The larger picture casts doubt on the very viability of democracy in our country. As the world knows it, democracy is government of the ordinary people, by fairly elected people, for the good of all people. To some extent, we had that kind of democracy in the first few years of Independence. What we have today is government of manipulators, by manipulators, for manipulators.
With every election, the situation gets worse, not better. Munirathna Naidu, Congress candidate in a Bangalore constituency, wanted the returning officer to set all other tasks aside and process his nomination papers immediately. He threatened the officer: “If you ask (any clarifications) later, then remember the bomb blast in Malleswaram.” The man was arrested, then released on bail. These are the types who become elected representatives of the people.
More bizarre was the case of Maharashtra’s elected MLAs. A bunch of them assaulted a police officer inside the Assembly. A committee of MLAs has absolved them of assault charges and recommended a departmental inquiry against the police officer who is already under suspension. In the hands of thugs, democracy becomes a farce and lawbreakers rule. The voter becomes the ultimate fool.
Few represent the depraved legislative culture of our times more dramatically than Ajit Pawar, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra. By the admission of his own party operatives, he is given to crude ways and crude jokes. “Nothing can happen in politics,” he once said, “unless you are a thug.” Unhappy with press reports about the sufferings of farmers, he told journalists in 2011: “You people must be banned... You’ll understand when you are beaten up.”
His latest adventure pertains of course to urination. He withdrew the offer to urinate into the dams only when he realised that “when there is no water to drink, it is difficult even to urinate”. This is the man who was irrigation minister for 10 years, oversaw government spending of `43,270 crore on 426 projects (none of them completed) and ended up increasing the area under irrigation by just 0.1 per cent. Where’s that money? Where’s the water?
A cursory glance across the country is enough to bring out a humbling reality—that our democracy has passed the stage when it could be gently teased with phrases like “functioning anarchy”. Today, it is a scene of mounting shame. The “elected representatives of the people” consist noticeably of the scum of the earth. Among them are murderers in UP, blackmailers in Bihar, kidnappers in Haryana, rapists in Punjab. There is no sign of the situation improving if developments in election-bound Karnataka are anything to go by.
Naidu was by no means the only candidate who considered himself above the law. Venkatesh Gowda, representing the one-and-only Yeddyurappa’s party, also threatened a returning officer. He would teach the officer a lesson, he said, if he were not allowed to take out processions and to stage protests. He had earlier assaulted officials who had come to raid his office. It will be the death of democracy when men like this become ministers.
Even the terrorist bomb that exploded in Bangalore was quickly converted into a political bomb. The BJP said the bomb was targeted at its workers. The Congress said the bomb would electorally help the BJP. What did that mean? Did it imply that if a bomb went off near the Congress office that would electorally help the Congress? The disconnect between democracy and our politics could not be sharper.
Perhaps money tells the complete story. Money is the enabler and money is the goal. In two days alone, currency bundles amounting to Rs 1.4 crore were seized by the authorities along with 500 cases of liquor. At the other end of the spectrum, affidavits filed by candidates revealed a picture that has become a feature of our democracy. Karnataka’s chief minister’s assets increased more than four times in the last five years; one deputy chief minister’s assets almost doubled, the other’s rose by a couple of crores. Democracy of the few by the few for the few is flourishing. For now. The 99 per cent are watching.