In these social media-driven times, citizens with a smartphone and basic literacy are not only in a position to air their views, but are also able to access information in real time. The comfortable elbow room old politicos had—what intelligence spooks call ‘plausible deniability’. This is no longer available. Managing perceptions through statements—rhetorical grandstanding, diversionary gambits, shallow denials—is no longer an option. Once a serious allegation is out, the onus of disproving it rests on the accused in the public eye—unlike in the courts. It may be a harsh rule, but that’s how politics is played.
Merely issuing counterclaims without documentary evidence, or calling CBI or IT raids political vendetta, won’t pass the test of credulity. The FIR copies against Karti Chidambaram or the video footage of the Lalu Prasad family’s new property in Delhi—acquired through a maze of inactive companies—are easily available across social media platforms.
There is no need for RTI applications. If the Opposition's reputation today lies in tatters, they can only blame themselves for it. Political morality, axiomatically, requires Caesar's wife to be above suspicion. Who can deny—the reality, and not just the perception—that politics becoming a matter of family entitlement undoubtedly makes service to the people a secondary issue.
Politicians and their relatives repeatedly getting caught on the wrong foot, in an apparent or alleged breach of the trusteeship that a ministerial portfolio bestows, is not something that can be condoned. The monetisation of power has grave implications, and popular anger is justified. There’s a more calamitous effect: A democracy without a credible Opposition to question the government and hold it accountable is a grievously injured one.
It virtually leaves a void in the polity. How and by what it would get filled is an urgent question for the secular careerists who have abused their TINA factor. But this crisis of the old order is being witnessed the world over. It can no longer be business as usual.