It is easy to miss the point when watching a tv debate on a news channel. More often than not, it is a few old hags settling personal scores on national television. Something similar happened this week. I was watching Barkha Dutt hold Dayanidhi Maran to a media trial on her show in the name of analyzing news.
While the panel was deliberating if Maran should resign from the ministerial post in light of the 2G scam allegations (or otherwise), a curious point came out, which none seem to have found worth discussing. Should a public figure not remit office when faced with charges of misconduct of any nature? Is holding a post more important, almost the sole aim, of public life?
Two sitting cabinet ministers accused in the 2G scam, and both refrain to resign till push came to shove in an exemplary display of how our politicians cling to power come what may. There are two facets to this dilemma.
The Indian law sees every accused as innocent until proven guilty. So until a verdict is delivered, an accused is free under the law to continue with life, in every manner that does not affect the case’s outcome. Fair and just, as always. However, where does this leave moral propriety and ethics?
Imagine a bank cashier being accused of swindling depositor’s money. Do we let him continue his job at the teller counter till the case drags on in a court? Do we retain faith in the cashier’s neutrality and honesty while an allegation of theft is being thrown at him? Is the cashier not suspended only to be reinstated pending investigation and clearing his name?
So then how different is a politician? Ideally, the Prime Minister should suspend his minister, only to be brought back into the cabinet post clearing of his name. When this doesn’t happen, as is always the case with the current disposition at New Delhi, isn’t it the moral duty of the minister in question to resign?
What happens instead is, that a Prime Minister sits in silence, as ministers trade counter allegations of sabotaging their political careers, lunging on to their ministerial berths for dear life. We today have a polity comprising of power hungry morally bereft individuals who see nothing beyond the kursi and its strappings. Is an allegation enough to erase a lifetime of public service? Is a ministerial berth the only end for a politician? When did our leaders stop being public servants and start aspiring to be rulers?
Domnik Strauss Kahn resigned the moment allegations of sexual impropriety were raised against him. The charges dropped, he might not get back his post of IMF chief, but he has retained a moral high ground- the only thing that should ideally hold a public figure in good stead in his life. Can we expect this from an immeasurable amoral political class back home ever?