Is the BJP still a 'Swachh' party?
Good, clean governance and zero tolerance to corruption are BJP's key promises in any election. While the party has proudly proclaimed that at no party members are involved in corrupt practices, recent allegations of graft and bribery against its members in various states have come as an embarrassment to the party. Can the BJP really deem itself a Swachh party anymore?
Accused of a land scam, Maharashtra housing minister Prakash Mehta has put his party in a spot. Touted as one of the best state governments, the Devendra Fadnavis administration is now fire fighting allegations of corruption against its minister in a slum rehabilitation project. The Congress has minced no words in calling out the BJP's 'sham of zero tolerance to corruption'.
"The MP Mills SRA scam exposes the tall claims of Prime Minister Narendra Modi about not allowing corruption and also that of the BJP governments at the Centre and the state of providing corruption-free administrations," said Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan. The scam has disrupted the Maharashtra assembly with opposition parties tearing into the BJP.
Mehta is accused of illegally approving the transfer of slum dwellers' building rights to a major builder, SD Corporation, in the slum redevelopment project. The move was made without the Chief Minister's permission but used his name. An inquiry has been ordered into the scam but the minister continues to be part of the cabinet giving the opposition the opportunity to criticise the BJP.
Corruption in Maharashtra, bribery in Kerala
In the southernmost Kerala, the scenario is not very different. In a state where the BJP is neither in power nor in main opposition, bribery charges in connection with MCI certification for a medical college have dealt a blow. The BJP in Kerala is slowly gaining a foothold and making inroads into regions that are primarily left bastions.
Anti-corruption was the Kerala BJP's single USP considering cases against Congress and left party leaders in the recent past. A clean, corruption-free government was BJP's offer for Kerala but the same doesn't hold good anymore. In its own internal probe committee report, the BJP found its leader guilty of accepting Rs 5.60 crore as bribe from the owner of a medical college to acquire MCI certification. The issue rocked the Kerala assembly with the BJP taunted for preaching Morales while indulging in corruption.
While the allegation against BJP minister in Maharashtra is a state issue, the charges of bribery against its leader in Kerala are far more serious. The opposition has accused that national leaders of the BJP are also involved in the case. The BJP Kerala unit has deemed it a case of 'individual cheating' but the incident has dented the party's clean image.
"This scam involves not just the Kerala BJP leaders but also the national leaders. Bribe was paid for favours from the MCI and it has larger dimensions. Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar came to me in person and inquired about the whole matter, and asked me to provide a translated copy of the same. This only means that they know that the matter is serious but they are not ready to discuss it in the parliament," CPI(M) parliamentarian M B Rajesh told the media when the issue was raised in the Parliament.
The not-so-clean BJP?
This would not be the first time that a BJP leader is accused of corruption. Corruption charges were levelled against B S Yeddyurappa in Karnataka while the Vyapam scam took place in Madhya Pradesh. These incidents, however, took place when the NDA was not in power at the centre.
Ever since the Modi government has come to power, the BJP has deemed itself a clean government. The incidents from Kerala and Maharashtra are the first to emerge post BJP's elevation to the centre. With allegations of corruption against its minister in Maharashtra and bribery charges against its Kerala unit, the BJP can no longer boast of being the party with a clean image.