In an opinion poll conducted by LensOnNews in ten cities across the country, a majority (58 per cent) of the respondents in the poll have described the incumbent Manmohan Singh led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre as the “most corrupt government ever.” Only 30 per cent of the respondents thought otherwise, while 12 per cent had no opinion in this regard.
The succession of scams and scandals that have come to light during the reign of the UPA government have shaken the faith of the people in the UPA government at the Centre. After all, many of the serial scams (Commonwealth Games, 2G spectrum allocation, Adarsh Housing Society, the scandalous appointment of P.J. Thomas as CVC) have been carried on brazenly in the public eye, with the media reporting the happenings in real time. The perpetrators carried on regardless; the rot in the system was too far gone, there were no checks and balances. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when he was not clueless, pleaded that he was helpless.
The voters in the poll were asked, “If you were to name one state government that is the least corrupt in the country today, which would that state be?” No options were given and the respondents were free to mention whichever state they liked. As many as 40 per cent of the respondents to the poll named Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, evidently for its record of performance in providing responsive and corruption-free government in the state.
Nitish Kumar’s Bihar was a distant second with 17 per cent naming it as the state with least corruption. Communist ruled Kerala emerged at the third position with 8 per cent. The UPA ruled states of Maharashtra, Delhi and Rajasthan figured low down in the order with barely four to five per cent of respondents mentioning them as states with least corruption.
The positive appreciation of some state governments shows that the governance is not uniformly bleak, despite the big-time corruption at the Centre. Aam aadmi at the state and local levels, it seems, has been spared from the menace of corruption at least in select non-Congress ruled states.
Asked if they are hopeful that the movement initiated by Anna Hazare will help reduce corruption in the country, 55 per cent of the respondents answered in the affirmative. Only half that number (27 per cent) was skeptical of achieving positive results in eliminating corruption. Most people thus seem to think that the institution of an independent Lokpal as proposed by him, with substantive powers to investigate complaints against the highest leaders and officials of government, will at last lead to real and meaningful action against high-level corruption.
Anna Hazare’s fast, and the spontaneous surge of support it evoked across the nation, did not quite amount to our own “Tahrir Square”, but nevertheless it shook Manmohan Singh’s government at the Centre and forced it to respond positively to the popular demand to bring forward a Lokpal bill with real teeth.
A chorus of pro-establishment voices have been raised in panic that this is succumbing to ‘blackmail’ and would undermine parliamentary democracy, and dirty tricks have been employed in trying to smear the leading anti-corruption activists including the Bhushans (father and son) and Anna Hazare himself, but the popular support for the movement has endured.
It is no one’s contention that the institution of a Jan Lokpal will, by itself, end corruption in India. But it will be huge first step. By bringing accountability to the top levels of the government, it will make further systemic reforms at middle and lower levels much easier.
Baba Ramdev, the yoga guru with millions of followers across the country has been a prominent crusader against governmental corruption, and was seen prominently by Anna Hazare’s side at the demonstrations in Jantar Mantar. He had announced that he would be launching a political party later this summer to carry forward his ideas. Asked whether in their opinion launching of a political party would be the right thing for Baba Ramdev to do, 55 per cent of the respondents to our poll gave an emphatic ‘No’ for an answer, while only 26 per cent supported the initiative. Clearly, most people feel that leaders of civil society like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev should lead the movement for change, but should themselves stay away from the taint of politics.
Anna Hazare seems to have had a clear grasp of this reality from early on, and forswore any desire to enter electoral politics. Even Ramdev seems to have changed his mind; while announcing his decision to go on an indefinite fast from June 4 in support of immediate action on corruption and black money, he said he has no political ambitions.
The LensOnNews poll was conducted in 10 cities, namely Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Cochin, Jaipur and Bhubaneshwar among a representative sample of nearly 2,000 respondents, mostly drawn from the middle classes and with exposure to the mass media. The poll was conducted between April 20 and 29 and the findings carry a margin of error of three per cent.
K. Balakrishnan is Editor, LensOnNews and was formerly Research Editor, The Times of India.