Many of us might find our election process unsavoury, because of its complete disregard for important issues, the naked attempt to pander to caste and community and its reliance on money and muscle power. But this recent account of a pre-election meeting from the chief of a major party should help clear your doubts:
I started the meeting by drawing attention to the global economic meltdown and said the party needed to draw up a plan to combat it. “People are losing jobs, businesses are closing down and exports have slumped. The world economy has not been in such bad shape since the Great Depression seventy years ago. These are difficult times and we need men and women who can understand, discuss and solve these issues,” I said.
One of our leaders said he was really sad for all those people who were greatly depressed 70 years ago, but thankfully they now have anti-depressants. I had no idea what he was talking about, but agreed we should be pro-health. A veteran leader then said that since we were talking economics, we needed more funds to fight the elections. He said corporate India should help us generously so that we could then be in a position to help them.
I asked him whether this was ‘crony capitalism’ but he pointed out that crony capitalism happened only in East Asia, according to the IMF. A party worker then said we should be pro-poor. Several of us explained patiently that a candidate had to be rich to get elected and be pro-poor. I stipulated that these rich candidates must also have a grasp of the fiscal situation. I was assured all of them did. “One of them is a wrestler, so his physical situation is very good,” added an enthusiastic worker for some reason. But we all agreed we should hand over money to the poor people we met before the elections as that would help revive the economy.
A senior leader then unfolded a map of India showing the caste composition of each constituency and said we needed to decide which poor castes could be helped. Everybody then eagerly discussed the caste and sub-caste of the various candidates and their suitability for their constituencies. The argument was very free and frank and I admit some fist-fights did break out. But I personally inquired into every incident and was completely satisfied the disagreements were on grounds of principle.
For instance, two candidates who hit each other on the head said they did so because they disagreed about the theory of relativity. I did have misgivings about choosing candidates on the basis of caste, but relented after being told that caste=identity=confidence=risk-taking=entrepreneurship=economic growth. We then decided to put up plenty of posters and party flags and paint walls with party slogans, as that would help revive the paper, textile and paint industries.
A proposal was made by some people to induct criminals as candidates in certain constituencies. I said I would have none of that, unless of course the criminals were well-educated and understood monetary theory. I was assured they all had post-graduate degrees and even if they didn’t, they could easily get them before the elections, even in nuclear physics.
I was impressed by their eagerness to learn and agreed, thinking they would be good at geopolitics. We also decided to field a few movie stars because if they are elected and become ministers they could go and attract foreign investors by performing abroad.
And finally, we decided to do some hate speeches against minorities so that the candidates who make the speeches are taken to jail where they could write pamphlets on jail and judicial reform, which would completely revolutionise and modernise the dispute resolution system, which in turn would attract lots of foreign investment into the country and lead to more jobs, increase tax receipts, lower government borrowing and interest rates and promote economic growth.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint.