India is all geared up to celebrate its 63rd Independence Day amid fears of terrorist attacks. Terrorism, however, is not the sole threat that India faces today. A greater threat is posed from within: the threat of plutocracy.
Presenting the Constitution of the country on Jan 26 1950 Dr Ambedkar expressed a hope and a fear. He hoped that India would achieve political equality soon but feared that economic and social inequalities would prevail for long. All the progress and development that the country has registered so far is mocked by the large number of people living below the poverty line and an even larger number of people who cannot read and write. The much vaunted economic growth that India has achieve has not yet translated as dignified living conditions for millions of people.
The last Lok Sabha (Parliament) elections may throw some light on why such a deplorable condition exists in the country. Criminals and plutocrats have got themselves elected to the Parliament with the help of their muscle power and money power.
150 of the new MPs (Members of Parliament) have criminal charges against them, 73 of them facing serious charges. The BJP has sent 42 criminals as MPs to the Parliament, 17 of whom face serious charges. The Congress has 41 criminals out of whom 12 face serious charges.
The National Election Watch (NEW) made a detailed study of the economic background of the MPs and discovered that 300 out of the 533 MPs are crorepatis (assets amounting to Rs 10 million). This is in spite of the fact that many MPs have not disclosed their entire assets. The contrast between the wealth of our ‘rulers’ and the 250 million who subsist on the bare minimum is too obvious to merit mention.
138 Congress MPs (two-thirds of the total), 58 BJP MPs (half of the total) and 14 out of the 22 Samajwati MPs are crorepatis. BSP has 13 and DMK has 11 crorepatis. The number of crorepatis in the Lok Sabha has almost doubled from 154 in 2004. Politics seems to be an economically lucrative enterprise in India.
The statistics of certain individual MPs would make us believe that politics is the best commercial enterprise today. In 2004 the total assets of the BSP MP Muhamed Tahir was Rs 116,697. In 2009 it rose to Rs 10,779,346: an increase of 9137%. Which other industry makes such profits? Or take the example of another MP: C H Vijaya Shankar (BJP, Karnataka) – his assets rose from Rs 263,999 in 2004 to Rs 17,493,189 in 2009 (6526% growth).
According to a research conducted by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), about Rs 10,000 crore ($2billion) is spent on the month-long Lok Sabha elections in India. Out of this only Rs 2000 crore is the amount spent by the government agencies for conducting the elections. The rest is spent by the political parties and their candidates. CMS estimates that about Rs 2500 crore is spent on the eve of the Election for ‘buying’ votes using various foul methods.
The political parties spend more on canvassing and campaigns than the country spends on development schemes for the poor. High Flying Aviation has disclosed that all of their helicopters and jet planes are hired by political parties during the campaign period at rates varying from Rs 75,000 to Rs 150,000 per hour. BBC claims that Congress paid $200,000 to T-Series for the use of the song ‘Jai Ho’ in their campaign. The BJP hired the services of the vast chain of FM radios all over the country.
Have the elections in India become an affair in which wealth and thuggery play a greater role than the opinion of the voters? Has politics in India become a commercial activity for our leaders? Are these the reasons why the poor remain poor while the rich get richer?