Two out of three people feel that the UPA-2 is corrupt and that corruption has increased over the last four years, while a growing number believe that the BJP is better at handling corruption than the UPA, according to the CSDS poll.
Even though corruption is only the fifth most important issue for voters in the 2014 elections, according to the poll’s 19,062 respondents, it’s clear that the UPA has a problem with corruption. Across sections of people and locations, the BJP is seen as better at tackling corruption than the UPA. Moreover, the perception of the level of corruption of the ruling UPA is far higher than the perception of NDA corruption in 2004 — when its tenure ended.
In 2004, just 23% of respondents to a CSDS poll felt that corruption had increased over the preceding five years of NDA rule. At the end of June 2013, however, 69% of survey respondents felt that corruption had increased over the last four years of UPA rule. Moreover, the UPA’s reputation for corruption has escalated during its second term. The perception of increased corruption under the UPA rose from 39% in 2011 to the current 69%.
On the whole, respondents viewed the Centre as more corrupt than the State governments, except for Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Haryana – all Congress-ruled. In Uttar Pradesh, the State and Central governments were ranked as equally corrupt while in Gujarat, the UPA was ranked as just slightly more corrupt than the BJP State government.
Despite these figures, prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act has been relatively rare. In 2012, 3531 cases were registered under the PoCA and related sections of the IPC, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. With a backlog of over 16,000 cases pending trial from the previous year, there were just 747 convictions during 2012, according to NCRB data. As of January 2013, just seven MPs — four in the Lok Sabha and three in the Rajya Sabha — and 29 MLAs had charges under the POCA against them, according to election affidavits analysed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
Yet the perception of corruption is high. In 2012, India ranked 94th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Index, down from 87th of 178 countries in 2010. TI’s numbers mirror those from the CSDS poll; 71% of the respondents TI surveyed in August-September 2012 for its Global Corruption Barometer said that corruption had increased over the preceding two years, Rama Nath Jha, director (Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre) at TI India told The Hindu. Political parties ranked as the most corrupt institutions.
At the State level, Rajasthan registered the highest number of cases under the PoCA and related sections of the IPC in 2012, followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, according to NCRB data for the year. In the CSDS poll, Maharashtra was perceived as the most corrupt State government, followed by Delhi, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. “We have found the State and Central governments to be equally corrupt,” said Anil Bairwal, national coordinator of the ADR.
Whether this will have an impact on electoral outcomes is hard to assess from the data. For one, knowledge about specific scams is patchy; the corruption scandal that respondents were most aware of was the coal scam but even for this, just 50% of the respondents reported having heard of it. Just 40% had heard of the 2G spectrum scam and less than a third of the Commonwealth Games-related allegations. All numbers were lower for rural areas. Moreover, State government approval ratings had little correlation with the perception of that government’s corruption.