How AAP’s corruption claim in Punjab is an extension of Fair and Lovely advertisement

As the Aam Aadmi Party claims to have freed Punjab of corruption in 20 days, one needs to know that of the party’s 92 winning candidates in the 2022 Assembly polls, 57 per cent of them have criminal cases registered against them

How AAP’s corruption claim in Punjab is an extension of Fair and Lovely advertisement

File image of Bhagwant Mann. News18

Have you ever watched the advertisement for ‘Fair and Lovely’ cream? This advertisement claims that whosoever applies this cream becomes fair in complexion and lovely in looks that too in 20 days! I have never found anyone who has got fairer by applying this cream. I vouch you too would not have, either.

The brand of Fair and Lovely was launched in India in 1978 and since then it has been promoting ‘fairness tone’ through its product. The brand has to withdraw its claim of fairness and rebrand itself when it was found that none can be fairer by applying this cream — and that too in 20 days. But sadly, in India you can get away with any of such false, misleading and befooling claims since there is no check on them.

If you happen to travel these days in Punjab, you will find exactly the same ‘Fair and Lovely’ claim in each nook and corner of advertisement hoardings in Punjab. These advertising hoardings read: “Corruption Free Punjab in 20 Days”, with a picture of the current Chief Minister of Punjab. If the claim in this advertisement is true, it is an unprecedented achievement in the whole recorded history of human civilisation. This claim, if it is true, is a lesson and example not only for other Indian state governments but to the whole governments of the world ranging from theocratic, dictatorship to democratic forms. Probably, this is the tallest ever ‘achievement claim’ by any government anywhere in the world and deserves a place in the syllabus of Oxford, Yale and Stanford.

Now let us examine the ‘acclaimed feat’ in this government advertisement, the cost of which is adding to the already crumbling economy of Punjab with an average Rs 1 lakh debt per capita. Can corruption be removed in 20 days? Is it possible? Is it true? Can this claim be believed? You ask any citizen of Punjab or if you have any relative living in the erstwhile richest state of India. The answer is a big no. It is like you started a helpline number to prevent suicide and whole suicides stopped!

Just by starting one anti-corruption helpline number, if any government claims in its advertisement that it has made the state corruption-free, it shows how much projection is prioritised over action. These kinds of numbers already exist in many of the states. The Central government has a very well established institution of CVC with its draconian powers to put to trial any Central government employee. It has dedicated email IDs. By this test, corruption was finished in India in 1964 when CVC was established.

Joseph Goebbels argued that you repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. In psychology, this is known as the “illusion of truth” effect. But a reliable effect in the lab isn’t necessarily an important effect on people’s real-world beliefs. If you really could make a lie sound true by repetition, there’d be no need for all the other techniques of persuasion. This ‘illusion of truth’ is used by projecting it since most people take the claim without analysing it.

The AAP takes pride in saying that it has made Delhi corruption-free. Many of its MLA and even one minister in Delhi are facing the ED heat over their ill-gotten wealth. Many leaders, councillors and MLA are already facing the CBI music on the issue of corruption.

In Punjab, of the 92 winning candidates, 57 per cent of them have criminal cases registered against them. In the last Punjab Assembly election, held in 2017, this figure stood at 16 (14 per cent) of the total MLAs. Additionally, 27 (23 per cent) winning candidates declared ‘serious’ criminal cases, as compared to 11 (9 per cent) in 2017. As such, 23 of the AAP’s winners have cases for serious crimes against them. What action will be taken against these party MLAs in criminal and corruption cases is yet to be seen.

Corruption is an institutional problem which has to be dealt at individual, societal and governmental level. Only institutional mechanisms — that too just starting a helpline number — would end corruption is misleading and cheating to the mandates of the voters of Punjab. Interestingly, as per an article in the leading regional newspaper, out of more than 20,000 complaints in the last few days, action was taken on only 4 complaints which is just 0.004 percent. If you happen to check any of the stats of CVC, CBI or ED, the action as well as recovery and prosecution rate is much higher.

The people of Punjab are fed up with the false promises made by earlier regimes. They want a real, concrete and positive course of action and not false claims.

The author is an independent commentator. Views expressed are personal.

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