And yet from time to time one hears that corruption is a major issue. The people who say this are very often from the middle class- the very class that is part of the corruption that goes on and is a major beneficiary. Shankar Sharma has an interesting take on this theme in BS. dilates on this theme and says that the middle class had no problem with corruption in UPA- I when the benefits were trickling down to them- in the form of higher salaries, appreciation in stocks, etc. It is only when the economic slowdown began that corruption became an issue.
Sharma goes on to argue that Indians are willing to wink at Modi's supposed lack of respect for democratic norms or secularism or even the prospect of crony capitalism under Modi because they expect the goodies to start flowing again. (This is an argument that is made for Singapore very often).....since the big economic boom began in 2004, the Indian middle class has partied. Salaries increased at a compounded rate of 40 to 50 per cent across most professions. Packages of Rs 50 lakh and higher became commonplace. US salaries paled in comparison.
And which industries saw the biggest salary jumps? Largely, infrastructure, real estate, telecom, finance, mining, power and so on. Now, weren't these the very sectors in which some of the biggest scams (real or concocted) since 2004 have occurred? You bet. These sectors were the ones in which the same ultra-moralistic Indians fought each other to gain employment. Was middle-class India so innocent as to be unaware that bribes are an integral part of doing business to run any regulated business such as infrastructure, power or mining (anywhere in the world, actually)? That contracts in these businesses are almost never won honestly, or that bids won honestly have little if any profits embedded in them?
...Please note that the so-called anger against corruption started to gain momentum only in 2011 - almost precisely when our growth rates started to plummet. Truth be told: Indians were happy to make money off corruption, and happily turned a blind eye to what lay beneath the boom. It is only when our salary increases dwindled that we turned to the Kejriwals and the Modis on the rebound.
I have difficulty in going along with this proposition. People may believe that Modi will be an effective administrator but I doubt that they will be willing to let anybody trample over democracy or secularism. The very fact that the BJP and Modi have had to change their positions on these matters suggests that Indians will not compromise on basic tenets. Indira Gandhi found out this truth the hard way. So will anybody else who tries to take liberties with basic principles.