Democracy is all about people power, wherein the people elect a suitable candidate of their choice to govern them and expect the elected candidate to work for the benefit of society as a whole.
In a country like India where the majority of people live a modest life, it is only natural that their elected representative would be someone from their background and someone who understands their issues and problems that they face in their daily lives.
The same should have been true for Haryana, as well where most people live a very modest life. But surprisingly that is not the case. The trend across all political parties is that candidates who position themselves as the most suitable to be the people's representative, are almost always persons who are wealthy, some very wealthy.
These are the people who seem to corner most party tickets and then use their money power to get themselves elected, which in turn opens up possibilities to earn even more money. That's why most politicians are driven to use any means to win elections.
The business of politics is only for the rich
This seems to be a fair statement and the facts seem to prove so. Let's take a look at the declared wealth of MLAs who got elected in the 2009 Assembly elections in Haryana and try and see how many of those happen to be declared crorepatis.
Out of the 40 elected INC MLAs, 32 were listed as declared crorepatis. That's 80% of the elected MLAs. So when 80% of the elected MLAs of the INC are crorepatis how does the party claim to be truly representative of the people of Haryana?
It's not just the INC but when we take a look at INLD, the main opposition party in Haryana, we find that out of 29 elected MLAs, 19 are crorepatis. That makes it 65% of the elected MLAs. So between the ruling party and the leading opposition party, we have 51 crorepatis out of a total of 69 elected MLAs. That's 74% crorepatis!
And it not just the ruling party or the main opposition party that has a long list of crorepatis. If we look at the smaller parties like the Haryana Janhit Congress, we find that out of 6 elected MLAs, 5 are crorepatis! That's 83%! Even the BJP had 2 crorepatis out of its 4 elected MLAs.
So why do political parties prefer to give tickets to the super rich?
This is a question that each political party must answer by themselves. One can only conjecture on what makes them favour super rich candidates over those who come from modest backgrounds. Also, a question must be asked of the people as to why they seem to go along the party line and support only the super rich candidates?
Why is it that people who live miserable lives in poverty and in abysmal living conditions, don't seem to question their own party as to why the common man on the road does not get a chance to represent the people, especially as he or she would be better placed to understand and perhaps solve their problems? After all, the BJP did choose a tea seller to head a state government and subsequently, the nation, didn't it?
The answer perhaps lies in the system of politics and electioneering in India. Political parties need funds to fight an election and as per existing laws they cannot raise funds and spend beyond the prescribed limit, as defined by the Election Commission. Everyone knows that the actual figure spent during elections far exceeds the limit set by the Election Commission but very little is done about it.
This only forces potential candidates and parties to ensure that they pick rich candidates who can support their own campaigns and also encourage funds to be raised unofficially and sometimes, illegally.
If candidates were able to officially and transparently raise funds, it will ensure that only white money circulates in the economy, especially on account of elections. This will bring in much needed transparency and accountability into the political system. The parliament needs to expedite the electoral reforms process.
Just transparency alone will not suffice in ensuring that all segments of society are fairly represented. The Election Commission must lay down further guidelines for parties to follow in selecting candidates from all backgrounds. The current system is such that it offers little chance to a candidate with modest means, to successfully campaign and win an election.
Unless the political system opens itself to the common man, it will continue to remain an elitist activity. The Anna Hazare campaign showed that there is resentment brewing among the people against the political class, which it views as being arrogant and insular. While the anger may be driven by increase in corruption in public life, there is also an underlying resentment building against the widening gap between the common man and the super rich.
The first target for people resentment is always the politician and the common man sees him as someone who personifies all the evils prevailing in the political system. If there was a true representation of the common man, there would be greater empathy with the leader, if he was one from amongst them.
However, with a fair and transparent system of fund raising in place and backed by Election Commission guidelines, it would be possible for parties to fund and support the campaigning of those candidates who are not able to raise adequate funds by themselves. This practice would give an opportunity to people from all segments and economic classes to stand and fight elections and the common man will more than welcome the move.
The path to a Naya Haryana
If Haryana has to develop successfully, it has to rely on the foundation of people participation. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi rightly stated during his speech at Madison Garden, New York that Mahatma Gandhi was successful in leading us to independence because he was able to successfully involve people in the independence movement, wherein every individual had a sense of self belief and participation, on contributing to the freedom movement. That is the spirit that is needed in Haryana today.
We need to include people in the movement for a Naya Haryana and the first step towards that is to make sure that the common man involves himself in the political movement and also comes forward to actively participate in selection and election of suitable candidates. That is the best way and the right way forward. It requires a Nayi Soch.