Maya, Money And Morality
Conducting elections in India is a gargantuan exercise. It is much tougher than holding elections in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia, all put together. Against this backdrop, elections in five states are considered significant. But as the elections are inching closer, measures resorted to by different political parties of improbity are reaching their nadir. Last week, the Election Commission (EC) ordered that statues of Mayawati and those of elephants, erected across Uttar Pradesh during her term as Chief Minister, should be covered in plastic, so that their polished resplendence does not influence voters’ choices. Despite the EC’s best intention to offer a level playing field to all contestants in the run-up to the poll by keeping Mayawati’s statues and BSP’s election symbol—the elephant—hidden from public gaze, it may actually work wonders for Mayawati in this politically significant state. It is noteworthy that Uttar Pradesh has 403 Assembly seats and 85 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes, and Dalits constitute 21 per cent of the total population in UP and are a strong vote bank of the ruling BSP. Although, Mayawati’s statues and her election symbol of elephants carved out of stone have been draped, the Congress’ pro-Muslim sops have been shot down, the officials believed to be blinkered in favour of the ruling party have been transferred by the EC and bundles of cash meant for distribution among voters have been seized—all this points out discrepancies that have crept into our political system. Human weakness for riches and wealth more often than not yields against moral and ethical values and temptation for unaccounted and unexpected wealth gets many hands. Softening one’s morale and inducing him to depart from discharging onerous duties and responsibilities on being lured or bribed by money power always creates problems in the administration and commercial dealings. And when it interferes in the election process for electing a popular government, it becomes a matter of serious concern.
In UP, if Mayawati is faced with the row of misusing public money worth crores of rupees on statues, in Uttarakhand, the BJP had to replace Ramesh Pokhriyal with BC Khanduri owing to corruption charges levelled against the former. In Goa, the Congress’ prospect may be affected, where a mining scandal has tainted Digambar Kamat’s government. Talking of tainted contestants, it is worth mentioning a brief analysis carried out by National Election Watch, which comprises 1200 NGOs. It points out financial and criminal backgrounds of re-contesting candidates in the upcoming elections in UP. According to this analysis, the first lists of candidates of BJP, Congress, SP and RLD contain 26, 26, 24 and 1 candidates respectively with criminal records (based on 2007 and subsequent affidavits). In fact in elections in India, there have been constant references to three MPs, i.e. money power, muscle power and mafia power and to four Cs, i.e. criminalisation, corruption, communalism, and casteism. Elections are the foundation stone of any democracy. As the democracies in the modern times are mainly representative in character, they are shaped by the method of election. India has adopted the representative system of democracy. Besides, universal adult franchise, free, fair and periodic elections; independent election machinery is prominent among the features of Indian democracy. The conduct of free and fair elections depends much upon the performance of the three elements. These three elements are independent electoral machinery, the political parties or candidates, and the people or the electorate. It is no more a secret that when almost all parties are sailing the same boat to capture power, media coverage of elections today does not focus on real issues affecting millions of people and instead is led by sensationalism and glamour. It tends to forget the real and basic ethics of election coverage. A true democracy ensures that people’s representatives are accountable to the people for local, state and national matters through effective transparency. Such accountability may promote responsible politics and attract patriotic and competent professionals and social workers to politics. Our present system based on diffused accountability breeds corruption and attracts self-seekers to politics. For this breed, interests of national development, welfare of the people and need of good governance take lower priorities, if any. So, it is the need of the hour that we should support people like Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare, who have launched a campaign against corrupt politicians and corruption so that the country remains rooted in true democratic spirits.