There's been great soul-searching in India after a spate of corruption allegations, which have tainted the reputations of politicians of several parties. The latest was the seizure of vast amounts of cash from the homes of a former cabinet minister. But Andrew Whitehead in Delhi says there is a silver lining - there have always been crooked politicians in India, but they can no longer be sure of getting away with it:
Sukh Ram has a lot of explaining to do. In India; members of the government - as Sukh Ram was until the Congress party lost the general election in May - are not conspicuously well paid. They get about £300 a month. Plus perks, like free housing and travel.
So, it's quite difficult for a minister - however puritan his lifestyle - to amass the sum of thirty-six million rupees, more than £600,000. Yet this was the amount recovered recently by Indian police when they raided Sukh Ram's two houses. One a smart government bungalow in the centre of Delhi; the other, his home in the hills of Himachal Pradesh.
Thirty-six million rupees in bank notes. Stuffed, by all accounts, into briefcases, attache cases, and even rolled up in bed linen. Left lying around with only a cursory attempt at concealment. It was the biggest sum ever recovered in the course of an anti-corruption investigation in India. Sukh Ram may well have an entirely plausible explanation of how he managed to accumulate quite so much ready cash. But as yet, he hasn't shared it with the police, the press or the public. He's been spending his time fighting shy of the media and just about everybody else by the seaside, at Southend. He has, apparently, got relatives there.
The Congress party, in a belated damage control exercise, has suspended the former minister from party membership. Sukh Ram hasn't been charged, never mind convicted. In India, as elsewhere, the legal system assumes that all are innocent until proven guilty.
But Sukh Ram, communications minister in the former Congress party government, is no stranger to controversy. He was in charge of awarding contracts for the multi-billion pound expansion of India's telecom industry - the boldest move in the country's ambitious programme of economic reform. Opposition parties alleged at the time that he had improperly favoured certain companies - allegations that Sukh Ram and his party colleagues have always vigorously denied.
This wasn't the only allegation of impropriety against members of Mr Narasimha Rao's government. Indeed, there have been so many, it's difficult to know where to start.. There was the share rigging scandal; the sugar import scandal; the stockbroker who alleged he had delivered in person to the prime minister a suitcase crammed with rupee notes; the Chandraswami scandal; the vote-buying scandal - buying not ordinary voters but opposition MPs; and then what became known as the 'hawala' scandal, alleged illegal payments by a local businessman to top politicians of just about every party, which led to the resignation of seven ministers earlier this year. Again one has to say, no politician has admitted any wrongdoing, and none has been convicted.
The former prime minister himself has not done much for the reputation of Indian politics by trying every legal gambit possible to escape a summons to appear in a magistrate's court to give evidence.
It's not just a malaise affecting India's most distinguished and successful political party. The whole system is riddled with corruption. No politician, it's said, can easily survive in Bombay without reaching some form of accommodation with the underworld. If you cross them, they kill you. The ganglords, rich from property deals, are believed to have been behind several political assassinations.
In much of North India, the goondas - the men made rich by organised crime - are not simply patronising politicians Some have decided to run for elections themselves. There are MPs from several parties with long criminal records, or serious charges pending.
One newly-elected MP from the lawless state of Bihar has just given himself up to face charges including the murder of four members of a rival party and shooting at the police superintendent who tried to arrest him. The MP says the charges against him are politically motivated.
Almost as telling, former ministers and MPs have proved so reluctant to move out of their elegant government-provided Delhi bungalows on losing office, the courts have begun ordering their eviction.
But don't lose heart in the world's biggest democracy. There are honest politicians and brave police officers. The most remarkable aspect of the Sukh Ram case is that the homes of a politician who perhaps felt he was above the law were raided. A score of corruption cases are progressing, slowly, through the courts. The top ranks of India's judiciary are of unimpeachable integrity. Their message is clear: no politician however mighty, is untouchable. It's too soon to say that Indian politics is being cleansed - but some of the grime is beginning to lift.