Anti-corruption witch hunts are witch hunts

Authoritarians abuse it. So do democrats.

One of the many things Nepal’s King Gyanendra copied from his role-model, Pakistan’s General Musharraf, is the zeal to weed out corruption from society. Most of this zeal is directed towards prosecuting politicians, and only those who remain unwilling to make their peace with the new dispensation. Hussain Haqqani may argue that authoritarian regimes are particularly predisposed to using anti-corruption drives to silence their political opponents, but by no means is this behaviour unique to them. If anything, Pakistan’s rulers (elected or otherwise) and Nepal’s king have played their cards in an crude, amateurish manner.

Not so in India (and other seasoned democracies). Politicians in India have elevated the use of corruption allegations into an art form, even if the media tends to refer to them, unfashionably, as scams . From the number of bundles of bank-notes that could be squeezed into the prime minister’s suitcase to the deciphering of cryptic heiroglyphics in Mr Jain’s eponymous diary, Indians have been able to sit on the edge of their seats while being able to condemn the moral descent of their political leaders. From Howitzers to coffins, the manner in which journalists managed to secure their scoops have changed, but the issues they unearth have ended up first as political fodder, then as burdensome files in the in-trays of prosecutors, magistrates, judges, judicial commissions and cabinet offices, before being dusted off and reused for a new round of political intrigue.

Like Bollywood remixes, a new generation of Indians gets to appreciate classics that their parents enjoyed in their youth.

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