Banality of Corruption

Today’s Prajavani (a major Kannada daily) writes about a businessman who contested recent MLA election in Karnataka as an independent candidate. Mr. G.A.Ramegowda, according to the news report, had been engaged in a lot of social service activities in his constituency for several years. Now that his electors did not vote for him and, according to him, ‘have sold their votes to other candidates who have given them cash for votes’, he is upset and has decided that he will stop all social service activities he had been doing such as providing free books to poor students, vocation training for ladies, free health insurance for families.

Prajavani writes this news as if it is funny. But this news really reflects the tragedy of our political system today. What the businessman was doing so far was NOT really social service. He was trying to bribe people for votes well before election. All that happened was that his opponents out-paid him! The tragedy is that neither himself nor the majority of voters really understood his work had always been a form of a bribery (for vote-buying).

During my election campaign, there were several voters who had come and asked me for goodies ‘neevu namage help madidare, naavu nimage help maduttivi’ (you help us, we will vote for you!) Mind you, not just slum-dwellers or very poor people who expected direct cash. I am talking about several people in Girinagar and other well-fed areas – whose children are earning handsome salaries or settled abroad. Many people wanted me to sponsor a building – or at least a ceiling fan – so that they can conduct their association meetings twice a month or so! Many middle-aged women belonging to ladies associations were also asking for such favours. Many others were hinting that, like Ravisubramanya (current MLA), I must donate large sums of money to their temples, mutts and their caste-based Sammelanas! Some of those people had told me that they had taken such favours over last 5 years from our current MLA – and thus felt obligated to show support for him. Several others were angry with him because he had promised to provide a favour and failed to deliver! Voting for a candidate for providing or rejecting to vote for not providing an indirect bribe are the two sides of the same corrupt coin.

This is the type of indirect bribe for votes that our politicians like Ravisubramanya – who are considered ‘relatively clean’ for BJP standards – will never be caught by our election vigilance officers. Ravisubramanya himself feels victimised – he once mentioned to me that the people who ask for these kind of favours from the politicians are the ones who are corrupting our politicians! While I have sympathies for his feeling, I have no sympathies for the fact that he let himself to be compromised like most other politicians today. This happening in a mostly-educated constituency like Basavanagudi shows the enormity of the challenge people like us, party like Loksatta, face in creating a new kind of politics in India.

As Dr.JP, Loksatta’s founder, often says, our politicians have an enormous burden in our society with the current way of doing politics. We must find a way to make ethical politics sustainable. Most of today’s politicians, JP says, when they realised they were incapable of making ‘ethical politics’ sustainable, have chosen to leave ‘ethics’ rather than leaving ‘politics’! We probably would do other way around.

We, all concerned citizens, have a responsibility to educate ourselves and our families about how our society reflects the concept of ‘banality of corruption’ (I use this phrase based on Hannah Arendt’s thesis of ‘Banality of Evil’). We, the younger and educated population, have higher share of this responsibility. We have an obligation to learn to re-build the moral fabric of our society and politics.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Good observations


  2. Very insightful Shanthala… Thanks for sharing.


  3. Posted by KD on May 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    A well said truth..
    Noticeable thing here is ” he once mentioned to me that the people who ask for these kind of favors from the politicians are the ones who are corrupting our politicians!”

    We should discourage the ppl from asking the favors..


  4. good article. what u have written here is correct. v have to change somehow or the other


  5. Posted by Sreehari on May 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Many people told me that if some one really come up with real ethics in politics then they support. I told about loksatta party introduced about Mr JP, every thing was fine they supported loksatta, End of the day they all voted for same old corrupt politicians. I asked for the reason they said that “who knows even this people get power in hand they will also get corrupted”. Iam expecting loksatta to concentrate more on improving trust levels.


  6. Posted by Darshan on May 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I article is well written. If I may, it is my opinion that for a “People’s Representative” to be in true sense become a “representative” he should stop being a leader. A leader only complicates matter in a democracy.

    I feel that your campaign was well intended but could sure use a dose of out of box thinking. For example, Every candidate believes that he/she is the solution for all problems and they know what is wrong and what is right. However I, personally, who goes about conducting a market survey to find out what their voters believe and want and that too well before elections.

    Another step could be organisation of frequent forums in the various parks on Saturday evenings and help get to know their neighbors better and give a chance for the candidate to know their voters and vice-versa.

    Your campaign was far more appreciable by many educated persons but an innovative approach could bring to your side many more wise persons. I thank you for kick starting this tide for change in our neighborhood. I congratulate you on your recent defeat (as that which does not destroy us only makes us stronger) and hope it becomes a stepping stone for reaching your ultimate goal.


  7. Posted by ASHOK urs on May 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Yes I perfectly agree with you, but some of our candidates are not good or polite to potential voters just because they are CLEAN. We have some thing to learn from our elected representative.



  8. Posted by Chetan on May 23, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    There are three kinda people in our society..
    one is UTTAMA , one who does service without expecting anything.
    second is MADHYAMA who does service expecting something,
    THIRD is ADHAMA who doesnt do any service but expects something.
    ,but worse than that is ADHAMA ADHAMA, whos is very dangerous .who doesnt do anything and all the time expects.


  9. Very unfortunate. However, there are some instances of good projects as well – Great Read!


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