Tag Archives: corruption

Martin Webb: Contemporary Indian anti-corruption movements and political aesthetics

To appreciate the role of aesthetics in politics, we might look to the recent resurgence of popular anti-corruption movements in India. In 2011 and 2012, mass protests by supporters of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement focused around spectacular fasts by the social activist Anna Hazare. Hazare’s projection of moral authority draws upon a well-established Indian idiom of non-party “saintly politics” (Morris-Jones 1963). The ascetic aesthetic of this approach, in Hazare’s case, is projected through the adoption of simple, hand-woven khadi cotton clothes and practices of abstinence (Pinney 2014; Webb 2014). More recently, a new political formation, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or the Common Man Party, headed by Hazare’s erstwhile IAC colleague Arvind Kejriwal has been promoting an ethical and anti-corruption alternative in electoral politics.
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Nicolas Martin: Democracy subverted: Inequality, liberalism, and criminal politics in the Indian Punjab

A number of liberal scholars of India, ranging from Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze to James Manor, all broadly view democracy as the solution to a variety of social evils including poverty, inequality, corruption, crime, and even violent conflict. They all acknowledge that Indian democracy is at times a messy affair, but they share a common faith in its self-correcting potential. As they see it, democracy has fostered a more assertive citizenry that no longer accepts traditional hierarchies and that is less tolerant of abuses of power.
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Luisa Steur: Trajectories of the Common Man’s Party

“Mr. Ambani, you are one of the richest persons in this country where majority of the population does not get to eat two square meals in a day. Does your greed for money know no end? Why do you have to indulge in illegal activities to make money when you can do good business without such activities?”

Those are the words of Prashant Bhushan, member of the national executive of India’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)—Common Man’s Party—in an open letter (dated 23 July 2014) to Anil Ambani, chairman of the Reliance Group and potentially the richest man in India if it weren’t for his brother Mukesh Ambani, worth $20 billion and famous for having built Antilia, the world’s most expensive personal residential property that towers over Mumbai’s squalor almost as a symbol of “the succession of the middle and upper classes into outer space” (Roy 2012). Prashant is clearly walking a tightrope: he is invoking outrage at the contrast between the wealth of the Ambani brothers and the poverty in which most ordinary Indians live but is keen to temper his criticism to target only the wealth that has been “illegally” made and that is evidence of excessive “greed.” “Crony capitalism” and “corruption” are the vices that the AAP has set itself the task of combating, in favor of “good business,” proper and legal capitalism. Like any populist party, AAP leaders tend to avoid too explicitly leftist or rightist rhetoric, instead holding the two together in often-uneasy tension.

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