Electoral merit of tainted leaders trumps clean politics

Politics is a classic example to show how unpleasant and unwanted incidents from rival camps cheer up the other parties. Take, for example, the Congress in Maharashtra. Their hopes started floating up soon after BJP decided to nominate Karnataka ex-CM B S Yeddyurappa from the Shimoga Lok Sabha (LS) seat, and join hands with the BSR Congress leader B S Sriramulu. While the ex-CM was indicted for profiteering from the mining scam in Karnataka, the latter is close to the Reddy brothers, who were allegedly involved in the scam.

Because of the involvement of these two faces, supporters of Suresh Kalmadi and Ashok Chavan, the two tainted faces in the Congress camp, believe the party can offer them LS tickets. Pune MP Kalmadi, currently on bail, is at the centre of the mega scam during the Commonwealth Games. If not him, Kalmadi wants the LS ticket for either his wife or daughter. Ex CM Ashok Chavan, who had to relinquish his post in November 2010, is not ready to accept any wrongdoing on his part while dealing with the controversial Adarsh housing society.

The question here is not of favouring A or B, but of the helplessness of political parties, who rely on electoral merits of candidates and ignore public perception at large. They conveniently forget their commitment towards a clean system and sending a message to wrongdoers. In the mad race for power, commitment to the public cause has been left behind. Most regrettably, big parties that should not face a dearth of good leaders have been supporting it.

BJP, being at the national scene for over three decades, could not expand its base beyond the Hindi heartland. Its presence is almost zero in south and north-east India. Even in Maharasthra, it is dependent on the Shiv Sena and has failed to grow beyond certain limitations. In Karnataka, it could not rely on anyone other than Yeddyurappa. Leaders such as Anantha Kumar have certain limitations and are happy at the centre; they won’t take up the challenge to strengthen the party base. Hence, BJP decided to induct B S Sriramulu, ignoring strong reservations of senior leaders such as Sushma Swaraj.

For Congressmen, particularly those concerned about the future of Suresh Kalmadi and Ashok Chavan, BJP’s decision in Karnataka is a reason to convince their party top bosses on political rehabilitation. They are keenly observing reactions on backing controversial or tainted leaders from the general public and the media. It won’t be surprising if the Congress decides to nominate either the leaders or their family members.

For, in these cases, the Congress simply doesn’t want to ignore the clout of the leaders — Kalmadi in Pune and Chavan in Nanded. And to win both the constituencies, it desperately wants their support. If the party doesn’t endorse them, local units may not support the party during elections. In Pune, known as the city of academicians and intelligentsia, Kalmadi is backed by a loyal group of supporters. If he’s ignored, they can work against the party.

While the Congress dithers on its decision, the state CM has informed the Public Accounts Committee that a case will be filed against Kalmadi over his failure to submit proofs of expenses during the Commonwealth Youth Games, within the time limit.

In the Marathwada region, Ashok Chavan’s bastion, the Congress is in disarray. In pursuit of retaining each and every Lok Sabha seat, the party doesn’t want to hurt Chavan, who has been indicted for quid pro quo by the two-member inquiry commission on Adarsh. Besides Adarsh, Chavan has also been accused of using paid news — the matter is pending with the Election Commission. Even then, the party cannot dare pick someone who is not a Chavan or his family member.

Congress’ first priority is to retain the Nanded and Latur seats, besides making concerted efforts to win Aurangabad, Jalna and Hingoli.

Whether it’s the Congress or the BJP, both are helpless before electoral merit. And both speak tirelessly against corruption in public life.

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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