Who Says Politics is the Last Resort of a Scoundrel ?

Jan 6, 2011

The oft-repeated maxim ‘politics is the last resort of a scoundrel’ may sound harsh and derogatory in the simple sense of the term.  The blanket application of this  maxim to the worldwide  political scenario may not be justifiable.  But if the political happenings in India in the last few decades  are anything to go by,  it makes sense to alter the maxim -  ‘politics is the last resort of businessmen who are scoundrels’ or to change the definition completely  based on individual percipience .  Because for many in our country politics is also a  business, to grab huge mass of land, buildings, shopping malls, apartments and prime properties in major cities of India and to amass wealth.   Considering the way this clan of scoundrels swindle  our country left, right and centre, they deserve a much more ruthless term to describe them rather than stick on to the age old term of a mere scoundrel.   Because words like scoundrel are too mild  and  have lost their meaning in today’s changed circumstances.  May be one can call them avaricious rogues,  parasites, maniacs or a kind of bacteria, virus or  political cancer, who are bent upon inflicting  such a deep wound from which our country cannot survive leave alone recover.

One can only say politics  in India stinks badly, to an inexplicable  degree  as it is unable to come out from the morass of filth, corruption, dishonesty, rank opportunism, expediency, maneuverings and manipulation of all kinds and above all, greed and criminalization that has come to afflict it.  Elections after elections we keep generating more filth  adding on to the existing one.  With many politicians with criminal background getting elected to the parliament both at the centre and in states,  one can only expect the  political situation to become worst than what it is today.  Just wait and watch! The stabbing to death  of a sitting BJP MLA in Bihar  by an exploited  school principal,  is just a small price paid by the politician for his misdemeanor and brazen behavior.  And lo, there will be enhanced security cover to these ‘netaas’ , for which taxpayer’s money will be spent. 

You may wonder what warranted this kind of outburst to direct my angst against politicians at this stage, now that 2G scam is losing the initial euphoria it had generated.   What triggered my pent up anger against the degeneration of the  political scenario is the Citizens Report on Governance and Development, 2010, released by the National Social Watch recently showing that 128 out of 543 (25%) of the Lok Sabha members in India are either industrialists, traders, businessmen or builders.  Though it is nothing to gloat about,  Rajya MPs from these groups account for only 10 % (25 out of 245) in the parliament.  Not that it is  something that was not known to a majority of Indians.  The  trend of  businessmen becoming politicians has been on the rise especially in the  last two decades.   But for the first time there was a clear idea of the number of businessmen netaas who have succeeded in spreading their tentacles  to  the precincts  of parliament, albeit as elected representatives. 

The report also says that this trend  is a flagrant  departure from the past when both the houses of parliament had the right balance of educationists, intellectuals, industrialists, sportspersons, social workers or people who excelled in art, culture, literature  &  music.  The report says “it was rarely that one found an industrialist or businessmen or others from allied communities in the Lok Sabha  right until the 1990.  But the recent years have witnessed an  astonishing growth of crorepatis in both the houses of parliament”.

Again, it is not just the question of these businessmen  spreading their wings in parliament, but using their clout for their personal gains.  Ever since getting elected to the parliament, the  financial fortunes  of many MPS have also undergone a  sea-change - of course only for the better.  This is, at a time when common people are struggling to live in the big bad world with spiraling inflation and many small time businessmen  struggling to  survive following the onslaught from MNC’s, luxury malls and big business houses and the global economic meltdown resulting in the closure of many businesses.  

Leaving aside common man,  where else but in  politics in India, can one expect his income to rise by a stupendous 3,024 per cent during a period of five years from 2004 to 2009?  This record is created by 46 year old Vijayawada parliamentarian Lagadapati Rajagopal, an industrialists who unabashedly calls himself as a political social worker.  During this five year period his fortunes witnessed  an exponential growth from Rs. 9.25 crore to 289 crore, something that no ordinary mortal can even think of in his dreams.  And behold!   The change in the political fortunes of these elected netaas is not confined to a single individual or any single party.  It spreads across politicians of all hues and political parties. 

Among those parliamentarians whose affluence has witnessed a big leap include BJP MP Maneka Gandhi.  Her assets rose from 6.32 crores ibn 2004 to reach Rs. 17.6 crores in 2009.  The assets of another BJP MP Uday Singh, who hails from Bihar,   rose from 3.06 crores in 2004 to 43.86 crores in 2009. 

The assets of our own ‘Mannina Maga’s Maga” H D Kumaraswamy saw a sharp rise from 3.06 crores in 2004 to 49.85 crores within a short period of 5 years.  Milind Deora, young businessmen-parliamentarian, son of union minister Murli Deora,  also is a crorepathi whose assets saw a big jump from 4.98 crores to 25.86 crores.  Industrialist-Congress parliamentarian  Navin Jindal  also witnessed a meteoric rise in his fortunes from 12.12 crores to 131 crores in five years.  Another Trinamol Congress MP  Ambika Bannerjee also considerably enhanced her wealth from 23.18 lakhs in 2000 to 17.6 crores in 2009.   This is just the tip of the iceberg, based on the declaration of assets required to be submitted by  these parliamentarians.  One can just imagine the black money staked in foreign banks, benami properties, assets and cash and gold by these unscrupulous and shameless beasts!  

Union minister and veteran parliamentarian S. Jaipal Reddy, who released the report, painted a rather grim picture of what lies ahead saying the proportion of rich parliamentarians will keep rising in the days to come mainly because contesting elections has become a costly affair.   The report also reveals that except in Kerala more money is spent during elections in the southern states. 

One would not have grudged these businessmen becoming mere parliamentarians. But, many members of parliament belonging to various political parties  are in the centre stage of the conflict of interest.  This is because many parliamentarians are part of the various standing committees  connected to their specific professions,  despite being industrialists. It is well known in the parliament circles that finance and industry-related committees are the most sought after and many MP’s often  solidly lobby to be a part of such committees. A cursory glance at the list of members of these all important committees including standing committees on finance and industry and the public accounts committee,  reaffirm these facts.   

For example at least 3 members on the Standing Committee on Health,  run their own medical  and education institutions.  The 31 member Standing Committee on finance has everyone connected with industry, cutting across party lines and 8 of them are from Andhra Pradesh, all leading captains of industry. Can these members allow to formulate policies which are detrimental to their business interests?

Nearly 1/3 members of the Committee on Industry are those from the business and industry.  Businessmen Navin Jindal, Tamilnadu educationist M Thambi Durai and  Andhra-based contractor Kamba Siva Rao are members of the Public Accounts Committee. Public Undertaking Committee has three Andhra-based businessmen as members – T Subbirami Reddy, Nama Nageshwara Rao and Rajagopal Lagadapati. An MP who has a defense equipment business is allowed to be on a defense committee that formulates policies pertaining to defense.

These members of various standing committees have the power to summon officers, including those from the income tax and revenue departments and one can imagine the outcome.  It is said these members wield enormous clout and even their personal assistants often browbeat bureaucrats and officials.  Being members of the  powerful standing committees, one cannot rule out abuse of public office for personal gains by these MPs.  It is not without reason therefore, that the personal wealth of many of our MP’s rose by leaps and bounds.  

While our MP’s are bent upon getting a handsome increase in their salaries or even ask to be paid salaries equivalent to that of salary paid to the highest bureaucrat -  may be taking a cue from Japan and France, they fail to emulate politicians of other countries in other matters.  In Switzerland, parliamentarians are not paid  salary or allowance.  They just get paid leave from their employers on the days of the session.  In Mexico, MP’s are paid handsomely but are allowed to do business or practice any profession.  In USA, members of Congress cannot earn more than 15% from outside of their Congressional salary.  But when it comes to Indian MP’s there is no bar.  They only add  up to the existing bars or remove all the bars/obstacles that come in the way of their business interests.

Though becoming a MP is a sure fire way of making more money in this country,  decent people shy away from joining politics. It is not easy also for an ordinary mortal to get into politics where dynastic succession is in vogue both at the centre and in many states.  Even though  some politicians  are naïve at the time of joining politics, with the passage of time and on joining  bunch of unscrupulous  rogues, they become one like them.  May be it is difficult to survive amidst a bunch of crooks  who are driven by the sole objective of swindling this country in all possible ways.

Now you know why our  businessmen sweat it out during election time doing padyatras and even coming to the doorstep of voters with folded hands? It is a kind of investment  to them, as  one months of hard work is sure to earn him or her  in crores in the days to come.  So the  next time a businessman enters into politics and eulogizes about serving the public, you know what he/she  means.  So take full liberty in altering the existing maxim. Let your creative mind work overtime.

by Florine Roche
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Comment on this article

  • K.Raghava Mayya, Padil-Mangalore 7

    Sat, Jan 08 2011

    Let us remember ex CM the late Veerendra Patil, during Indira Gandhi regime and Rajiv Gandhi regime he was reprimanded for one or other reason {hiddden grouse that he didn't send bags to Delhi].At the time of his death he lived only in a rented house, and had no houseproperty of his own. Even today, his name does not come at all in the mouth of the very Congress people, whereas every year there is celebration remembering Urs who was caught with huge cash in his residence, and I.Gandhi asked him to apropriate it to the Party's fund.

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Fri, Jan 07 2011

    If Oscar Wilde has to redefine "politicians"
    he may be forced to add more
    vocabularies to the main word

    From my observation, it is the
    best business in the world. Without
    much education or any investment,
    if the politician has a long tongue
    who can change the tone and deliver
    emotional messages along with false
    promises, that person will be the
    fast moving and the most successful
    politician. Some of them can retire within five years, and
    enjoy life for ever. Which
    profession has that advantage?

  • James Fernandes, Barkur/USA

    Thu, Jan 06 2011

    In Barkur, but for the guts/muscles and push/contacts of these politicians there would not have been bridges from kudru to kudru, major or minor kaccha or saccha roads or bylanes, the upkeep of holy temples or religious places, the cleaning of hundreds of water holes (kere, tanks) which provide jobs and even drinking water or for irrigation for seedlings, tap water lines, ability to obtain Govt loans to build at least mini houses, besides access to education, and even hot lunch (bisi oota), bicycles or uniforms for school children, and the uplifting of the down trodden (the then so called harijans), and many other local job creations, which were not there in the 40's or early fifties.

    Why, oh why it has to be, that, "The evil that men do (gets publicity) whereas the good that men do gets hardly any recognition? (forget about gratitude!)

    I heard there are no beggars in Barkur, except a few who beg for VOTES with folded hands at the doorsteps during election times! I admire their ability for such humility and for their risk taking creativity.
    At least they give away the used shirt to those who want to accept the same.

  • mds, mangalore

    Thu, Jan 06 2011

    Though people know the truth about these politicians, they dont have any other options. Because most of the leaders are corrupt and they have to vote one of them based on the parameters of cast, religion etc. etc.......

  • Ashok Shamu, Mangalore

    Wed, Jan 05 2011

    Nice article, but change the headlines to 'politics is the first resort of the scoundrel' We as Indians have a lot of soul searching to do. We are greedy, selfish, dirty, immoral and have no respect for our fellow humans or environment. Each one of us is a hypocrate and wish to be in the shoes of a politician. that is the reason why we elect rascals who are from our community, party or religion !

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