What is political corruption in India?
Political corruption can be defined both with reference to the main actors involved, namely persons at the highest levels of the political system, and the purpose of the corrupt behaviour, namely to sustain the hold on power. Hence, political corruption can be for private and group enrichment, and for power preservation purposes. Often these two forms of political corruption are connected. Some of the larger and more serious political corruption scandals include both processes - accumulation on the one hand and the misuse of extracted or public money for political purposes on the other. The latter process is somewhat under-researched and underestimated, since much of the focus in the literature has been on accumulation. The present scams like 2G, CWG, Adarsh, Hasan Ali, Secret Swiss Bank Accounts are minuscule samples.
Political corruption in the form of accumulation or extraction occurs when government officials use and abuse their hold on power to extract from the private sector, from government revenues, and from the economy at large. These processes of accumulation have been called extraction, embezzlement, rent-seeking, plunder and even kleptocracy ("rule by thieves"), depending on the extent and context. Extraction takes place mainly in the form of soliciting bribes in procurement and government projects, in privatisation processes and in taxation. Military procurement is known to be particularly affected by extractive political corruption worldwide, because of the involvement of top-level politicians, national interests and secrecy.
The other process, when extracted resources (and public money) are used for power preservation and power extension purposes, usually takes the form of favouritism and patronage politics. It includes a favouritist and politically motivated distribution of financial and material inducements, benefits, advantages, and spoils. Techniques include money and material favours to build political loyalty and political support. Power-holders can pay off rivals and opposition and secure a parliamentary majority. By giving preferences to private companies they can get party and campaign funds, and by paying off the governmental institutions of checks and control they can stop investigations and audits and gain judicial impunity. Furthermore, by buying loyal decisions from election commissions and by buying votes they can secure their re-election.
Political corruption takes place at the highest levels of the political system, and can thus be distinguished from administrative or bureaucratic corruption. Bureaucratic corruption takes place at the implementation end of politics, for instance in government services like education and health. Political corruption takes place at the formulation end of politics, where decisions on the distribution of the nation's wealth and the rules of the game are made.
Political corruption is usually also distinguished from business and private sector corruption. This is only a matter of academic classification, however, since the bribes offered by private companies, domestic and international, are frequent and significant corruption drivers. Focus now, however, is not on the supply side of corrupt transactions, but on the demand side. Most definitions of corruption also emphasise the demand (state) side, for instance in stating that corruption is "abuse of public authority and power for private benefit".
Challenges facing Citizens
What can one do when the governments and/or senior government officials and politicians are corrupt? These forms of political corruption pose at least three types of challenges.
Firstly, how can the lack of political will to address the problem be confronted? When key individuals with political power are corrupt, there is often a deep lack of political will within government to address the problem. Political corruption cannot be tackled by a technical or bureaucratic approach alone, nor can it be treated only as another problem of market regulation or defective administration. Political corruption calls for solutions of a political nature that can be influenced by citizens only to a very limited extent.
A second challenge is how to contribute to constraining the corrupt extraction practices of the government and of government institutions and officials. On the one hand, this is a question of MNCs/ world companies offering bribes - how to dry out the supply side of the problem. On the other hand, the question is how can citizens help create an environment that makes it harder for politicians to milk the system - to restrict the demand. The challenge is how to plug the holes of illicit extraction, and how to create transparency, accountability and domestic control mechanisms.
A third challenge is how to constrain the corrupt use of resources for power preservation purposes. The corrupt use of public and private money by power-holders to maintain their hold on power is to a large extent a question of democratic controls, by state institutions (institutions of checks and balances, control and oversight), by independent civil society organisations and the media, and by citizens through the ballot box (democratic elections not fake elections).
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WikiLeaks exposes mockery of democracy in South India
Politicians admit breaking election law: ‘yes, that's the great thing about democracy'!
Politicians and their aides in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh admitted to violating election law to influence voters in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls through payments in the form of cash, goods, or services, according to a revealing cable sent to the State Department by Frederick J. Kaplan, Acting Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate-General in Chennai.
click here to read more on "cash for votes"
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