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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 13, March 22, 2014

The Squabble over Tickets carries a Tale: Our Politicians will go on Plundering

Sunday 23 March 2014, by T J S George


How passionate are our politicians about serving the nation! The scramble for tickets is always a feature of elections. But never have we witnessed the huddle and the muddle, the tumult and the chaos we see in the present rush to get into Parliament. There is nothing in this free-for-all to distinguish one party from another or one ticket-seeker from another. No one has an identifying ideology or principle. All are bound by a common thread: the greed for power. All are blissfully hypocritical. All parties say, for example, that they are determined to wipe out corruption, yet all have branded behemoths of corruption among their candi-dates. Ours must be the most double-faced democracy in the world.

Such reality is no deterrent to netas seeking party nomination. They fight among themselves, threaten and cajole, resign, join rival parties, form new alliances, even take to criminal intimi-dation. Lilliputian as well as Brobding-nagian parties face revolts from within over denial of tickets. Top leaders have preferences that others resent. For several days the BJP was unable to announce its principal candidates on account of internal squabbles.

Murli Manohar Joshi and Lalji Tandon, both ranking leaders, felt slighted and resentful when they were told to make way for party President Rajnath Singh in Lucknow and Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Kerala’s dictatorial CPM leadership picked a candidate for Kollam, a good candidate, but without even consulting its LDF allies. An outraged Revolutionary Socialist Party, with strong roots in Kollam, quit the Front and joined its old adversary, the Congress-led UDF. Laloo Prasad Yadav may be too tainted to qualify for elections. But he gave tickets to his wife and daughter. Offended long-term ally Ram Kripal Yadav quit and joined the BJP.

The worst of sins are ignored in the name of winnability. The BJP’s reconciliation with B.S. Yeddyurappa was prompted by his winnability in his community. He used it to get several of his favourites on board, causing serious splits in the party. The BJP was forced to recognise even the discredited Bellary mafia. The Congress, for its part, kept a symbol of venality, Suresh Kalmadi, in the forefront till the last moment. It still could not wash its hand of Pawan Bansal. It’s the same mindset that has brought Pappu Yadav, Bihar’s dreaded toughie-turned-politi-cian, back into the electoral scene.

The Supreme Court goes on giving us hopes of deliverance from criminal politicians. Can these be more than hopes? In the latest ruling the Court has said that the trial of legislators charged with offences must be completed in one year. The importance of this judgment will be clear when we realise that 50 MPs in the recently concluded Lok Sabha had 136 cases against them pending in the courts for more than a decade. A murder case against a Congress MP from Ujjain has been going on for 29 years, another murder case against a BJP MP from Azamgarh in UP for 25 years. As long as a case is pending, an MP can of course go on enjoying the ever-increasing privileges and immunities of an MP. The power to make laws is in their hands, so they may well device ways to circum-vent the latest Supreme Court ruling, too, as they have done in the past.

This continuing invincibility of the criminal class in our legislatures could explain the Aam Aadmi experiment’s hold on popular imagi-nation. They made silly mistakes when they were in power in Delhi. They had some immature leaders who invited disgust by trying to raid African houses and by making racial comments on southern nurses. On top of it all, the channels seem united in their attempt to discredit the AAP and its leaders. In spite of all this, the party scores points in opinion surveys and attracts distinguished professionals to its ranks. Clearly politicians who equate plund-ering with patrio-tism have made people so fed up that even the AAP, warts and all, strikes them as worth a try.

There’s a message here for the plunderers — a message even the voluble TV channels cannot suppress.