In India, politicians switching parties is never surprising. It is understood to be a routine affair. So when two leaders, Sukh Ram Sharma and Mukul Roy, who have some influence in their respective states of Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal, deserted their parties and joined the BJP, it should not have created any furore, but it did. The reasons are obvious. Both are accused of serious corruption charges. Sukh Ram Sharma, once considered to be a stalwart of Congress party, has been convicted in a telecom scam in the mid-90s. Sukh Ram was telecom minister and was found indulging in corrupt practices by the CBI. And in fact, when his house was raided later a lot of hard currency was recovered from the bedroom and bathroom.
Mukul Roy is facing a CBI inquiry in the Saradha chit fund scam. It was speculated that he too, like his party colleagues Madan Mitra and Sudip Bandyopadhyay, would have landed in jail, but due to his smart manoeuvring and connections in high places at the centre, he survived that scare but had to pay a heavy price. Once considered to be the second-most powerful leader after Mamata Banerjee in Trinamool Congress, he has now joined the BJP. Mukul Roy was credited, along with Mamata Banerjee, as the creator of the Trinamool Congress in 1998. He was an organisation man and when Mamata joined Manmohan Singh's Cabinet, he was awarded a Minster of State rank; when she left to become Chief Minister of Bengal, he was made the union Railways Minister. But as luck would have it, he landed up named in the Saradha scam, a Ponzi scheme that left millions of small investors broke, and his downfall started. It was alleged that to save himself from jail, he gave some crucial information to CBI about his colleagues in the Trinamool, including about Mamata's nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, who is in some ways considered her political heir.
These two defections have exposed the hypocrisy of the BJP and its top leaders who have been claiming upon the Modi government's third anniversary that their biggest achievement has been a corruption-free administration. The BJP had gone to town with this propaganda. Narendra Modi has repeatedly said that neither does he indulge in corruption, nor does he let anyone else exercise graft ("na khaata hoon, na khaane deta hoon
"). But the latest entry of Mukul Roy, tainted by graft, proves otherwise. It clearly underlines the fact that the BJP has no qualms in shaking hands with the corrupt or those facing corruption charges, and the above-mentioned statements are merely rhetoric to dupe voters. I refuse to believe that these two gentlemen have been admitted into the party without getting clearance from Mr Modi, the Prime Minister. So what does it signify? That Mr Prime Minister maintains a double standard on the issue of corruption? For him, corruption is an issue when it belongs to leaders in opposition, but it has no meaning when it comes to his own party or leaders?
What is baffling is the brazenness with which BJP has defended Sukh Ram when he joined the party just days ago. A BJP spokesperson has said, "Beet gayi, soh baat gayi
(it's in the past)". The BJP has forgotten that in 2014, it routed the Congress because of serious corruption charges against Dr Manmohan Singh's government. If BJP thinks that it can get away by compromising on the issue of corruption, then it is living in a fool's paradise. It should not forget that it was a nation-wide anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare which created an atmosphere against the UPA. It dented the Congress image, and the government was derided as the most corrupt since independence. The BJP rode that wave and formed the government. It was a vote against corruption. If the BJP forgets the fundamental of that mandate, it will pay a heavy price because it can't have two parameters: one for itself and one for others.
The BJP is desperate to take Himachal Pradesh from the Congress. The initial edge which it had is now lost thanks to the mindless implementation of demonetisation and GST. There was a time when it was predicted that Himachal would be a cakewalk for BJP and the Congress had no chance. But slowly, the Congress has gained ground. The free hand given to Virbhadra Singh by Congress has turned the tables. The BJP is also paying the price for being hesitant in declaring Prem Kumar Dhumal as its Chief Ministerial candidate. The admission of Sukh Ram and his son Anil Sharma is a hint of the BJP's desperation. But it leads to a very disturbing question. If, tomorrow, the BJP is in distress in Maharashtra, will it admit Suresh Kalmadi, the main accused in the Commonwealth scam which ignited the fall of the Congress regime? Will the BJP admit A Raja, the much-maligned UPA minister and the main accused in the 2G scam? Or Kanimozhi? Will it admit Lalit Modi if by any stretch of imagination he is of some help to the BJP in Rajasthan? Lalit Modi is facing serious criminal charges in the IPL scam. The BJP is also contesting the election in Karnataka. Vijay Mallya, the fugitive, had been active in state politics and was a Rajya Sabha member. If he proves to be electorally helpful, will he also be admitted in BJP?
Let's not forget all the names mentioned above - Kalmadi, A Raja, Kanimozhi, Lalit Modi and Mallya - are only accused, no charges have been proved in any court of law yet. They are yet to be convicted. Whereas Sukh Ram is convicted of corruption. By this logic, if BJP has no issues with a convicted leader, then why should it feel shy about these leaders, who are only accused of corruption or wrong doing? The Congress has to sacrifice Kalmadi, Raja, Kanimozhi because in public perception they were seen to be guilty.
It also raises another question. The BJP has been criticising Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is convicted in the fodder scam; agencies have also filed new cases against him and his family. Nitish Kumar was so upset with this disclosure that he severed ties with Lalu Yadav and formed a government with the BJP. If the BJP has no problem with Sukh Ram, a convicted leader, then why should it make an issue about Lalu Yadav, another convicted leader? What right does the BJP have to criticise Lalu Yadav and his family when it is comfortable with similar charges against Mukul Roy?
Maybe the BJP is living in a post-truth era. In this new age, to expect the BJP to practice morality in politics is a kind of day-dreaming. Modi and his team believes in hard core "power-politics". They believe that it is power which defines morality, not the other way around. They don't suffer from the moral dilemmas. The BJP had given the first hint that it no longer believes in the politics of chaal, charitra, chehra
of the Vajpayee-Advani era when it decided to appoint Amit Shah as the party president. Amit Shah then was the prime accused in the Sohrabuddin murder case (he has been exonerated since). So perhaps one should not fuss too much about Sukh Ram and Mukul Roy. Who knows, maybe Kalmadi and Raja will be next?(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014.)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.