Voices Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - 05:30
  The multi-party democracy we preen about in India is essentially a multi-person democracy, sometimes, extended to a multi-family democracy. To undermine a party then is to get the key guy in the cross-hairs. When that happens, the target knows the very survival of his party can be at stake. That is the price to pay for lack of any higher purpose to politics than power and money. Chandrababu Naidu is a case in point. If one hears his speeches these days, one would conclude that he is probably the only politician today who is good at spinning verbal selfies, a unique talent. At a recent rally on the anniversary of the formation of Andhra Pradesh state, he regaled the gathering with assertions of his own integrity, dynamism, honesty, fearlessness and some amount of political machismo as well. Some would have wondered if this was a film release function and if it was his brother-in-law and actor Balakrishna who drafted his speech. What was truly bizarre about the performance was that it was supposed to whitewash the political crime he and his Telangana lieutenant Revanth Reddy were allgedly caught red-handed at – attempting to bribe a legislator to vote in their favour at the MLCs elections. The videos of the bribery attempt were soon followed up on local media by audio conversations purportedly between Chandrababu Naidu and the legislator who was being wooed, with the former assuring the latter of fulfilling any and all demands. While the final outcome of this political farce cannot be predicted given the fact that Jayalalitha in the neighbouring state is back as Chief Minister, thanks to a minor mathematical error on part of the judiciary, it is certainly keeping the people of both the states entertained. The people of Andhra Pradesh have been disheartened over the entire bifurcation episode and the loss of Hyderabad as capital. Going by social media comments by concerned citizens one can sense that there is a realisation that it is the greed of the politicians of the region which not just impoverished Telangana, but also left the Andhra Pradesh region with far less development than its prosperity demanded. Chandrababu Naidu ensured his victory by making promises of loan waiver to the farmers and portraying himself as the saviour of farming communities. Post-victory, he has not just failed to fulfil his electoral promises, but has also turned on the very farmers of the prosperous "rice bowl" region, divesting them off their lands for making his dream capital. Some say, the irrational location was fixed on the advice of "vastu experts", even as he tends to boast about bringing in cutting-edge science and most modern cities. In his speech Chandrababu Naidu also said that people of Andhra will not keep quiet if their chief minister is defamed. Today, if Chandrababu Naidu is sent to jail, there may be far fewer people of the state who will shed tears for him. By allegedly indulging in the attempt to bribe, which the TDP is repeatedly denying, Chandrababu Naidu has driven himself into a corner by blaming his rivals for his troubles. But then, in politics, that is what the enemies are expected to do. He, more than any other politician, must understand this, given his record of "deposing" NTR in a palace coup of sorts. However, what this episode should highlight for the voters is getting sidelined because of the political theatre. Anyone who has seen Revanth Reddy’s sales spiel to the independent MLC, Stephenson, would recall that he was offering INR 5 crore and political positions of one’s choice from Hyderabad to Delhi. This is the price of the single vote of an independent legislator. Would the price be higher for a legislator belonging to a more important rival party that is directly confronting the ruling party? What would be the rate of, say, Talasani Srinivas Yadav, who is still listed as a TDP MLA in the records but is a minister in the TRS government? He switched soon after contesting and winning on a TDP ticket. The voter believed that he represented TDP and voted for him. And he is not the only one. There are several others who have done this, post elections, and are getting away with this. Does the electoral system provide any remedy for this? The 52nd Amendment to the Constitution of India (Anti-Defection Law of 1985) clearly says, “An elected Member of a House who has been elected as such otherwise than as a candidate set up by any political party shall be disqualified for being a member of the House if he joins any political party after such election”. Is this not the apathy of the political system that allows this free political trade? The Election Commission has also failed repeatedly to take action when it confiscates huge stashes of money from the representatives of the candidates during elections. The EC is supposed to have discovered some 1.5 lakh bogus voter IDs in constituencies like Varanasi, which they were supposed to investigate but have not done anything about till now. Political parties have been spending savage sums of money to wrest elections. They now have found ways of passing off much of the expenditure as that of the party’s and not the candidate’s, bypassing the limits imposed by the Election Commission on the expenditure allowed to candidates. The power of money and fraud now is not confined to just the election process, but is continued into the interim period to undermine the electoral fortunes of rivals in the next elections. This is not just about TDP or TRS. It is a larger malaise. Political consolidation is done not by addressing the people’s problems and genuinely winning elections with people’s support but by completely making a mockery of the democratic multi-party system. Perhaps it is time to dissolve all political parties and conduct elections on candidates and their records alone.    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability for the same.