radication of corruption’ and ‘development’ were two of the major poll planks on which the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government rode to power in 2014. As the term of this government approaches its end, the PM finds himself surrounded by ‘needles of suspicion’, all pointing at him and his government, and the promises of ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ and ‘Achhe Din’ have become popular idioms to refer to their contrary. Although the PM and leaders of his party are still putting up a brave face and continue to train their guns at the Opposition combine, particularly the Congress and its sullied legacy, the counterattack has also sharpened and at least some barbs are finding their mark. If the PM and the Defence Minister had both shielded the Rafale deal from the animadversion of the Congress President by appearing to come clean on the matter, reports brought out by ‘The Hindu’ newspaper indicate otherwise. The newspaper has reported that critical provisions pertaining to penalties for deterring any corruption in the deal and the making of payments through an escrow account were dropped just days before an inter-governmental agreement was signed between the governments of France and India. The report also says the government appears to have kept from the Supreme Court all information pertaining to the ‘parallel negotiations’ that the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Security Adviser conducted in the deal. The government must, at least now, come clean about any wrongdoing on their part and take corrective measures if necessary. But instead it seems to be buying time solely with elections in mind. The BJP received an overwhelming mandate in Hindi India chiefly because people of this country were fed up of corruption at every level during the UPA governments. The social goods that common people were supposed to enjoy without hindrance were being delayed, denied, or diverted by a bureaucracy that worked only, if at all, when palms were greased. In instances, persons who paid the highest quantum of bribe were able to enjoy services, while those that could not manage to part with such ‘non-refundable’ sums had no other go but to forgo their rights. That was all meant to change with the Modi dispensation at the helm. But till date the measures adopted by the government have not borne the desired results or given reason for confidence as regards their efficacy. Indicators of corruption continue to emerge. The clean-up act may have swept dirt under the carpet in some cases but the rot remains albeit out of sight. Questions about Rafale will only hasten the rot unless they are addressed honestly as the lower rungs of bureaucracy can be expected to be only as clean as those that are sitting at the top. While there was a general perception that the top echelons of the current dispensation were clean, the image has suffered over a short period of time. The incumbent government had given the common Indian reason for hope that things could be different. But the difference is no longer palpable. Especially as no single person could be prosecuted from amongst the so-called corrupt from the UPA era. The hope for a corruption-free government oriented towards development has suffered a hit. It will take more than promises and manifestos to rebuild for any party or combine vying for power. This erosion of confidence on politicians and parties can only bode ill for Indian democracy in the coming months.
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