Money hai to power hai!

Era Of Aya Ram Gaya Ram

By Poonam I Kaushish

When gold speaks all tongues are silent. This adage was brutally reinforced by the revolving door politics witnessed in the last fortnight across the country, New Delhi to Karnataka and Andhra-Telangana to Goa. Undeniably turncoats are the flavour of the season as power at all costs is the new normal of political morality to the exclusion of ethical considerations. Money hai to power hai!
Nothing underscores this than the brazen tug-of-war between the Kumaraswamy led JD(S)-Congress Government and BJP in Bengaluru’s Vidhan Souda. While the former accused the latter of bribing 15 of its “absconding” MLAs by holding them in a Mumbai hotel, thereby whittling down its strength from 117 to 102 in a 224 member House, the BJP readies itself for the kill. Big deal if it further rips the facade of our democratic norms and functioning.
Another ring-a-ring-roses game was played in New Delhi last week when four TDP Rajya Sabha MPs joined the BJP shoring up its strength. In Goa 10 Congress MLAs jumped ship to the Saffron brigade with three being sworn-in as Ministers taking the total to a comfortable 27 in a 40 MLAs Assembly. In Andhra TDP MLAs are queuing up to board the BJP bandwagon.
Today, the BJP controls a major chunk of India’s political landscape with its ‘mahagathbandhan’ of turncoats with the Congress’s stocks crashing to a handful of States. Certainly, some are serving the Party’s purpose of getting new States and constituencies where it has little presence, like the North East, West Bengal and Andhra. But the changeover comes without any guarantee and for a few it is turning out to be a one-way ticket to obscurity. Plainly, rajneeti is all about depleting the strength of the rival. Once that purpose is fulfilled, they discard you.
A sense of de ja vu overwhelms. Reminiscent of the 1967 Aya Ram Gaya Ram culture when Gaya Lal an Independent MLA in Haryana switched three Parties in 15 days. Followed by Bhajan Lal who hijacked his Janata Party Government to the Congress, thereby opening the floodgates of defection and institutionalizing it through Indira Gandhi’s 60s-80s. Elucidated by JMM Suraj Mandal in the Lok Sabha in 1993, “Paisa boriyoin mein atta hai….Do saandh ke beech ek bachra kya kare?”
Politicians girgit-like transfer their loyalties from one Party to another based on winnability. The modus operandi is simple: Paisa and satta bargains are struck, depending on the value of legislators, who switch sides, are ‘guarded’ at luxury hotels therein a Government is toppled and another formed. All executed with clinical precision, devoid of ‘meeting of minds’ pretensions, common ideology, principles or personal fondness.
Patronage, opportunism and a share of the power pie is the glue that keeps the swarm of hoppers together with its new benefactors and makes incongruent Parties come together whereby poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management: money for allurement, use of state machinery for intimidation etc are commended as resourcefulness. The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all guilt and criminality. The friends and enemies are all rolled into one to fulfil their lust for power.
Shockingly, between 1967 and 1983 there were 162 defections in Parliament and 2,700 in State Assemblies with 212 defectors being rewarded with Ministerial positions and 15 becoming Chief Ministers, according to a PRS Legislative Research. Politicians have made it abundantly clear that they have no strong, single-Party preference and are willing to switch sides to the highest bidder. A testimony to the influence of paisa and kursi.
True, the 1985 Anti-Defection law did act as a speed-breaker but only temporary, as the ruling Party allowed it to be violated by anointing its MP or MLA as Speaker. The law says a defector can either resign or be disqualified by the Speaker on the basis of a petition by another member of the House. So if the defection suits the ruling Party then the Speaker accepts the MLA’s resignation without looking into the motive behind it, obversely disqualifies him if it runs contrary to the Party’s wishes.
Bluntly, this lacuna opened the floodgates for revolving door politics. Thereby, making it hard to keep pace with who is ensconced in which Party and who has drifted to greener pastures. Bringing things to farcical charades where defecting legislators switch sides with some being anointed “Opposition Ministers in Government” even before they officially changed Parties with Speakers looking the other way. Worse, nobody queries them of what happened to the commitments they promised to abide and uphold, serve society and work for peoples’ upliftment. Were they merely posturing?
Arguably, one can quibble that elections are won by Parties not individuals. In this market model of democracy it is a misnomer to believe that Parties are governed by ideology. Instead, there is a tendency to capture the imagination of the people by creating a spectacle alongside money which makes the clogged, polluted and corrupt political mare go around.
Questionably, in a milieu where defections undermine the foundations of democracy and where ‘stable’ Governments are formed through barefaced political immorality, no Party can claim the high moral ground. In this process, our leaders forget that they leave behind a toxic residue of hatred long after polls are over.
In the moral desert of politics and barren discourse the BJP has only perfected the art of defection and political over-reach from the Congress which holds the copyright. Consequently, such behaviour is likely to be commended as a sign of political ambition than censured as opportunism. Wherein Modi’s incantation of “na khaoonga na khane doonga”, flies in the face of rajneetik nehtektha.
Alas, political discourse is so quick to justify a neta’s right to trample ideology and ethics to serve his selfish ends that questions about public service are seldom raised as all are trying to out-maneouver the other dus numberis! Thus, this game of lies, deceit and deception reflects the emerging truth of today’s India. Power is all.
Raising a moot point: Are short term gains worth the long-term costs? Can one brush away this display of naked careerism as admiration worthy of a political cause or cynically accept it?
Of course, one can say this is what democracy is all about. Sadly, however, the basic postulates of democracy have got botched over the years. Few care to remember today that democracy is not an end in itself. It is only a means to an end, namely, the greater well-being and happiness of the people. Which is possible only through a clean and stable Government run by dedicated leaders committed to putting country above self and all else. Not through ram-shackled fair-weather partners in corruption and crime.
Where do we go from here? It is a long trudge as there seems to be no one who will dare to bite the defection hand that feeds it. Politics without ethics is dangerous for democracy as it is produces distrust at all levels where-under even the gutter seems cleaner than the politics of today. Hence the battle for democracy continues. It remains to be seen if in the bheed of opportunistic turncoats, the murmur of ideology, beliefs and honesty will find favour. —— INFA