illustrates the point – iss hamaam mein sab nange hain (every one is naked in this bath)!

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