THE falling of 11 MPs into the trap laid by the web site CobraPost and some scribes posing as representatives of small manufacturers, and visuals of their accepting with apparent eagerness amounts varying between Rs 15,000 and Rs 1,10,000, shown on TV channels have come as a stunning shock even to those who by now are inured to the most outrageous actions connected with politicians. What passes one's comprehension is not so much the orgy of grab-as-grab-can allegedly indulged in by each of the MPs as the fact that they were so brazen as to erase from their minds the memory of similar sting operations conducted in the recent past in which the then BJP President, Mr Bangaru Lakshman, among others (2001), and Mr Dilip Singh Judeo (2003) were seen accepting large amounts, the latter with the pithy aphorism, "Money may not be God, but certainly not inferior to God!"

Such exposes show the political class in the poorest possible light, and bring India's democracy itself into contempt. And, yet, the common person sees little evidence of the stinking Augean stables being cleaned. The leaders of the various parties permit themselves some eloquent condemnatory invectives immediately after the episode, and then go about their business as usual. Those who shamelessly perpetrate such misdeeds are back in their beats, accepted in the inner party circles, and even put up as candidates in elections, taking advantage of the evanescent public memory.

The more intriguing aspect is that the excitement soon dies down with no news of any follow-up action by the political parties, the investigating and enforcement agencies or the Election Commission. In such cases, the least one expects is the prompt lodging of FIRs under the Prevention of Corruption Act and a relentless carrying out of the investigations so as to bring the culprits to book. Similarly, if the person caught red-handed is a politician or a legislator, he should be expelled from both the party and the legislature, and disqualified for life from contesting elections.

Whatever view one might take of the propriety or ethicality of stings, in general, they can at least be trusted to act as a check on such malignant tendencies for some time. May be, installing spy-cameras in all public offices will eventually be the most fool-proof, knave-proof deterrent against such evils.

B.S.Raghavan

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 14, 2005)
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