Global view of India is that it is still a fairly corrupt country at all levels. Corruption in India has seeped into all walks of life in the absence of strong checks and balances. On paper, the country has adequate laws in place but in practice, the long periods of trial that follows shoddy police investigation and results in a poor conviction rate, reflects the inability of the system to successfully prosecute the corrupt. This has only blunted the fight against corruption.
When we list out the Top 10 ‘tainted’ politicians in India, it must come with a clarification that there is a wide grey zone between being an accused and being convicted. Most of these politicians still remain in public life, in the absence of social condemnation or being socially ostracized.
We list the Top 10 in no particular order.
This ex-Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh takes great pride in publicly announcing her humble background and beginnings, but fails to explain how she managed to pay an income tax of Rs 26 crore! On becoming Chief Minister for the first time, she carried out over 400 transfers in her first week in power. It is a well-known fact that government postings carry a price and premium depending on the location and position, and this is a known source for raising illegal money. This apart, her massive investments in building the Rs 685 crore Dalit park in Noida is said to have been a major source of money routed through her army of favoured contractors. Her role in the Taj Heritage Corridor still remains under investigation.
Karunanidhi first became Chief Minister in 1969 and since then he has served in office several times. Till date, he and his family members have continued to grow in wealth, but face several cases of corruption. His family members including wife, daughter, and grandnephews have all been accused of being involved in cases, including the infamous 2G Scam. His prodigy and ex-Telecom Minister, A. Raja also makes the list. Karunanidhi has grown with the political system since 1969 and seems to know how to exploit the system to his advantage.
Alternating power with DMK supremo Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa has learnt the ropes of politics well enough to beat Karunanidhi at his own game, in politics and in amassing wealth. Like Karunanidhi, she, too, faces several cases of corruption, though she recently managed to get away in one of the cases involving disproportionate assets filed against her by Subramanian Swamy.
Political heavyweight Sharad Pawar has built a reputation for remaining in power and that has come on the back of his ability to make money and utilize the same to further his influence and career. His name has cropped up in several scams which included the famous Stamp Paper scam when he was named by the prime accused Abdul Karim Telgi, the wheat scam when he was agriculture minister, and in clearing various large projects for favoured businessmen. His political power gaming also involved large funds, but over the years he has learnt to build his legal shield that has saved him from conviction. He continues to remain a political force to recon with.
Lalu Prasad Yadav
Lalu Prasad Yadav has been dominating the political scene in Bihar for quite a while. As CM, he has been accused and convicted for his role in the fodder scam but that hasn’t stopped him from being in the forefront of political activity and influence. During his tenure, he has been accused of several cases of corruption but conviction in most has been difficult given his influence both at the state and centre, and the lack of professional investigation. With both his sons being a part of the current Bihar cabinet, it is feared that he will continue to wield power from the background.
This convicted ex-Union Telecom Minister saw an opportunity in the 2G Spectrum allocation during his tenure and used it to favour companies that were closely linked to him. A prodigy of Karunanidhi, he was specifically recommended by Karunanidhi to replace Dayanidhi Maran, Karunanidhi’s grandnephew, to exploit the lucrative opportunity that the 2G Spectrum allocation offered and he used it to the hilt.
Mulayam Singh Yadav
Ex-Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav is facing a case for disproportionate assets, but that is only a small part of his vast wealth that he has built over the years. In U.P, transfers of government employees have become an industry with large sums of money exchanging hands. Mulayam Singh Yadav, like so many of his political contemporaries, has learnt the art of keeping themselves legally safe while accumulating wealth, if not directly, then through a network of companies owned by family, friends and business colleagues.
The former Chief Minister of Jharkhand came from humble beginnings, but quickly tasted the opportunity to make big money in the rough and tumble of politics. Jharkhand is a state rich in natural resources and therefore, in his two years in office as CM, he made the best of opportunity in misusing his power. He was first arrested in the Madhu Koda mining scam and was soon accused for money laundering, a case for which the Enforcement Directorate had to travel overseas in pursuit of his money trail.
Suresh Kalmadi’s moment of glory came when he was appointed as Head of Commonwealth Games 2010. He saw this as his best opportunity and let loose a series of contracts that threw legality out of the window and in the process made some big time money. He ended up in jail and is now in political wilderness hoping for a comeback someday.
Long before A. Raja took the seat of corruption, former Telecom Minister Sukhram milked his opportunity while in office. In 1996, CBI seized Rs 3.6 crore in cash that was stashed in a suitcase. He was later convicted and jailed in another case for 5 years, for accepting Rs 3 lakhs as bribe. Ever since his conviction, he has remained in political exile.