The fun and games are just beginning in two distant parts of the world. In one, the man in authority is raging at the opposition for initiating enquiries against him on various grounds. In the other, those ranged against the man in authority are berating him for pursuing inquiries against them for financial shenanigans. The common thread connecting all of them is politics and power.
Donald Trump is convinced there is a witch hunt on and he is the injured innocent as Democrats, whom he labels as the socialists from hell, attempt to probe everything — from Russian links to his election as US President, his tax returns and the considerable financial wrongdoing in his inner circle. In typical Trump style of Twitter-like brevity, he says his opponents are “going nuts.” Sounds familiar? He also terms it “Presidential harassment”, and all in all capital letters to stress his point, again very Trumpish.
In India, the boot is invariably on the other foot. Those in power pursue cases against those who were in the gaddi before them. Given the proclivity of the neta-babu-businessman-contractor nexus to prosper together, barely anyone can go through a political career without creaming off the treasury or being involved with hucksters who do the same thing in different ways with the political patronage they enjoy.
Those pursued take to legal recourse knowing the slowness of the system will save them for considerable periods of time while those in power are immune to being questioned by the system simply because they control it. And those who run it are never found brave enough to pose questions and note their strictures. But if they do, they would find themselves sidelined in punitive transfers or hedged in by parallel power points set up in the system.
The major dramas that we saw in the last couple of weeks with the CBI trying to interrogate the Kolkata Commissoner of Police and the kith and kin of netas being pushed to appear before central investigation agencies like the CBI and ED was, to say the least, political. But there is an underlying reason for the drama. This is to do with the reluctance of our netas to be accountable for anything they do while in office or the things their kin do to take advantage of their closeness to the seat of power.
The world over, the super-rich and the rich hate having to bow to laws and regulations governing business, trade, manufacture, property, etc. They are essentially anarchists who would like to be above the law and resent having to bow to regulators. They think nothing of the tax laws either as the Paradise Papers, the Panama Papers and various other tax havens dotting the globe readily testify.
Getting around laws to hide their wealth around the globe is more than a pastime for the rich. Making money and not paying tax on all of it is a lifetime’s doing, a trick handed down generations that is avidly picked up. Indians run a smarter racket called ‘benami’. There may be front men the world over but in India the benami is an ally who helps hide wealth and make the process so complicated that the system is just about showing the will to fight it. And it would take eons anyway to bring any action to a fruition as the courts may come in the way.
The super-rich also see themselves as globalists and above such things as nationality. When citizenships can be got just on the basis of wealth and the power to buy passports, very little can restrain them from becoming either non-resident Indians or citizens of other countries, as we have seen in many recent cases of Indian businessmen packing their bags and going away abroad after cheating Indian banks outright or owing money to them and being unable to repay because of failed businesses.
It is the aam aadmi who has a real stake in India. The rich need not feel the stake to the same extent because they can become NRIs, as we see in the case of many young industrialists finding nearby countries like Singapore has facilities that offer them comfort as well as freedom of operation. All that the aam aadmi expects from the government the basic amenities provided reliably— water, power, roads, connectivity, besides law & order so their everyday lives are not hampered. The lack of governance is most obvious in the inability of most governments to provide even the basic amenities like drinking water and constant electricity. It is the aam aadmi who gets the rough end of the stick in everything — be it money stolen in chit fund scams regarding which the West Bengal CM believes her top cop should not be investigated or in tycoons lamming it from India after hitting the public banks which, after all, is money that belongs to all of us. Money inevitably corrupts. It buys political power from the left and the right and all it does is perpetuate more wealth for the rich. No great social good comes out of those who make money by creaming off society or cheating the aam aadmi. Our inability to see this clearly adds to the Indian conundrum.
(R. Mohan is the resident editor of Tamil Nadu and Chennai editions of Deccan Chronicle)...