Do our “leaders” have conscience like Roh Moo Hyun?
by G Anil Kumar on 01 Jun 2009 7 Comments

Like Rajiv Gandhi, he started out as a promising national leader. Like Rajiv Gandhi again, he ended up in corruption scandals. But unlike Rajiv Gandhi, he took all the blame, took his conscience as his guide, became sensitive to public mood and … committed suicide.

That was South Korea’s former president Roh Moo-Hyun. He was a human rights lawyer. He worked for student activists of South Korea and worked for national unity. In 2003 he became the 16th president of his country. So far so good. 

But gradually he drifted towards incompetence and corruption and ended his presidency in 2008 with eroded public support. Later, bribery scandals surrounded him. During his leadership his Uri Party had collapsed like a pack of cards.

Roh succumbed to temptation while in office. He succumbed to internal pressure afterwards. He did not want to show his face to the public anymore. After leaving a suicide note, he jumped from a mountain cliff on 23 May 2009 [His funeral on 29 May was possibly the largest-ever attended popular gathering in recent memory, an indication of public forgiveness of a tarnished hero - editor].

Can we ever imagine such a situation in India? I am not glorifying the suicide. Suicides of politicians are not uncommon in the world. Even Adolf Hitler had committed suicide. Death would never wash off one’s sins or misdeeds. Japan has a large list of politicians who have committed suicide in the midst of scandals. Suicide is not self-sacrifice. But we need to note Roh’s sensitivity to public opinion.

This brings us to an important question: how many Rohs do we have in India? Wikipedia has a huge list of politicians who have committed suicide. But there are no Indian names in that list. There are two reasons for this. One, Indian thought does not believe in the finality of death. Secondly, Indian politicians are “mature enough” to defend themselves even against glaring evidences!

Leave suicide aside. How many of our ministers, Chief Ministers and Prime Ministers have voluntarily resigned over corruption and criminal allegations? We always cite the example of Lal Bahadur Shastri, who resigned as a Union Minister for Railways, after a train accident in 1956. Only one example!

Leave the old-timers aside. Take Rajiv Gandhi, widely regarded as a young, modern and promising leader. As Prime Minister, the purported “Mr. Clean” faced many allegations like the Bofors payoffs, Octavio Quattrocchi’s escapades, and dirty money from the KGB, etc.  Although he was personally implicated in the scandals, he never offered to resign to facilitate an impartial investigation (he was posthumously cleared of the Bofors allegation in 2004 due to “lack of evidence”).

Mr. V.P. Singh, who uncovered the Bofors scandal as Rajiv’s Defense Minister, did nothing to take the investigation to its logical end when he became Prime Minister! P.V. Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda, Inder Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee also could not get any conviction in the Bofors case. P.V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister was associated with various corruption charges such as the JMM bribery scandal, St. Kitts forgery scandal, Harshad Mehta’s bribery allegation and stock market scandal, Lakhubhai Pathak cheating scandal. He never consulted his “insider” then.

This is the situation in India. What sort of sensitiveness can be expected from persons like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Shibu Soren, Mayawati, Sonia Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Karunanidhi, Deve Gowda, and Jayalalithaa? Insensitiveness to public opinion is now being regarded as an “important quality” to “survive” in politics!

Until 1999, BJP leaders were able to keep themselves away from major corruption charges, although in public perception not all of them were clean. In 2000, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s decision to ‘let off’ Mauritius-based foreign institutional investors over the double taxation issue became a major controversy. He did not offer to resign.

In 2001, the then BJP president Bangaru Laxman was involved in a major controversy. showed him taking bribes on a hidden camera. He did not volunteer to quit, but was forced to step down as a criminal case was registered against him. Even then he termed the event as “a conspiracy to sideline a dalit leader”!

Former Union Minister and Congress leader Sukh Ram was unperturbed when convicted in the disproportionate assets case recently. His illegal assets included Rs 2.45 crores in cash, recovered from his official residence in Delhi, and Rs 1.16 crore from his house in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. These were amassed during 1991 to 1996 when he was a minister. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and fined Rs 2 lakh. The Special CBI Court also ordered forfeiture of his disproportionate assets. All that Sukh Ram had to say was: “This is a conspiracy by my enemies to finish me”!

No question of morality, no call of conscience, no explanation, no sense of responsibility, no sensitivity!

The list of insensitive Indian leaders is endless. Among these Sonia Gandhi has cultivated a unique formula: “never respond to allegations”. She has not responded to any of the myriad serious allegations made against her!

In a brilliant article ( columnist Rajinder Puri unearths many skeletons from her closet:–

“Dr. Yevgenia Albats is a Soviet journalist who officially investigated the KGB when the communist regime was still in control. She was appointed as a member of the official KGB Commission set up by President Yeltsin in 1991. She had full access to secret files of the KGB. She authored a book, The State within a State: KGB and Its Hold on Russia… After translating official KGB documents Dr. Albats disclosed in her book that KGB chief Victor Chebrikov in December 1985 had sought in writing from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), ‘authorization to make payments in US dollars to the family members of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, namely Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ms Paola Maino, mother of Sonia Gandhi.’ CPSU payments were authorized by a resolution, CPSU/CC/No 11228/3 dated 20/12/1985; and endorsed by the USSR Council of Ministers in Directive No 2633/Rs dated 20/12/1985. These payments had been coming since 1971, as payments received by Sonia Gandhi’s family and “have been audited in CPSU/CC resolution No 11187/22 OP dated 10/12/1984.”

“… In 1992 the media confronted the Russian government with the Albats disclosure. The Russian government confirmed the veracity of the disclosure and defended it as necessary for “Soviet ideological interest”. The Hindu of July 4, 1992 carried this report. Mr. AG Noorani included this information in an article published in The Statesman of January 31, 1998. In December 2001, Dr. Subramanian Swamy filed a Writ Petition in the Delhi High Court with relevant KGB photocopies and sought a CBI investigation. In May 2002 the Court ordered CBI to ascertain from Russia the truth of these charges. The CBI stalled for two years and eventually told the Court that without a registered FIR the Russians would not entertain any such query. But why was not an FIR registered? ... In November 1991 the respected Swiss magazine, Schweitzer Illustrate, published a report alleging that Rajiv Gandhi had 2.5 billion Swiss francs, equivalent roughly to two billion US dollars, in numbered Swiss bank accounts.”

Where is Sonia Gandhi’s famous “inner voice”? Doesn’t she owe an explanation? Among leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Roh Moo Hyun stands out as a sterling example. He could have apologized and started out afresh after serving his jail term. But that requires a different personality.

Our own “leaders” defend themselves against all glaring evidences and shift all blame on others till eternity! Roh did not do that.

The author Supplement-Editor of the Kannada daily, Samyukta Karnataka

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