The judge in the Jayalalithaa corruption case makes the very interesting observation that it could not be believed that being the Chief Minister of a State, she was unaware of the large-scale activities carried on by persons living in her own house.
The judgment adds it is proved in evidence that substantial funds accumulated the first accused, Jayalalithaa, were credited to the account of Jaya Publications and from the said account it was diverted to the other accounts [of the companies] and ultimately was utilized for acquisition of huge assets… and that delving into the background of the individuals, the other three accused, on their own, did not have any substantial income to acquire such huge properties.
If ever there was an indictment of corruption on a politician, the Jayalalithaa case will stand out for the sheer brazen nature of what was being done, by a person who the people trusted as their Chief Minister. Apart from the significance in upholding the Rule of Law in India, especially with regard to the corruption, so prevalent among politicians, across party divisions, this judgment must also be sending the shivers down the spines of other politicians in this region, where corruption is generally regarded as the flip side of democracy….an very often is seen to replace democracy itself.
This certainly puts chief ministers in a fix. If this process of legal redress on behalf of the people spreads to other parts of South Asia, where we are strategically located, it will place the most unfair burdens on chief ministers, who get elected with pledges to the people, and poojas to deities, to serve the people.
It will be a crazy situation when a chief minister, who has all the responsibility of serving the people, (whether he or she is serious about it or not), having to be looking far behind their shoulders to see what their subordinates, friends, relations and political catchers are doing that is not in the interests of the people.
The situation become even worse, when a chief minister has to be on the watch out for what his or her associates are doing by way of amassing wealth that is nowhere within their capabilities, from their employment or inheritance or both.
If the recent election at Uva was a shocker of a different sort in the political race for chief ministership in a province, the Jayalalithaa verdict must have been an even bigger shock for all chief ministers, who are sworn to serve the people, with nary a word about amassing wealth for one’s self or helping one’s associates to do so.
There are reports of a hastily summoned meeting of chief ministers and their chief political and financial advisors to discuss how they should meet the Jayalalithaa threat, as it is seen by them today. The biggest problem they face is how they can ask their strongest donors, and their agents or catchers, to stop amassing ill-gotten wealth, under the very nose of the person they spent so much to get elected.
This is no easy task when elections are known to cost so much today. We did see a lot of the Jayalalithaa trend in electioneering at Uva, when there was an abundance of giveaways from mobile phones to saris, jeans, and lavishly distributed “drought relief” in the run up to that poll. The question that any chief minister would face after such an election is how arrangements could be made to let the “donors” who were so generous and lavish in their offerings of cash and other benefits could be allowed to recoup what they spent, and also make a satisfying profit from such political investment.
There are so many lines of profit for the friends, catchers or associates of chief ministers that are overlapping each other and are causing major worries for the people. These include having to ensure the turning of a blind eye by the police to crooked activity, something that is rapidly becoming second nature to the law enforcement people. It also means strengthening the new trend of trying to make the Customs follow the same blindfold policy of the police…when the source of huge profit comes in huge loads of spirits, the export of prohibited goods, and the import of dangerous drugs.
The politically profitable ventures for the catchers of chief ministers extend far and wide. They range from the admission of children to special schools, the obtaining of employment in especially beneficial positions in State institutions, in the getting of letter from key politicians recommending people for various contracts from State. It moves all the way, from infrastructure to fertilizer supply…the range seems endless.
It seems clear that Jayalalithaa, by being imprisoned, has thrown a real challenge to chief ministers, as well as the entire political class of power in this country. A little deeper thinking on the effect of this judgment may make people here believe that Jayalalithaa, far from being the declared enemy of Sri Lanka, is in fact a friend of the people; for giving the Rule of Law such prominence in dealing with corrupt politics.
The time may not be too far when the people here call for a Jayalalithaa style prosecution and hopefully such a judgment, too. The days of worrying for chief ministers and crooked politicos and their catchers rocked policies and their catchers seem very much at hand.