‘Crorepati’-politicians wear their wealth like a badge of honour

With the new breed of “crorepati”-politicians wearing their wealth like a badge of honour, the old slogans of “Garibi Hatao” (remove poverty) have become passé.

The rise in the prominence of moneybags from real estate, the private education sector, and industry in the city’s political landscape has not only deflected social issues but it has also changed the benchmark for a candidate’s “winnability”. Financial clout appears to have replaced a candidate’s social concern or integrity as the yardstick for selection.

So we have both Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) facing allegations of kickbacks, even in distribution of ticket. If the 2008 Assembly elections set a new benchmark in election expenditure, the May 2013 hustings are expected to be no different.

“Service-minded people have been elbowed out and a situation has been created so that poor candidates cannot win. Our studies over the last 10 years show that candidates with more money are more likely to win the elections,” Trilochan Sastry of Association for Democratic Reforms told The Hindu.

Bangalore has in the past seen stalwarts like V.S. Krishna Iyer, T.R. Shamanna and Lakshmi Sagar, among others, who advocated service-based politics, occupying the political space.

“It (money power) is unfortunate for democracy that speaks of inclusive growth. We need people from all walks of life. Good governance also cannot be expected since those having invested money will strive to get their money back,” Prof. Sastry added.

Runs into crores

Meanwhile, sources familiar about the use of money in these elections estimated that on an average about Rs. 10 crore is being spent by each candidate in Bangalore and this figure could well double if the constituency witnesses a fierce battle.

“A majority of this money is used to buy loyalty of local leaders who could swing the votes in the candidate’s favour. Sometimes, it is even used to buy out local leaders working for the opposition, just to ensure the campaign in the locality slows down,” the sources said.

This apart, voters in some areas are being induced with a minimum of Rs. 1,000 per vote. “As the Election Commission is keeping a strict vigil, the cadre and potential voters are paid for their daily liquor unlike in the past when it was supplied to them,” they said.

According to the former Mayor, P.R. Ramesh, if money is the criterion for selection of a candidate, those involved in serious politics will be denied the opportunity. He said that even the 1999 and 2004 elections did not witness such financial clout, as these were “transitional elections” before the 2008 elections where money became the sole determinant of “winnability”.

“In most cases, the rich cannot even understand the plight of the poor and that means development will get affected. Earlier, elections in the city featured issues such as labour, socio-economic conditions and even agriculture,” he said.

In the past, capitalists propped up candidates and were content being king-makers, but now they are directly involved in politics, he added.

On the use of such large sums of money for elections, All India Congress Committee General Secretary B.K. Hariprasad expressed concern over illegal and ill-gotten money finding its way into elections.