Of late, the word ‘affection’ has acquired a new meaning in Uttar Pradesh. The term, which otherwise is used to express qualitative and subjective feelings, has turned hugely quantitative in nature. And interestingly, this change has been spearheaded by none other than the current Chief Minister of the state, Ms Mayawati, whose followers, in a mad frenzy of this affection, had been filling her personal coffers with gifts and donations. The reverence of Bahujan Samaj Party party workers towards her had been so overwhelming that according to reports, in the last three years, her personal wealth has grown almost 50 times! Her personal assets – which in 2004 were around Rs 1.62 crores, a figure she herself had declared before filing her nomination papers – have increased to a whopping Rs 52 crores now! And mind you, she does not have any other source of income except for these gifts! Media reports have put on record that her personal property is worth Rs 37.82 crore, plus cash of Rs 50.27 crore, bank deposits of Rs 12.88 lakh, gold and diamond jewellery worth Rs 49.75 lakh, silverware costing Rs 1.12 lakh, and murals worth Rs 15 lakh!! On being questioned, Mayawati’s explanation was that her party workers and well wishers had contributed this humungous wealth for no other reason but sheer love and affection towards her!
In fact, whatever means that Mayawati has employed to create this wealth and to get infamous is nothing new in the Indian political landscape. But unlike her, most of the other political parties have amassed obscene mounts of wealth through gifts and donations, not for any individual leader per se, but for their respective parties. It all actually started during 1970, when the government – under the Prime Ministership of Indira Gandhi – banned political parties from accepting donations from corporations. Though the objective of this ban was to restrict the influence of companies on political parties in power, the ban hardly served its purpose. On the contrary, this ban had a spiralling negative outcome, of which Mayawati is a classic case.
The political parties took full advantage of this rule and made corporations siphon off unaccounted black money to party coffers. Political parties typically claimed to raise funds, much of it below Rs 10,000 per donation, as then the donation did not require any disclosure. This way any amount of cash with them can be shown as donations from various people at denominations less than Rs 10,000 since by law they need not keep a record of such donors or issue receipts. And thus fund raising went on blatantly.
In other words, it was the most convenient way in which most political parties legitimised their blatant extortion of money from all sections of people. This time, though apparently it is Mayawati’s personal wealth that the media is more bothered about, the bigger problem is the fund raising system in totality. In general, people who provide cash do not have the right intentions, and many a time they demand returns whenever the respective parties or their representatives are in power. This is an aspect that has completely corrupted and criminalised the entire system as it is no secret that the biggest cash donors are obviously those who cannot generate the same amount through legal means. So political parties have conveniently developed a self-sustaining model. Raise funds (in cash), irrespective of going into the details of sources of the income of the donor; then term it as a gift or donation; use the same fund for all kinds of apolitical means to come to power; then when in power, take kickbacks (as the ‘cash’ money has to be paid back), or return favours in some form or the other, like through issuance of government projects or bailing the donor out of our frail legal system after some heinous crime! Or best, give them a ticket to fight the next elections and become MLAs or MPs themselves!
No wonder, one fourth of our sitting Parliamentarians have criminal records like murder, arson and rape! No wonder, politicians in our country get away from any form of legal scrutiny by giving some vague explanation that funds are coming on account of ‘affection’ from well wishers and party workers! No wonder, that not only would the Central Bureau of Investigation believe in these explanations but would also end up giving a clean chit to all such cases. And no wonder, the bureaucracy, judiciary and media sit and watch it all as mute spectators.
There is a popular saying that politics in India is more like a business – but then business enterprises have basic ethics, codes of conduct and moralities in place. Going by the precedence, politics in India is more like organised crime wherein political parties are mafias in themselves, who have completely robbed the Indian democracy of everything, including its moral legitimacy!!
- 20 January 2008 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics