Thoughts on economics and liberty

An "Honest" PM?

This is a Guest post. I'm thankful to Mr Kishore Asthana for permission to publish his excellent write-up on my blog.


I am informed that an official I have appointed in my company has taken a bribe to get some work done and that he keeps asking for bribes openly. Despite repeated incidents of this nature, I take no action against the official because I feel that if I were to sack him, those who recommended him may be angry with me and, perhaps, get me sacked in return. Am I an honest man? I have a reputation for never asking for a bribe myself, but, doesn’t my role as a passive spectator vis a vis these illegal dealings makes me an accessory?

Our Prime Minister is in the same position. Under his regime, a senior Minister has been repeatedly and openly accused of taking bribes.

The same Minister was also accused during the last term as Minister and is said to owe his present appointment to corporate lobbyists. There are records of transcripts with middle-men, or, in this case, a middle-woman. Despite all this, the PM has been a passive spectator. However personally honest he may have a reputation for being, he cannot be said to be morally honest if he is abetting such chicanery in his government without taking any action.

Legally, our Prime Minister, by doing nothing in the case of Ministerial corruption in his government, is guilty of abetment by an act of omission. Moreover, by re-appointing a Minister with a controversial track record and by continuing to devolve powers to reputedly corrupt Ministers when such powers are being openly misused to collect bribes as per reports, he is guilty of abetment by an act of commission. Both these acts are defined as crimes in Chapter V, article 107 of the Indian Penal Code. Personal morality is not an adequate defense in this case. The PM is not being accused of being taking bribes himself. He is being accused of being a silently consenting eyewitness to the rape of India by one of his appointees. If we were to apply the law of the land, both the Minister concerned and the PM may be found guilty.

Despite the above, at a certain level, one feels bad for our PM. The fall from goodness is always painful to watch. However, the cynicism of politics and the desire to cling to power have negated the PM’s innate honesty and he has no one to blame but himself. He is wise enough to know that when we become creatures of unholy compulsions, we sacrifice our aura and our halo fades away. This is what has happened to him and, once he has retired and has time to reflect on his non-actions, he may live to rue these. By then it would be too late for our violated country.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. Regrettably, our PM has been tested and found wanting on this touchstone.

Kishore Asthana

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