The run up to elections in India is a series of colorful events for a political observer, one that has excitement, showmanship, intrigue, bluster, humour, aggression, and dollops of hypocrisy. The voters lap it all.
The run up to the elections also sees a lot of money exchanging hands, at all levels. It's a time when money flows in cash along with its natural ally, liquor and the voters, who have mastered the art of encashing this moment, revel in all the attention and perks of political campaigning.
Tainted politicians in the fray
A major aspect of campaigning is the use of muscle power and Haryana sees a lot of this. During election time, criminal elements of all backgrounds are brought in to coerce potential voters and also to keep rival factions away from reaching the voters.
When it comes to candidate selection, political parties apparently give maximum weightage to candidates who have money and muscle power to bring to the party.
A close look at the elected MLAs of the 2009 Assembly Election in Haryana, seems to validate this assertion.
Candidates with criminal backgrounds
In the 2009 Assembly polls, the number of winning candidates with a criminal offence background was28. That's 31% of the total 90 MLAs! That's a very high number for any political system.
From the 28 MLAs mentioned above, the number of MLAs with declared criminal cases against them was 15! That's 17% of the total MLAs.
The number of MLAs with declared serious criminal charges against them were 13! That's 14% of the total MLAs. These included cases of attempt to murder, extortion, intimidation and forgery etc.
All parties fielded candidates with criminal backgrounds
INC is the ruling party in Haryana for two consecutive terms and won maximum seats. Out of their 40 MLAs who were elected, 10 had criminal cases against them i.e. 25% of 40 MLAs.
The break-up is, 6 MLAs had criminal cases against them. That's 15% of the 40 MLAs and 4 had serious criminal cases registered against them. That's 10% of the 40 MLAs elected. This is how the Hooda government sets its standard. Therefore, all the corruption and scams that have been exposed in Haryana should come as no surprise to anybody.
The leading opposition party is the INLD and the 2009 results show that they are no different either.
Out of the 29 elected MLAs of INLD, 10 (34%) had declared criminal cases against them. The break-up is, 5 MLAs (17%) had declared criminal cases against them, while the other 5 (17%) had declared serious cases against them.
So between the leading and the main opposition parties in the state assembly, we had 20 MLAs out of a total of 90, who had criminal cases against them. That's 22% of the total! So what can the common man expect from the state government, when the leading opposition too has the same low standards?
The other parties, in percentage terms fared no better, though their actual numbers were much smaller.
So how do such people get nominated and then elected?
Political mechanics in Haryana is no different from other states with all candidates going out of their way to woo voters. Each election sees politicians go back to their respective constituencies with a bagful of promises. The voters hear them all but in the end what determines his vote is usually driven by the candidate's community, caste or religion. It's unfortunate but true fact of politics, especially in a state where caste and community loyalty takes precedence over personal opinion on developmental issues.
If one is a member of a particular caste or community, there is a greater chance that he will vote in conjunction with the rest of the community, in favour of a particular candidate. It's because of this, that voting patterns in Haryana is still by and large driven by caste rather than issues. The ultimate person to suffer remains the voter.
It's only now that voters seem to have woken up to their own conscience and have begun to apply their own judgment based on candidate's commitment to specific issues that concern him.
So why are political parties resorting to any means to win elections?
Politics in Haryana is about money and power that leads to more money. It is the sheer desire to create easy wealth in little time that drives people by the droves to join politics and not some idealistic desire for Samaj sewa or Samaj sudhaar. The Hooda administration is a perfect living example.
Let's understand the cycle of money in politics; to understand why those involved will go to any lengths to win an election. It all starts with building a network of party workers, who in turn build pyramids of supporters, who further have other pyramids below them. They all need money to buy loyalties. To fund this network of loyalists, political parties have to raise funds, large sums and mostly in cash.
The funds are raised by way of donations, gifts, social project funding and also in kind by providing vehicles, catering and tenting services, media advertisement sponsorships, liquor etc.
The people who contribute to the funding are businessmen and business houses that look forward to a return-on-investment model for funding. If a businessman invests an X amount by way of donation, then he expects at least a 5X return on investment, if the party he supports, comes to power. That's the gamble he takes.
On winning the elections, the political party and specific politician in question, then has to return the favour by accommodating the businessman to get a share of contracts etc given out by the government. This itself goes against the principle of fair play and becomes the cause for corruption and crony capitalism.
Then there is the business of paid news, wherein political parties pay media houses large sums for favourable content to be rolled out in a pre-negotiated frequency. This results in the viewer or reader getting a biased opinion that can unfairly influence the voter opinion on a party, individual or issue.
The Hooda administration has been rumoured to have spent very large sums on the media and recently there was a press report which stated that the Hooda administration has planned to spend Rs 100 crore on a media blitz to highlight their achievements. The question is such large sums have to be raised from somewhere and whoever funds this will look for a return favour, thus setting up the groundwork for corruption. It's a vicious cycle.
People's movement needed
If people of the state want a Naya Haryana then they will have to put pressure on political parties to ensure that candidates with declared criminal backgrounds are denied tickets, in the first place. Thereafter, everyone must resolve to ensure that they do not vote on the basis of caste, community or religion but on candidates that are committed to resolving the basic issues of people, in their respective constituencies.
The people must realise that they have the power to make the change and must use this power with responsibility. The government they get is the government that they elect, therefore the people must also accept responsibility for the state of governance in Haryana.
It's now time for the people to join hands and vote in a government that believes in clean and good governance, one with responsibility to the people. It's time for a Nayi Soch.