If you have the clout, you can flout any rule

Anyone who says Indians are new to ‘lobbying’ or that they need the US to teach us how to lobby just needs to think back to the days of the licence raj. The lessons learnt in those days by the minions who roamed the corridors of power knocking on doors for favours heaving large cases filled with money must be laughing at the fuss being made today over the 2G fiasco. As some of the largest business houses in India openly claim getting and receiving government favours through payment of money is no big deal. It has always been done. And chances are it will continue to be done.
Business interest versus the current regulatory framework, when neither need be in the interest of the people, is a social tragedy growing into almost unmanageable proportions.

In the recent 2G imbroglio every question was asked except the right one. Why was lobbying needed? But there are no answers forthcoming.

Naive of me to even ask it, some would say, because don’t we know that democracy is a multilayered political and social construct, made up of warring vested interests, with multiple groups jockying for power and position and so ‘lobbying’ is inevitable. Therefore legalize it and provide a framework and lay down rules and regulations. Other countries have these regulations and every one there is happy with the civilized way in which business lobbies government. Really? Unless of course what we mean here is that in a legalized setup we at atleast know who the players are, where are they playing, whose facilitating who is obstructing and how the other shoe will drop.  And certainly it becomes easier for everyone to speed up the process of give and take! 

As the triangulation of company, bureaucrat and lobbyist plays out, sitting in the middle confused and dismayed and perplexed and eventually angry is the common citizen. Every time government and business collude in this manner – and it is collusion of the worst kind – what is destroyed is the good of the people, the very constituency for whom both exist.

Media are either making headlines and selling more copies or writing long articles on how lobbying should be made ‘legitimate’ as if an activity which is in essence no more or less than a company or two or an industry asking government to revise policies which are probably completely outdated and not in the public’s interest.

Industry associations believe thay are best equipped to take on this interface. And they are probably right. Large corporate groups believe they have a god given right to buy out politicians if they can. And they do with impunity. Journalists who have always seen public relations people as dogs with no teeth are suddenly found collaborating with drooling haste. Media, the keepers of the nation’s conscience, are no longer concerned with right and wrong but what will sell the paper next day. Since they have all been converted into commercial products their responsibilities to the public seem to have changed. What a mess!

And what should We the People do in the meantime? Stop buying propducts and services from dishonest, unethical conniving business houses for a start.

Finally: is lobbying another name for funding political activity since there is no legal way for business to contribute to political parties? So if the players in the 2G scam understood the dynamics of this situation and then played out the game as per their rules the only loser here was the Rule of Law.


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