Instituting a code of ethics in UPs permissive soil is ambitious. The test lies in enforcement
Uttar Pradeshs still-new chief minister,Akhilesh Yadav,has sent his ministers a code to abide by,for greater transparency and integrity in public life. Many of these directives may appear simple and self-evident: do not accept expensive gifts,deposit contributions above Rs 5,000 in the state treasury. Declare your familys assets every year. Inform the chief ministers office about land dealings and business interests,if any. Choose government rest houses over private hospitality. Do not attend public events without vetting the organisers background. However,the point is not whether this code of conduct is adequate or exhaustive,but that it has been put together at all.
It may not yet be a step towards meaningful governance reform,but it is at least a signal of the young chief ministers intentions and his acknowledgement of the responsibility of hope and change that his mandate has cast on him. Akhilesh Yadav and his wife,Kannauj MP Dimple Yadav,had posted details of their assets on the UP governments website shortly after he became CM,but none of his cabinet colleagues had followed their lead,apart from Minister of State for Social Welfare Narendra Verma. Now,the CM has indicated that his action was not a mere gesture,and that he intends a reboot of politics as usual. If he succeeds,even partially,Akhilesh deserves credit.
The rules that govern conflict of interest may be obvious,but such accountability is a hazy,faraway concept in much of our politics and society. UP is famously lax,given the entwined nature of political power,business and special interests. The Samajwadi Partys own record in government previously has inspired little confidence about its ability or willingness to draw lines and make distinctions. The tugs and pressure of various interests dont just corrupt politics,they almost constitute politics and decide the governments priorities. An effort like this,therefore,to formally define some of the most typical situations where these distortions are evident,and to lay out a protocol to be followed,is one way to begin reform. The test,though,lies in how the chief minister addresses breaches of his code of conduct.