Monday, November 17, 2008

Power & Politics / Mail Today, November 17, 2008

WITH THE economy slowing down, everything seems to have a “ For Sale” tag attached to it. But you wouldn’t expect our politicians to pin similar tags on election tickets, would you? You’d be wrong if you didn’t.

As Margaret Alva, the now resigned Congress General Secretary, then Yogendra Makwana, who was forced to step down as head of the Congress Scheduled Castes Cell and now Vishwendra Singh, the BJP MP from Bharatpur in Rajasthan, have all told us, India’s two largest parties are auctioning tickets to the highest bidder. If anything, this is further shameful proof that something is rotten in our political parties. Earlier, when Mayawati did it brazenly, nobody questioned her because she was the party and the BSP was Mayawati. But now we see the so- called national parties taking to the same “ cash for tickets” route. A cursory glance at the assets declared by those who control the national parties and those blessed with tickets by them makes it clear as daylight that India’s mainstream political parties are now becoming Of The Rich and For The Rich. And Run by the Rich.

I wish we had a parliamentary variation of the US system of primaries that throw up common party workers who rise to the top by sheer dint of hard work. We see, instead, parties that swear by democracy not holding genuine inner party elections, political thugs dictating terms to dedicated party workers and powerful cabals that have nothing to lose and everything to gain calling the shots.

Political gangsterism has overtaken the decision making process. You are an orphan in today’s politics if you don’t let your money do the talking. Why, you may not even find access to your own party leaders if they don’t have a clear idea of your bank balance. The irony is inescapable: we are a democracy and elect our MPs and MLAs. But our choice is truly limited, because the people whom we can vote for are decided by cabals in our political parties, which are increasingly run like family held companies. India Inc is being replicated on Political India.

All of them are equally culpable — Congress, BJP, BSP, SP. In my constituency in South Delhi, the BSP candidate is a gentleman whose chances of winning are just about as much as that of a snowfall in Delhi in the middle of June. Nobody had heard of him until last week when he rode an elephant ( his party symbol) and went to the ADM’s office to file his nomination papers. The secret was soon out: he had declared assets in excess of Rs 150 crores. Now I cannot think of even one party leader who would say no if the above worthy were to offer even a miniscule faction of that humongous wealth in exchange for a ticket. After all, top leaders need money to run their outfits and in these days when no leader worth his salt flies anything but charter and lives anything but fivestar, that kind of money goes a long way in keeping our leaders in luxury.

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