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Ashamed, angry, but Indian MPs vow for change

December 25, 2005

By Liz Mathew, New Delhi: Fury, disappointment, humiliation - Indian MPs have felt it all in the one-month-long winter session of parliament that saw two sting operations on TV tarnish their image more than ever.

While many of the MPs are now too ashamed to face the public, especially after one Rajya Sabha and 10 Lok Sabha members being expelled for involvement in the cash-for-queries scam, a cross-section of MPs IANS spoke to are hopeful they will be able to regain the public's faith with hard work.

"It was a complete disappointment. This is my first term as an MP and I had to be part of this shameful part of parliament's history," lamented Madhu Goud Yaskhi, a first time lawmaker elected from Nizamabad (Andhra Pradesh).

"Now I have to think twice before telling anybody that I am an MP," said Yaskhi, who left his legal practice in New York to join politics in India.

A second sting operation followed the cash-for-queries scam, this time exposing seven MPs asking for bribes to release their local area development funds.

Though none of his party MPs was involved in either of the scandals, Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) Mohammed Salim agreed with Yeskhi.

"When I walk through the street, nobody will identify me as a communist MP. They will say here comes one of those who take money even for asking a question for us," Salim asserted.

Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Sangeeta Singh Deo also seemed embarrassed.

"Last week when I was sitting at the airport, a group of young kids entered the VIP lounge. When the security guards asked them to go out, I overheard them saying: 'You need to be corrupt to sit here'. I cringed to hear that," she said.

But Singh Deo's colleague and former central minister Haren Pathak protested the sting operations, saying politicians were being "targeted".

"The sting operation was done as if everybody else was clean. Do you think that all the media people are clean? A holier than thou attitude is not correct," Pathak said, arguing there should be an inquiry into how the sting operation was conducted.

MPs like the Congress' Purandareswari Daggupati (Bapatla, Andhra Pradesh) and CPI-M's P. Satheedevi (Badagara, Kerala) were confident that their voters would still be confident about them.

"They have full confidence in us. So this would not affect us," Purandareswari said.

Satheedevi even said the new corruption exposés had asserted the need for more women in politics. "No women MPs were involved in the two scams," she pointed out.

Others have opted for damage control measures.

Immediately after the first corruption expose came out Dec 12, the Congress' first timer Kuldeep Bishnoi went to his Bhiwani constituency in Haryana for a tour.

"I was there for four days and I took pains to tell my voters that everyone is not like those who were caught. It was quite a task," he said.

Many MPs felt that the tarnished MPs were "trapped".

"It (taking money for queries) has been happening. It's no news at all. People have lost faith in the political system because of its ineffectiveness, indecision and corruption," said L. Rajagopal, an MP who is also a successful industrialist. "We can change the system. At least the new generations should take the first step."

His colleague Sachin Pilot agreed: "There may be flips. And it's not a deterrent for us and we will not fail in our duties."

BJP's actor-politician Vinod Khanna also felt they could easily change the tarnished image of MPs with determination from the party leadership. "I think political leadership should also take a firm stand against corruption."

NRI, Madhu Yaskhi, New York attorney and his Dr. Wife returned to India to serve children and the poor people of India and elected MP