Tamil Nadu re-elected a “corrupt government” led by J Jayalalithaa during the previous Assembly elections, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday alleged and called for swift and deterrent punishment to end graft.
“In Tamil Nadu, a corrupt government was re-elected... The head of that government, may her soul rest in peace, was convicted by the Supreme Court and fined Rs 100 crore. That government got re-elected only last year,” he said.
He said he does not think re-election is a test of good government, “it is a test of good politics, good election management”.
Responding to questions after launching his book “Fearless in Opposition” here, he said the BJP returning to power in states like Madhya Pradesh was not “unusual” and that Congress government got re-elected for three decades after Independence.
He said the Congress was the party of “natural governance” but has “indeed lost its standing”.
“We must rebuild it... I accept the fact that we are in no major state except Karnataka,” he said.
Replying to query on corruption, the former Union finance minister said, “Corruption eats into growth and I am not denying that... But how do you put an end to corruption? Graft can be ended only by changing behaviour and by punishing misbehaviour.”
“You have to change the behaviour and those who continue to behave in a bad manner must be punished quickly... Our legal systems do not punish quickly... If you punish people quickly say within a year or two, you will find that corruption goes down considerably,” he said.
If it takes 20 years to punish anyone, people assume that the system is slow, the Congress leader said, adding “we must have a swift and deterrent punishment for corruption”. Opposing media trials, he said it was completely opposed to the ethics of journalism.
“You publish allegations, conduct media trials and pronounce people guilty even before they are charge sheeted in a court of law.”
Though media carries out investigation, he said it was “scared” of people in power.
“Those who are in power have the capacity to suppress information coming in the media. A lot of information does not appear in the media as it is suppressed.”
“But I must say one of the reasons we remain a largely free country is because we have a largely free media,” he said.
Chidambaram said it is not that the Narendra Modi government does not have talent. But the “problem with this government is... my complaint, quarrel with this government is that decision-making is centralised and that is not good for democracy.”
Criticising the Centre’s demonetisation scheme, he said, “You move a mountain to catch a rat and in this case it was a dead rat.”