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Political gods of democracy

Political gods of democracy
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This is a sordid but juicy saga of hedonistic crony capitalism and buddy ‘babas’ which played out on India’s political theatre last week. With the...

New Age Babas fancy the trappings of power and status of our political Gods. They revel in playing footsie, or is it the other way around, with them. So on one hand we see the grand spectacle of Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s three-day World Culture Festival on 1000 acres of the Yamuna floodplains last weekend, which was a heady cocktail of administrative malfeasance and environmental violation and breach. The riverbed was flattened; VIP ramps and platoons bridges constructed by the army, temporary structures erected that too without permission of authorities. Succinctly, the Yamuna bed was vultured. But none stood up against this vandalism by the Guru-neta nexus, not even the courts

This is a sordid but juicy saga of hedonistic crony capitalism and buddy ‘babas’ which played out on India’s political theatre last week. With the winner taking it all!The tragedy of India is that today it has become a ‘democracy of concessions’ or ‘concessions of State power’. Bluntly, corrupt and venal politicians help cronies through the “politics of direct sale”, wherein tax payers money is squandered on friends by surreptitiously telling public sector banks to ‘loan’ people’s funds without verifying how the borrower will return the money.

Sadly, a surfeit of classic illustrations of the unholy nexus of crony capitalism abound. From the 2G spectrum scam, Adarsh Housing Society scandal, Coalgate to Mallyagate which exemplifies how he milked public sector banks of over Rs 9000 crores to set-up his defunct Kingfisher airline and is now ‘absconding’.

Most scandalously, not only did our rajnetas and bureaucrats willy-nilly bestow these favours but even got the CBI to change his “lookout notice” to enable him to leave the country. Worse, till date not only have the banks not sold the ‘King of Good Times’ shares pledged to recover their money but thanks to his political friends, Mallya has ensured the banks do no sell his collateral, thereby leaving the door open to stay afloat.

Today, though Mallya’s personal wealth is pegged at Rs 615 crore he only has Rs 9,150 in his bank account. It now emerges that the aam aadmi’s hard earned money was being used to support his hedonistic lifestyle in India and abroad. Recall, he had famed Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias to serenade him on his 60th razzmatazz celebrations at the Kingfisher villa in Goa.

Obviously, our netas had to condone his waywardness. After all hadn’t he lavished money on Hegde-Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal, purchased his Rajya Sabha MPship from the BJP besides financing many a politicos off-springs shaadis. Clearly, leaving one with a sneaky suspicion that they don’t want him back, lest he squeals their secrets. Sic.

Alas, today Mallya is not the only one. Recall, Union Highway Minister Gadhkari cruising on the Ruia’s of Essar fame yatch in the South of France recently. What to speak of others of his ilk using industrialists friends company jets and lavish homes for personal pleasure. Company accounts are fudged to feed the voracious appetite of their political and Governmental mistresses.

Also, bribing bureaucrats is de rigueur wherein instead of success being determined by the rule of law, a billionaire’s success is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to him by the Government. A powerful trickle down effect where the lowliest officials, bank managers and policemen expect their palms greased just to do their jobs.

The fiddle is in the process Crony capitalism operates at three different levels. First you get a Minister, babu, bank chairman/ director and officials to give you monies to ensure that you don’t have to put your own money. Thus, you borrow heavily from banks with very little of your own equity. So even if your venture sinks, it is the banks which lose money.

Two, one ensures that rivals do not get similar favours. Bluntly, you lobby not only for yourself, but also push against competitors. Lastly, in regulated industries like aviation, besides politicians one has to ‘manage’ ex-bureaucrats manning regulatory agencies, herein the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

Aware of the havoc wrought by crony capitalism, the Planning Commission in its 12th Plan document made a reference to how crony capitalism was dictating Government decisions and suggested “transparent measures” as the solution.Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan too came down heavily on crony capitalism which, he said, is killing transparency and competition, is harmful to free enterprise, opportunity and economic growth” by creating oligarchies that slows down growth.

Pertinently, this was dittoed by Ruchir Sharma in his book ‘Breakout Nations’ which emphasized that any country which produces too many billionaires, relative to its size, is in all likelihood off balance. He quantified this by adding, “If the average billionaire of a country has amassed too much wealth, not just billions but tens of billions….and can travel the country with no fear for their safety, the lack of balance can not only lead to stagnation but this genial state of affairs could change quickly.” His predictions it seems might have been reached.

This apart, our New Age Babas fancy the trappings of power and status of our political Gods. They revel in playing footsie, or is it the other way around, with them. So on one hand we see the grand spectacle of Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s three-day World Culture Festival on 1000 acres of the Yamuna floodplains last weekend, which was a heady cocktail of administrative malfeasance and environmental violation and breach.

The riverbed was flattened; VIP ramps and platoons bridges constructed by the army, temporary structures erected that too without permission of authorities. Succinctly, the Yamuna bed was vultured. But none stood up against this vandalism by the Guru-neta nexus, not even the courts.

The Delhi High Court pronounced the event an “ecological disaster” but refused to stop the unauthorised construction. While the National Green Tribunal merely slapped a fine of Rs 5 crore on the Guru’s Art of Living of which only Rs 25 lakh has been grudgingly paid. Despite the damage to the riverbed being pegged at over Rs 100 crore! Somebody would be crazy in the head to do so, in the face of cosmic synthesis between our political Gods and Babas.

This crony synergy between the Godmen and State is most evident in the way Baba Ramdev is treated. From being provided Z-plus security to having the State-owned Central Industrial Security Force guarding his business conglomerate Patanjali is symbolic of the creeping phenomenon of crony Babaism.

Shockingly, the Guru and Baba are the Hindutva Brigade’s nascent much-favoured and fawned sarkari Babas, read global brand ambassadors of India’s spiritual power. Who can forget that both Godmen mobilised their bhaktas for the now-forgotten anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare’s movement which saw the emergence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BJP’s Prime Minister Modi. As a reward the Saffron Sangh gave one Parliamentary seat in Delhi each to the Babas among a few others.

However, the duo are not the only ‘political’ swamis. For reasons best known to them, our netas love Godmen. Remember Indira Gandhi’s Dhirendra Brahmachari, Narasimha Rao’s Chandraswami et al. Indeed, we are overly blessed with a surfeit of ashrams, maths, deras along-with their cosmic cult spiritual masters who twist political authority for their Holy benefit.

Further, the crony Baba is not the traditional Raj Guru, who denotes moral authority nee Rajdharma. His Holiness’s refuse to get entangled in Dalits and women being allowed entry in to temples, instead they revel in all things spiritual encompassing citizens well being. The Holy Pretender trying to resurrect religious rituals in our increasingly globalised village.

More. These self-styled spiritual gurus acquire wealth and worldly baggage which needs protection from the law. This vulnerability nudges the Holy Baba into the unholy tentacles of crony netaism. What next? Clearly we need to put in place a clear and transparent regulatory framework and stop crony capitalism riding roughshod over bona fide businessman.

Calling for a halt to the hedonistic splurging of public wealth by Indian billionaires the Supreme Court has rapped the RBI on its knuckles and asked it to provide a list of defaulters who owe public sector banks over Rs 500 crores. All in all, time to halt these political-business-babas birds of feather flocking together to rule by wealth and rule by theft. How long will to continue to pay for the sins of crony capitalism and buddy Babaism? Who will God side?

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