New Delhi: Why are powerful individuals and certain institutions becoming so arbitrary? There is the unfortunate case of Durga Shakti Nagpal versus the corrupt and venal Uttar Pradesh government of Mulayam Singh Yadav and son Akhilesh. The Supreme Court mandates that a politician can be barred from his profession for alleged wrongdoing without a conviction in court. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, decides to split Andhra Pradesh not for reasons of welfare of the two resultant units but to get some extra Lok Sabha seats in the doomed 2014 election. The Supreme Court again says apropos the 2G/ Aircel-Maxis scandal that the Central Bureau of Investigation need not take government sanction for prosecuting senior officials in a court-monitored inquiry.

In a few cases, the arbitrariness is well-meant but no less damaging to the system than where there is clear and present malicious intent. For example, the sand-mining mafia is behind Mulayam Yadav’s decision to foist false sectarian charges against Durga Nagpal and evict her from her post in Gautam Budh Nagar. The Supreme Court decision against politicians with criminal backgrounds is meant precisely to curb the power of mafia leaders such as those that victimized Durga Nagpal. But the Supreme Court order can be abused by political rivals with the connivance of the executive and destroy the level-playing field at least theoretically available in a democracy.

Or take Sonia Gandhi’s decision on Telangana. Small states are preferable to large unwieldy provinces where some parts get neglected and others are preferentially treated. Telangana has long suffered at the hands of the politically-dominant Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra regions so the division was overdue. But the manner of execution of the split and its timing are questionable. The cynical will say that timing is everything in politics. But not for politics of the long haul which is what statesmanship and vision are about.

A well-considered, graduated decision on Telangana taken, say, four years ago would have produced reconciliation on all sides and not appeared as an opportunistic measure it is. The Congress may or may not get the extra seats from Telangana but its intentions are deeply and widely suspect. Intentions translate to a rather pointed Hindi word called niyat, and people seriously question the niyat of the Congress party. From this, it doesn’t take a big leap to the next question, which is: Can the Congress be trusted to keep the nation together? The answer in the minds of most people is: No.

And because the Congress party is seen as ill-intentioned (niyat kharab hai, they say in dialect), it has destroyed as well the reputation of the Manmohan Singh government, and compelled institutions and individuals, neutral and allied and inimical or just plainly concerned, to mirror its arbitrariness. Because the Congress leadership and the Manmohan Singh government are deeply implicated in the 2G scandal (the kickbacks are a staggering Rs 1 lakh crores, so the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Rs 1.76 lakh crores “notional loss” figure is not hooey), and have stalled and prevented its thorough investigation, the Supreme Court over-judges in related cases. And since the Congress leadership cannot affront Mulayam Yadav and is dyed in the same communal wool, it is prepared to throw Durga Nagpal to the wolves. The Allahabad High Court has had to intervene in the matter.

Power abhors a vacuum. If one estate is derelict in its duties or dishonours itself, another will expand its turf and rectify or worsen the situation. The venality of the Manmohan Singh government is well-known. But the reputation of the Supreme Court has also been tarnished but some of its (since retired) luminaries. In the matter of the controversial appointment of the new Comptroller and Auditor General, Shashikant Sharma, one (former) judge got tainted. He was in fact sour because the promised kickbacks to settle the matter did not materialize via political brokers. Executive venality nourishes judicial impropriety, and the legislature has become too weak and toothless to fight the decay, because it is itself so rived. If the Bharatiya Janata Party had taken its legislative duties seriously and thus prevented the Congress-led executive from undermining Parliament, the Supreme Court would not have so egregiously overreached.

So the blame lies all around, but it concentrates heavily in the Congress leadership and in the Manmohan Singh government, because they have damaged and dismantled institutions in nearly ten years of power at the Centre, centralized and glorified venality in politics, and made a virtue of cynicism and arbitrariness. The consequences of this degradation and decline of politics are there for all to see, and it will get worse in the remaining term of this government. Despite its peaking trust deficit with the people, it ceaselessly purveys lies, disseminates half-truths (remember the Planning Commission’s tom-tommed poverty figures?), and is a willing accomplice to every dark deed, as in the case of Durga Shakti Nagpal. Its baseness and hubris will destroy it.

People in power often forget its ephemerality. In the early 1990s, this writer was told ad nauseam about the Teflon-like quality of prime minister P.V.Narasimha Rao, but what happened to him after losing office? There were arrogant aides of Atal Behari Vajpayee who thought they would reign forever. The Congress leadership and the Manmohan Singh government will also meet their comeuppance soon, but the arbitrariness and malicious intent they have leeched into the system will take long years to detoxify. Nevertheless, the process has to be taken to conclusion to restore the republic to health and to honour outstanding individuals as Durga Shakti Nagpal.