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Nailing the 'BPL' politicians

Natural justice is catching up with corrupt politicians. They are actually the real 'BPL' people. They bleed, plead and lead. The corrupt and criminal politicians bleed the exchequer of money, plead for votes and lead the people. Kiran Bedi writes

chandigarh Updated: Oct 08, 2013 09:48 IST
Kiran Bedi
Kiran Bedi
Hindustan Times

Natural justice is catching up with corrupt politicians. They are actually the real 'BPL' people.

They bleed, plead and lead. The corrupt and criminal politicians bleed the exchequer of money, plead for votes and lead the people.

Such politicians are now being fixed because of the Right to Information, public interest litigations, television exposure, print media, rising middle class, social media, and most of all, an independent judiciary.

Data from Association of Democratic Reforms, an NGO headed by academics, reveals the extent to which these politicians, who plead for votes and profess to lead, actually bleed the country of the resources which belong to the common man.

Increasing assets
In Uttar Pradesh, the assets of 10 MLAs in the last assembly elections multiplied by up to 42 times. In Tamil Nadu, 97 re-contesting MLAs tripled their assets in the past five years, an increase of 195%. Assam was a little behind with an average increase of 187% and Kerala with 175%; Puducherry had an average of 136% and West Bengal 71%. In short, the number of crorepatis in the aseemblies of the states mentioned above rose from 97 to 268.

The average increase in MPs' assets from 2004-09 was 289% or Rs 2.9 crore per MP in five years. Not only this, 58% of Rajya Sabha members are crorepatis with flourishing professional practices, well-paid directorships, shareholdings in media houses, infrastructure and hospitality, besides paid consultancy and other invisible sources.

While as per the Hunger and Malnutrition survey, HUNGaMA, coordinated by Nandi Foundation, there are 70% stunted children in Rae Bareli, 69% in Korput in Orissa and 64% in Dumka in Jharkhand.

It's evident that India has rich MPs/MLAs but poor voters.

Party incomes
This is about personal incomes. What about the way the political parties hide their party incomes? There were instances of politicians becoming virtual human ATMs. Recall the famous picture of Mayawati in The Times of India of March 27, 2010, titled 'Crass versus Class' when she was gifted with a thickly layered, python-looking, currency-stacked garland?

According to the rules, all donations below Rs 20,000 need not be traceable to the source. This is why political parties' financial accounts data show 70% of all donations received from anonymous sources.

According to Stockholm-based Institute of Democracy, India is among 10% of the countries which allow anonymous donations to political parties. Over 40 countries, such as France, Germany, Japan and Italy, encourage complete transparency and accountability in all their receipts and expenditures.

New hope
That is why the order of June 3 by the Chief Information Commission (CIC) that political parties come within the ambit of the Right to Information as they are public bodies in all respects has given a new hope in checking the menace of parallel economy in politics. The shroud of secrecy has been lifted. Despite attempts to dilute it, the order has prevailed.

Vote-bank politics
Let's examine the way politicians for the sake of vote banks drained the state exchequers even when there was no money in the coffers. Remember AIADK's request to the Planning Commission to fund the free laptop scheme in the run-up to the elections? It envisaged distribution of laptops worth Rs 15,000 each to 68 lakh students at a whopping cost of Rs 10,200 crore over the next five years. The Planning Commission did not oblige.

Another instance was that of the DMK when they distributed free colour TVs which cost the state exchequer Rs 4,000 crore. Some beneficiaries reportedly came in cars to take the TVs, whereas the policy note tabled in the assembly stated, "This is a unique scheme to sensitise people on the policies and programmes of the government and to increase their aspiration level." Those who came in cars reportedly said they would place the new TV in their second room, while others who were the real BPL (below poverty line) chose to sell it for they had no regular power supply in their homes to run television.

But why would these elected representatives want to know this when they get 50,000 units of free electricity, 1,70,000 free phone calls, 40 free trips annually by air, in business class, with spouses. Our politicians live in a world of give and take of freebies. But in the process they bleed the nation of its natural wealth, of water, forest, earth and the sky.

The CIC order of June 3 ruled that six major political parties come under the RTI; on July 5, the Supreme Court asked the Election Commission to regulate freebies; on July 10, it said the convicted MPs/MLAs stand disqualified if convicted for more than two years; and on September 27, the court empowered voters to reject a candidate.

With all these, Indian democracy is all set to change.

First Published: Oct 08, 2013 09:45 IST