19 January 2013

From India: Corrupting Power Of Wealth In Politics Is Making the People Angry

This could be a headline in any number of countries.

Sonia Gandhi (born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino, 9 December 1946) is an Italian-born Indian politician and the President of the Indian National Congress, one of the major political parties of India. She is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi and belongs to the Nehru–Gandhi family.

Times of India
Corruption in politics riling people, Sonia Gandhi warns party

By Subodh Ghildiyal & Palak Nandi
Jan 19, 2013

JAIPUR: Taking serious note of middle class protesters taking to the streets over corruption, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the lifestyles of leaders is giving rise to questions about the source of their wealth.

Speaking at Congress's chintan shivir (brainstorming session) here, Sonia said, "Celebrating weddings, festivals and happy events is one thing, what of lavish and ostentatious displays of wealth, pomp and status? Does this not beg the question, where is this wealth coming from?"

Her direct remarks caused a hush to descend on the meeting. "Our citizens are rightly fed up with the levels of corruption that they see in public life at high levels, but equally with the corruption they have to deal with in their daily lives,'' she said.

Sonia urged the party not to lose touch with the middle classes that backed the Congress in the 2004 and 2009 general elections. The party cannot afford "our growing educated and middle classes to be disillusioned and alienated with the political process".

The candid references to the middle class drift away from Congress, the need to keep alliances intact, a commitment to make women feel safer, and an admission that the party's base has eroded in traditional strongholds were key aspects of her speech as she set out the political tasks for her party.

Some of her comments were also seen to reflect her concern over the government's response to the outpouring of public anger over the Nirbhaya gang rape and criticism of police action against young protestors. "We have to recognize the new changing India, peopled by a younger, more aspirational, more impatient and more demanding generation. Our people are expecting much more from their political parties. Today's India is better informed and better equipped to communicate. This is a phenomenon, a churning that we must understand and continue to respond to."

Taking cognizance of the growing concern about women's safety, she said, "Atrocities on women, both in urban and rural India, are a blot on our collective conscience and a matter of great shame."

Sonia's carefully crafted speech referred to the principal political challenges before the party and the government at a time when UPA 2's credibility is seen to have taken a beating due to corruption scandals, an anemic economy and demoralizing electoral losses. "Is it not the case that we have squandered many opportunities that people are willing to give us simply because we have been unable to function as a disciplined and united team," she said...