Calcutta Notebook


The 16th Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament) polls, beginning from 7 April in India is set to take place in perhaps the most menacing-ever situation in post-independent India. The average assets of 126 candidates belonging to the Indian National Congress, the principal constituent of the ruling United Progressive Alliance-II (UPA-II), as per affidavits submitted by them to the Election Commission of India (ECI) is Rs 6,91,17,037. Against 33 of them have criminal cases, including ten with serious types The correspondings in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the leading party of the Opposition, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are 62,23 and 14. One is driven to infer that 22 per cent of BJP candidates faces serious criminal suits against 6 pc of the INC. The average assets of 62 BJP candidates is Rs 3,18,76,154. More candidates are about to submit their nominations for the 543-seat LS and only then, the complete information will be known.

In the 15th LS, 162 or 30 pc of MPs had criminal antecedents while 315 of them were crorepatis. (Rs one crore= Rs 10 million). In fact, the average assets of an MP in the last LS was Rs 5.64 crore. All this is revealed by the national election watch forum Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), based on its analysis of affidavits

In 2009, the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, headed by the late Arjun Sengupta, an internationally well-known economist, found that 77 pc of rural people could incur Rs 5 to Rs 20 per day, which wasn't enough to ensure a square meal a day with minimum calorie value in keeping the wolf from the door. In an interview to Business Standard, Dr Sengupta, said, "We, at the Commission, believe that the whole approach to planning in India should change. Only maximising economic growth should not be the aim. Planning has to occupy itself entirely with the improvement of the poor and vulnerable sections of society through social engineering. Social engineering is always a difficult exercise as it requires planning, coordination, re-designing of programmes to make them more efficient and plug leakages. The normal market mechanism benefits only the middle and the higher income groups, for the rest it is the government’s job to ensure economic development. The Government will have to see that reforms are not reversed, and at the same time, the socially and economically backward are also taken on board."

But the UPA-II government with Dr Manmohan Singh, also a noted economist, didn't pay heed to the prudent suggestion. On the contrary, the government pays subsidy in the form of various concessions such as tax breaks, excise and import duty subsidies of Rs 550,000 crore a year, one fourth of which is enough to rid the entire 77 pc of 'chill penury'—hit 77 pc of rural people of the agonies of living below the poverty line.

A rather obscene contrast to the reality of the 'wretched of the earth' is the extravagant election propaganda by the BJP which is hopeful of dislodging the ten-year-long UPA regime (I & II) with Narendra Modi (NaMo), chief minister of Gujarat, as the prime ministerial candidate. Three hundred mass rallies were planned after the announcement that the 'Hindu comprador rightist' BJP projects NaMo as the PM and half of them had already taken place. On an average Rs 20 crore is the cost for each such rally. The very choice of NaMo by the BJP was an imperative, imposed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as a diktat, reflects the nexus between money-power and criminal mafia. The BJP MLA and leader of Bajrang Dal, whose cadres served as storm troopers during the most pervasive criminal riot in the post-independent India openly said "Modi gave us three days to do what we want. Then he told us to stop and we did. He has done what no chief minister can do".

The ensuing parliamentary polls between 7 April and 12 May is going to be the largest democratic exercise under the aegis of a state in the world history with an 800 million electorate. The corporate-backed campaign, openly in favour of RSS-BJP, aims at subversion of what should have been a historic adult franchise. But the ruling alliance too thrives on the money-mafia menace. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) too is not a party of paupers. During the last three years, the party's income was Rs 95.60 crore against Rs 520.10 crore of BJP, Rs 16020 crore of INC, Rs 231.20 crore of Bahujan Samaj Party (professedly a party of subalterns) and Rs 61.98 crore of Samajvadi Party (socialist party). Way behind with less than Rs 6 crore is the oldest Indian leftist party, Communist Party of India, whose split-away formation is CPI(M).

Corporate lobbies—especially crony capitalists which grew their empire and assets in a break-neck speed through bonhomie with political heavyweights—are the gainers in the murky metaphor of money and mafia. [06-04-2014]

Vol. 46, No. 42, Apr 27 - May 3, 2014