Friday, March 13, 2009

The Ugly Face of Indian Parliament

[This news was published in the Statesman (13 March 2009) under the title "Meltdown plays party pooper". It describes how the Indian parliamentary parties build their funds and select their electoral candidates. The candidates are selected mostly either on the basis of their money power or their higher position in social strata or both. Obviously, these candidates when become the "people's representative" show commitment to the interest of himself first, ignoring the interest of common Indian people. And no wonder, to get a reasonable amplification of the money they invested in election, they use to get involved in so many businesses which are dirty. These actually include providing support or giving consent to the requirements and demands of imperialism, comprador bourgeoisie and feudal class. Truly speaking, therefore, neither the parliament nor the ministry works for the people; rather they always adopt policies, which serve the interest of MNCs, big comprador bourgeoisie and feudal class. For a fundamental social change in the Indian society, it is therefore important to understand the real character of Indian parliament, which is not bourgeois democratic at all, but an instrument to give the democratic stamp on imperialist plunder and feudal exploitation.]

Stanley Theodore
HYDERABAD, March 12:
The global financial meltdown is severely impacting the functioning of political parties across the spectrum and also upsetting the prospects of several aspirants for party tickets.

Andhra Pradesh, estimated by various organisations, spends the most in the country during election time. For instance an Assembly candidate needed to spend at least Rs 25 lakh (US$ 0.05 million) in 2004 just to have his presence felt. Now parties estimate this around Rs 40 lakh (US$ 0.08 million). Further, considering that this is a simultaneous election to the Assembly and Lok Sabha, the expenditure can be better managed if both candidates act in tandem. A Lok Sabha (parliament) candidate needs at least Rs 2 cr (US$ 0.4 million) to show that he is in the race.

“This is the bare minimum amounts. If this much is not spent, voters tend to figure that the candidate is not serious enough to be in the contest. Over and above this Assembly candidates need to spend another Rs 60 lakh (US$ 0.12 milloin) and Parliament candidate another Rs 2 cr (US$ 0.4 million) to keep rolling their campaign machinery like jeeps, cadre, tents, among others,” a party leader said.

Parties began their collections in mid-2008 from various sources. Very few kept their commitment almost immediately. The rest contributed to varying extents and promised to deliver the remaining during election time. This group includes ticket aspirants. Now the liquidity crunch due to the economic recession has left them high and dry.

“Since September 2008 things began to look bleak. And thanks to the Satyam fiasco in January the situation has turned terrible”, a leader who deals with finances said. When asked if contributors or business houses have become tight fisted, he quipped: “Tight fist or loose fist is when there is something in the fist. These days all fists are empty”.

Now aspirants are showing share certificates and land documents to show that they have the financial backing to contest. But parties are not taking them seriously as the stock market is down and so is the real estate market. Even those speaking of "gold reserves" are told to liquidate them and have cash in hand.

Those candidates who traditionally flaunted their NRI funding sources are being ticked off. “One can have a hundred NRIs, friends and relatives. Today how many of them are in a position to transfer $20,000-$25,000? Its neither fair nor practical to take NRIs into account”, a poll fund manager said.

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