16 Mar 2023  |   04:52am IST

“Mitr Kaal”… for political clout!

Peter Fernandes

Humans by nature are political beings, and politics exists for the common good. Truth and justice ought to be weighed objectively to be the guiding forces in politics to promote the common good. For this reason, the elected representatives are entrusted with the common will Humans desire to live in a society with peace flowing from truth and justice for the good and wellbeing of all people. Political ethics lose their force when politicians engage in favouritism, cronyism, and nepotism. It certainly heralds the arrival of "Mitr Kaal"—political clout—and certainly not an Amrit Kaal. While presenting the fifth budget, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, said that this is the first budget of "Amrit Kaal".

Amrit Kaal refers to the most auspicious period. Politics in its purest form is wonderful, but politics as it is applied has been tainted since the beginning of time. The three main factors that contribute to the defilement of politics are favouritism, cronyism, and nepotism. Favouritism has always been a complaint in government service. Cronyism is a more specific form of favouritism, referring to partiality towards friends and associates. As the old saying goes, "It's not what you know, but who you know." Nepotism is an even narrower form of favouritism—favouring the members of the family.

 Both nepotism and cronyism are often at work when political parties recruit candidates for public office. Political clout that emanates from "Mitr Kaal" is not good for politics or for the nation, for it sabotages the objective good and the common good. It was supposed to be "Amrit Kaal," as announced by the Prime Minister on the 75th Independence Day. How did it take this ugly turn into "Mitr Kaal"?

The rise and fall of Adani speak volumes of "Mitr Kaal". "Na khaunga na khaane dunga," a favourite election campaign slogan-line that reverberated throughout the nation as a breath of fresh air in response to the anti-corruption movement, became a disenchantment. Who knew that it would just end up as a gloss to sell a brand? The gullible people bought the narrative as if it were coming from a political messiah—when the whole nation was campaigning against corruption. By betraying the people by not keeping its promises, corruption has taken deeper roots since this government has come into power. Now, under the so-called "Mitr Kaal," corruption has reached such an unknown height that the whole nation is totally discombobulated. 

By misusing central agencies, the government has left no stone unturned in undermining institutions and targeting political opponents—even the top judiciary is not spared. Winning elections by hook or crook is the ultimate mantra of the BJP. The BJP, after losing elections in different states, purchased the MLAs and formed the government undemocratically through the backdoor. 

Ironically, the corrupt MLAs have found a washing machine in the BJP to come clean. MLAs are bought without hesitation, oblivious to the fact that they are tarnishing democracy and undermining the process by deposing the common will, which is a great travesty of our time. Shashi Tharoor said, "I always wondered about the meaning of "Na khaunga na Khaane dunga," and I guess he was only talking about beef and not corruption."

"Mitr Kaal" is not just a political parody but an economic disaster. The downfall of Adani would not have mattered much if the investment were not from the public sector. India suddenly became the epic centre of an economic earthquake. The rise of Adani was at the behest of the PM. The treasures of the nation were handed over to the Adani Group, like six airports, railways, ports, and roads. Besides, humongous investments were made by LIC and ISB in the Adani Group at the behest of the government, which is costing the exchequer dearly. In fact, demonetization was a masterstroke to create an ecosystem for "Mitr Kaal" to grow organically. In good faith, the people of the nation stood in line to empty their wallets, but who knew it was only to help fill somebody else’s pockets? After demonetization, the BJP became the wealthiest political party in the world, and Adani successfully invested in Australia’s coal mines and became the second richest man in the world. Unfortunately, India had signed "The Paris Agreement on Climate Change" to reduce carbon emissions. India had also confirmed pledges to generate 50% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and its target for maintaining forest cover, which acts as a carbon sink. However, India is sending mixed signals, as it is rapidly expanding its renewable capacity while at the same time increasing coal consumption. The "Mitr Kaal" is placing an enormous strain on ecology and the environment as coal is transported through sensitive areas by building additional railways, roads, and rivers. Concerned citizens are raising their voices, but no one is listening. The ominous signs of ecological and environmental disasters are there for all to see—Mitros. And the Prime Minister chose to remain silent, which is both deafening and telling. 

"Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas" was supposed to usher in a friendlier era for everyone. What happened? When political clout, the "Mitr Kaal," becomes prevalent with favouritism, cronyism, and nepotism, it undermines objectivity and the common good. Where favouritism, cronyism, and nepotism thrive, the risks of dominating unregulated and opaque action and lobbying become problematic areas in regard to and as opposed to transparent and just public policy-making, and these are facts that cannot be ignored. It’s not sabka vikas but sabka vinash. Government becomes ineffective as a result of a lack of quality and objectivity. The appearance of favouritism weakens morale in government service, not to mention public faith in the integrity of the government. The Congress president, Mallikarjun Kharge, summed up the Mitra Kaal quagmire by alleging that the "suit boot Sarkar" has written off loans worth Rs 10 lakh crores by gifting waivers to "friends" on a platter. The Hindenburg Research firm, by showing the courage and audacity to expose the Adani Group, also exposed the cronyism of the present dispensation. 

By gathering evidence of all the funding operations and offshore activities of the 578 subsidiaries and shell companies linked to the Adani group's seven publicly traded companies, the stock market collapsed like a pack of cards for all to see. "Amrit Kaal" refers to a pivotal moment when the gates of pleasure are made accessible for human beings, angels, and monsters. "Mitr Kaal" creates political clout that decimates the common good—Mitros.      

(Peter Fernandes is a Priest based at Pilar, Goa)


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