Putting chameleons to shame
Putting Chameleons to Shame, The clamour for party tickets, suicide attempts by supporters of sulking candidates, huge amounts of money changing hands, trading of wild accusations and doling out impossible promises-all put together make the cacophony of general election.
The clamour for party tickets, suicide attempts by supporters of sulking candidates, huge amounts of money changing hands, trading of wild accusations and doling out impossible promises-all put together make the cacophony of general election. We are used to this loudest phase of democracy every five years. But with every election, the ethical and political standards have been falling and faith in democratic system tottering. What else can we say when fifty per cent of the unaccounted cash ceased by the police in the entire country after the polls were announced was from Andhra Pradesh.
Elections in AP have been made most expensive in the country by TDP and the Congress, the two parties which ruled the State for more than three decades. A particular by-election in Prakasam district (Darsi) about 15 years ago is cited as the turning point in this regard. The unprincipled way leaders have jumped endlessly from one party to another to yet another makes the ‘Aya Rams’ and ‘Gaya Rams’ of Haryana look paragons of virtue. One example would suffice to illustrate this point. Mynampalli Hanumantha Rao who was keen on contesting Malkajgiri Assembly constituency on TDP ticket declared, on knowing that the seat was being allotted to the BJP, that he is not a person who would change parties at the drop of a hat. He promised to stay in the TDP and fight for the seat as an independent. Next day morning he was found traveling to Delhi with Ponnala Laxmaiah, TPCC president. He met Digvijay Singh in the national capital and joined the Congress party. But his name was missing in the list belatedly released by the Congress high command. He did not waste time. He telephoned to K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) who took the call promptly as though he was waiting for it. Hanumantha Rao with four TDP corporators trooped into the TRS and he was rewarded with a TRS ticket to fight for Malkajgiri Lok Sabha seat. A seasoned politician who wanted to contest from an Assembly constituency on a particular party ticket found himself in a bigger ring fighting on the ticket of a party which he has been running down and showering on the party supremo choicest epithets for years. Konda Surekha also made this kind of shifting of parties and ultimately settled for TRS ticket. She was vehement in her criticism of the TRS till the other day. She also abused in unprintable language the chief of the party on whose ticket she is now fighting the election. That is how elections are fought in India, in general, and in AP, in particular. Everything is forgiven and forgotten according to convenience. The outpouring of emotions before party offices or the residences of the top leaders demanding tickets for some candidates or opposing alliance is nothing new.
One exceptional feature of the present elections, at least in AP, is that there are no high expectations from the government that is going to be formed after the polls in Telangana. In every election so far, the election manifestos released by all the parties were given some importance. Not anymore. Even the media has shown scant respect for the election promises. There is no evaluation of the performance of the sitting MLA. In good olden days, the newspapers used to devote number of pages for interviews with the candidates and the opinion of the people in their constituencies. Now if there is any such attempt, one would suspect it to be a paid performance. Times have changed so much that every action of every democratic institution has become questionable.
Two aspects recommend themselves for attention. The First factor is lack of adequate representation for women. Out of 17 MP candidates being fielded in Telangana by the Congress and TDP-BJP combine, how many are women? None. Vijaya Shanti, sitting MP from Medak, was not fielded by the Congress. She was asked to contest from Medak Assembly constituency. Most of the Congress candidates are sitting MPs. But even in the constituencies represented by the TDP members, the Congress could not find a single female candidate. Same is the case with the TDP and the BJP. The parties which have been making tall claims about women reservations in legislatures have not been able to evolve a principle to voluntarily field women candidates to the extent of at least 10 or 15 per cent, if not 33 per cent.
The second aspect concerns the state of Left parties. There is no party which is prepared to have an alliance with the CPM or CPI on respectable terms. The CPI wanted to have a tie-up in Telangana with the Congress and the TRS. But KCR had not reportedly responded properly. Ponnala also was a reluctant customer. After protracted negotiations in Hyderabad and Delhi, the Congress had agreed to give one Lok Sabha seat and nine Assembly seats to CPI. But it gave only Khammam LS seat and seven Assembly seats. The CPI did not get Husnabad where its leader Rangareddy was keen on contesting. The Congress has a sitting MLA there and their hesitation is understandable. But the sitting MLA in Pinapaka of Khammam district, Kantarao, was thrown out by the same Congress party to accommodate CPI. The hapless MLA was sought to be consoled by Ponnala through making him DCC president. But within an hour of announcement, former MP Renuka Chowdary brought heavy pressure on PCC chief and got the MLA removed from the DCC post. Three changes in the Congress list at the last minute that have been affected after issuing B-Forms, at the behest of Congress president Sonia Gandhi could have been avoided had the PCC president been honest in reporting the ground realities. Sonia had to indulge in damage controlling exercise. Otherwise, leaders of TJAC would have felt alienated and humiliated. Coming back to the plight of the Left parties, the CPI had to practically adjust with four sitting seats and two extras. Even in Maheswaram, Congress leader Malreddy Ranga Reddy has filed his nomination and he was reportedly given B-Form by the PCC.
There are no takers for the CPI in Seemandhra. The CPM’s position is worse. According to Madhu, Secretary of AP unit of CPM, the YSRCP leaders who spoke of a tie-up three months back are not responding now. An alliance between the CPM and YSRCP would have helped them in Nalgonda and Khammam districts in Telangana and the whole of Seemandhra. The fight in Seemandhra is so fierce and close that it is difficult to risk even one seat. Allotting a seat to CPM or CPI is a risk because of two reasons. The Left votes get transferred to the candidate of friendly party, be it the Congress or the TDP. It does not happen other way round. Moreover, the Congress leaders would enter the fray as rebels with covert or overt blessings of the party leadership. After winning as independents, they would become associate members of the Congress party. Same thing happened with the TRS in 2004 in the case of the Congress and in 2009 with the TDP. No attempt has been made by leaders of the Left parties to expand their organisational base by connecting with the youth and by taking up contemporary issues. Mere anti-colonialism and anti-market rhetoric would not help Left parties any more. The liberal democrats in the country have been looking up to Left parties to unite and get going. The Left still commands respect for the way the leaders conduct themselves in social sphere. But the Left parties which brand any attempt to create wealth and jobs as neo-liberal conspiracy have limited their area of influence. They are not likely to come to power. Nor are they in a position to decide who should come to power. They have no philosophy that would help creation and distribution of wealth.
The youth of the country comprising more than 65 per cent of population are not taking cognizance of the Left parties. That is certainly a cause for concern. There is not going to be any tangible gain for any party from the alliance between the TDP and the BJP. Senior leaders like Sivaprasad and Butchaiah Chowdary had shock of their lives when they found their constituencies allotted to the BJP. In Seemandhra, votes may be transferred from TDP to BJP and vice versa. But in Telangana, it is different. There is no compatibility between the supporters of both parties. It looks as though the main fight in Telangana would be between the Congress and the TRS with an edge for the former.