Saturday, April 11, 2009

Me and my representatives:

A muse on democracy

These days everyone in India- more so in Delhi, is talking about the next general elections. Newspapers are full of them. The candidates and their supporters are already infected with the bug. The crazy statements and counter statements (in most rude manner and bad taste) are going on full steam on the media . Even housewives talk less of the tearjerkers and more of which politician said what . In all, very interesting and happening times for our democracy.

I too joined the bandwagon recently when I got curious about the candidate profiles. Under the rules framed by the Election Commission (EC), all candidates for election to the Parliament or state legislatures are required to declare their movable and immovable assets and liabilities/overdue to public financial institutions and government dues as well as those of their family members and dependents. Every morning , in the newspaper I find well known names of candidates and details of their assets. Going by these profiles, it appears that our representatives are a super rich lot. Of course we always knew that. But the fact that they are declaring their 3-4 cars and two houses , shares and bank balances openly, should be a cause of concern for Income Tax Department . Most of them are crorepatis . Most own several vehicles and more than one house. I must feel privileged that such rich people are interesting in representing poor me . Yeah , I feel almost poor when I look at their assets. I also feel that Politics is a very lucrative career option...

Take a case of celebrity politician Rahul Gandhi . He is almost my age. Never really worked ( I don’t consider Politics as employment ) . Within one tenure of MP-ship his assets have gone up ten times!! In 2004, he declared total assets of Rs 22 lakh. In five years, the assets of this first-time MP have shot up 10 times to 2.25 crore. While in 2004, he held bank deposits of Rs 11 lakh, £30,000 and $19,200; shares of Rs 3.9 lakh; LIC and other savings certificates in Rs 3.80 lakh; jewellery worth Rs 1.25 lakh; and a farm house worth Rs 9.8 lakh., in 2009, he holds bank deposits of about Rs 20 lakh, LIC and other savings certificates of Rs 10.2 lakh; land worth Rs 40 lakh, jewellery worth Rs 1.5 lakh; and two shops in a mall worth Rs 1.63 crore. I wonder what can be the source of such steep growth.

Rahul Gandhi is not alone . Take another case of R.V Deshpande who was the Congress candidate from Haliyal constituency(Karnataka ) in the 2008 assembly elections. He had filed the mandatory affidavit before the returning officer, and every line of it reveals why Deshpande has been so cagey about his assets and liabilities. (He resisted revealing his assets under RTI several times before Lokayukta .claiming it an intrusion in his privacy .)Deshpande’s assets at the time of the May 2004 elections: Rs 9 crore. His assets at the time of the May 2008 elections were up by more than 1000% and stood at Rs 145 crore. This beats all stock markets and investment options . Then there is a classic case of Mayawati and her party. I sincerely feel that we Auditors can learn some accounting from this lady and her elephant . I do not think that nothing can be done about it under the law. If nothing is being done , however, the fault lies in the implementers of laws. People like me and my colleagues.

Another point to note is that Politics in the family is good for women empowerment. I mean all dependent women, wives and daughters of these politicians are very rich and growing richer with every election . They own vehicles, shares, bonds , cash and of course jewellery . I know enough tax laws to understand the reason of such magnanimity towards women of the family .

These details are disturbing but they still leave many questions unanswered . My first question is -How well these super rich politicians can represent me ? What do they know of my struggles and my problems. Or as they say in administration – my ‘felt’ needs .

Check out this article for further details on my argument . I find it sad that people who made faces when Rabri devi claimed her jail going husband’s Chief minister ship as her family property , also feel that Rahul Gandhi is ‘ hope of young India’ .In my eyes the only difference between Sonia Gandhi and Rabri devi’s entry into politics is that latter is less glamorous than the former. The other day I found a well known fashion designer claiming that Rahul Gandhi is the most appropriate candidate for PM. It’s a shame that we no longer question the family members of politicians claiming the political seats as their family business. It is further shameful that even educated Indians find it a matter of fact that politicians will be corrupt and powerful. They will abuse their powers and there is nothing one can do about it . This indifference , this placid acceptance of wrong – is very frustrating . The least we can do is to ask at every possible forum – the source of this rising income .

But who cares for democracy ? As ordinary voters have we not accepted that for us democracy remains ‘the art of running the circus from the monkey cage’? We are happy with the tamasha going on around us. The 24X 7 entertainment these politicians provide us – these days live on our TV screens .Someone drinking water in a dalit household and someone else turning a poster boy overnight after a hate speech .All elements of drama and action . Better than even reality TV.

This reminds me of my father’s favorite my-school-days-story . He had a friend who was very good in science and maths but was a foot-dragger in the literature subjects. Essay paper was specially his Achilles’ heel . My father and his friend made a deal before exams . My father wrote few essays for him which he learnt by heart and he helped my father with science subjects in return . Dad had selected the essay topics carefully but it so happened that in that year instead of usual topics the paper setters decided to test students on ‘General Elections in India . This friend had learnt ususal topics like My favorite poet , A family vacation and 'Festivals of India' . Now after spending 15 confused minutes in the examination hall, he turned creative . He started his essay with “ General Elections in India are like a big festival. Election time is almost a festive time for us. It brings a lot of business and everybody participates in some way or the other . Other than general elections, India has several major festivals ……..” This was followed by the essay on Festivals of India which the fella had learnt by heart. If my father is to be believed , the examiner found his essay very creative and his friend passed the paper. It is so sad , however, that even after decades , elections by and large still remain just that for us- a business opportunity for us , entertainment for others .


alice said...

Democracy or mobocracy its the best way of fooling all the people, all the time.
Tell me, which scenario would you prefer: 543 new MPs extremely competitive,having no experience whatsoever of Government but with the full knowledge of what the previous batch had gained during the 5 yr term
Or the same old 543 MPs who have made assets to the best of their capacity but not completely satiated and still hungry.

The choice looks like devil and deep sea, no?

alice said...

BTW, all your cartoon strips, caricatures or whatever they are called are so nice and apt. They hit the nail on the head...

Atoorva said...

my reply to ur question is that this hunger(greed is not satiable by any level of assets ...crores or multi crores . So there is hardly any choice between the two categories.
Just now in a meeting , a very senior IT deptt officer remarked that elections are good for economy. If nothing else it brings back around 40,000 crores of public money back to public from its representatives. His estimates , based on some data he claims, says that if they can raid just 50 selected politicians without fear , the collection will be enough to take care of next 5 budgets. now howzzat!!