It is high time the nation discusses the impact of conflicts of interest in the public domain, says Congress MP from Tamil Nadu, E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan. He explains why to Outlook.
Your bill speaks of conflict of interest arising out of public functionaries misusing office. What about Parliament?
The composition of the Rajya Sabha, for example, has changed vastly from 20 years ago. Big businessmen like Vijay Mallya, who earlier wouldn’t spend any time with politicians, are now taking time out to be present in the House. And there are several others like him. So it is important that we have the practice of disclosures in public space, through law. But it’s not just MPs or ministers or bureaucrats or corporate honchos. Conflict of interest is widespread.
How does it go beyond politicians and why are such conflicts unfair or a corrupt practice?
I feel the source of corruption lies in suppressing the conflict of interest when personal interests take precedence over public decisions. Everyone, and that includes MPs, mlas, ministers and corporate big daddies on parliamentary committees, should declare potential conflicts of interest first before agreeing to be on any of these committees. We began working on this bill three years ago and found serious infractions soon, like the baby food companies.... The campaign for mother’s milk could barely withstand the ad blitzkrieg launched by an mnc manufacturing milkfood.
The timing of the bill does raise uncomfortable questions about the Chidambaram matter....
Please don’t politicise the bill. I don’t want to get into a name-game thing. But there are MPs who sometimes represent corporate interests. Every country now has started to think on these lines. Don’t look at the bill just through the prism of politics. This impacts society as a whole.