Rule of the Law-breakers?

A lot of space in media in India is currently spent on discussing criminalization of Indian politics. And with current media pitch, it looks like we are doomed to having hooligans in our venerated parliament.Let’s take a step back. Isn’t this what we have ourselves asked for? How many people with “clean” background actually step up to take the electoral challenge? When we leave the space vacant for criminals, they will obviously fill the void. And by their sheer number, some of them will get through. So, it eventually boils down to us – the electorate. Now you have heard it all before – so, nothing new. But what I am going to say next is probably something that you don’t want to hear.
The fact is that we like criminals. Throughout our history, we have been invaded by robbers and plunderers. And we have some sort of hero-worship for these guys. Yes, we do define our boundaries but these boundaries frequently extend beyond the law of the land. And once we accept these boundaries, we tacitly accept those people as leaders, who are out of line with the law. Now, I don’t need to take names here but we venerate many such personalities, from field of industry, social services and sports, who have not exactly been above law but have found ready acceptance amongst our midst. Some of them have been glorified in movies which have gone on to become hits. A whole generation has been broughtup on staple diet of anti-hero in our cinema. You can argue that criminalization has its degrees and we can’t tar everyone with the same brush. But then, each of the crimes is out of law of the land and does carry some penalty. So, while the quantum of punishment may vary, the inherent lawlessness of the act remains intact.

And therein lies the problem. When you stretch the law, you lose the moral ground to stop someone else from doing so. And that other person can stretch it as per his convenience. You may condone cheating, the other person will condone robbery. There is no stopping this laxity. And this leads to people get into the system who are non-palatable to us. Come to think, we have different level of tolerance and while you may abhor 50 such people, the person next to you may have similar feelings for 100 and someone may feel the same for only 5 people. In other words, when we step off the perch of strict legal limits, we open ourselves to the whole world of felony which has limits set by no one but the individuals themselves.
So, having opened the Pandora’s Box, are we now condemned to the criminalization of our polity forever? The simple answer to that is No. However, the implementation of this is far more complex – and may take many iterations (read multiple rounds of elections). And the solution is not straight-forward. As in any war, you may have to eliminate some of these elements, neutralize some of them or co-opt them by reforming. The exact treatment for each of these undesirable elements will depend on the circumstances and personal hygiene factors. And the treatment will take time – after all, those in power never relinquish it easily. But we need to make a start. And what better time than now?
Go around and find the honest candidate in your area. Vote for him. You may not want to campaign for him for lack of time or even fear of retribution from tainted candidates in your area. But you can always bring this topic in your interactions with your friends and family, and encourage them to vote for the right candidate. By taking a vote away from the tainted candidates and adding to an honest one, you are sending a message that everything is not lost. May be, this time the honest guy will not win. But if he gets a significant number of votes, he (or someone else) will be encouraged to stand in elections again next time. Likewise, a reduced margin of victory for the tainted candidate will send him a message as well. In a couple of cycles, we will be in a position to elect an honest candidate. The plan sounds too simple – but it is effective because it is based on common sense and strong logic, and it will work if we actually implement it – all it needs is our patience and continued focus.

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