Black money and white lies
One of the most important promises made by TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu in his much-talked-of 'padayatra' for our sake is withdrawal from circulation...
When one of our tallest leaders, C Subramaniam, who held the Finance and several other important portfolios at the Centre with great distinction, about whom it is widely considered as the best Prime Minister our country failed to have, talked about this issue when he came to Vijayawada way back in 1981 to deliver Dr T V S Chalapathy Rao Memorial Lecture. "As long as political parties depend on black money for elections, it is impossible to eradicate this evil completely and politics should get out of the clutches of black money," he said.
It will be possible when we evolve a system of elections where the government itself meets the expenditure of candidates and takes away money power in elections. Results of all such attempts as voluntary disclosure scheme, bearer bonds scheme and so on are sure to be disappointing, he added.The furore raised by many political parties on the recent order of the Central Information Commission bringing political parties under the purview of RTI Act, aimed at transparency and accountability, reveals the parties which are vehemently opposed to it in their true colours. With the government itself opposed to it for reasons not far to seek, it is doubtful whether any good will come out of it.
Now-a-days wealth, however acquired, has become the 'sine qua non' of respectability, social acceptability, political power and even spiritual superiority. Once a man becomes rich, he may be privately disliked but he is publicly deified. If wealth was to be hard-earned end-result of frugality and painstaking efforts, as it was once considered to be, one can put up with the respect the rich enjoy in our country, but now-a-days riches are not acquired by any of the above qualities.
But a whole crop of new rich, venal politicians, corrupt officials, tax-dodging businessmen, former ministers and glamorous film stars, has emerged. The greatest danger to our democracy is the total domination of political life of our country by the 'damn rich'. Today one finds, by and large, it is the unscrupulous businessmen, former corrupt officials, illiterate but rich landlords who get elected, not the educated or the trained and responsible professionals or persons in the mainstream of social life.
Veteran journalist MV Kamath, who expresses his views fearlessly on falling ethical standards of our politicians mentioned in his column recently that 93 per cent of Karnataka's newly-elected MLAs are crorepatis. The average growth in wealth of 92 of them is Rs 12.62 crore in the last five years and the highest average growth in the wealth of 43 elected Congress MLAs is Rs 17.57 crore.
Clever Camouflage There was ingenious device by some political parties some time ago to legalise their income from donations. They put up 'hundis' into which party men and sympathizers voluntarily put their contributions. Here, in Vijayawada, during Mahanadu organized by Telugu Desam founder N T Rama Rao, it was put up and money poured in and it was all counted and accounted for in a very transparent manner.
Next it was in UP that this practice took shape in a different manner. Chief Minister Mayawati's birthday was the occasion when donations poured in large quantities. Subsequently, its legality was questioned in a court of law and that is a different matter. Money thus collected to satisfy the rulers is just a pittance and it was realised all that was a futile exercise.
A sustained and prolonged effort was expected but things seem to be drifting though they received wide support from the discerning sections. With elections to some Assemblies and the Lok Sabha round the corner, political parties have gone into election mood and all other issues have been relegated to the background. Some parties have already started giving a green signal to the candidates chosen by them so that they could prepare themselves to face the elections, mobilizing required funds.
Steps have been initiated by the government from time to time to control expenditure by making the candidates accountable for every pie spent and also making it mandatory for all candidates to declare their assets at the time of filing their nominations. But in actual practice all these rules are brazenly flouted.
For the ensuing elections it is estimated that, for the Assembly the expenditure will be around Rs 5 crore and for the Lok Sabha Rs 50 crore in Vijayawada and the aspiring candidates have to start mobilizing funds from all available sources. In most other constituencies also the expenditure will be at least that much, if not more.
Respected legislator Vavilala Gopalakrishnaiah used to walk round the constituency meeting voters and travel with only two pairs of clothes and wash them in his room in MLAs' hostel. Look at that picture and this! Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra said after his historic verdict that the parties were answerable to the citizens about their source of funding, how they spend the money and asked all the parties to appoint public information officers to respond to the RTI queries and follow all the legal provisions.
With all the parties stunned at this unexpected development and saying that the CIC has acted beyond his powers, it is to be seen how far it will serve the avowed purpose of making the parties accountable for the funds collected by them.