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It’s a Dog’s Life

August 31, 2012

There has been a lot of media ridicule over some Karnataka legislators deciding to go on an overseas study tour of South American countries including Argentina, Peru and some others. It is reported that they will first go to Dubai and then from there fly off to South America. Remarkably, most of them are going to this ‘study tour’ which really is a junket along with their families. Outraged? So am I. One legislator remarked that they are allowed two such tours in their five year term. When a reporter asked why they were traveling abroad when the state was reeling under an unprecedented drought and the money could be used for the poor farmers one of them replied that if the government could afford to spend Rs 25 crores on the upkeep of an international terrorist like Kasab surely they could afford to travel abroad!!!

It must be mentioned here that these are not legislators from any one party but across the spectrum – from BJP, Congress, JD(S) and some independents. It is also true that this is a standard across states and is not confined to Karnataka. This is one of the ‘perks’ that each legislature enjoys, be it at the Center or at the States. The question is why do these representatives of the people invariably behave as they do, barring a few exceptions. The answer perhaps lies in the kind of struggle each has gone through to get to where they are and the uncertainty of their future.

Barring a few who have some family linkages climbing the steep steps in politics is a tough ask. Most legislatures have spent years doing innocuous, menial jobs for the party in the hope that their efforts will be recognized. Mostly these are unpaid jobs and if at all they are paid it is a miserly sum as some kind of alms from the party functionaries. Years roll by and they are not even thanked by their party top brass barring a few mentions when they win. If they lose these workers are again blamed for their inability to jell with the masses. If they are lucky enough that their party wins the seat where they had been working they may get a few hundred rupees as bakshish – this after years and years of toil.

They work for all these years for that one elusive thing called a party ticket to fight either the Assembly or the Parliamentary election. Most never manage to get a ticket. Its blood, sweat, tears and toil – what they call – dhool phankna (literally swallowing dust, a phrase to denote effort with no returns), in India. If at all they are lucky enough to get a ticket from the party they have to fight an election where any and everything goes. There are people out to vanquish you at any cost. They will use caste, class, money strong arm tactics and at other times they may even try to bump you off – this after years and years waiting for this opportunity to fight an election. There are hundred or more candidates in any constituency and only one will win. Then starts the never ending round of meeting people, shaking hands, picking up a stinking baby and telling the parents how cute he is, sharing a cup of tea for which you pay anyway, doling out freebees like sarees, blankets, whiskey bottles, hard currency and all and sundry. Endless speeches, from roadside meetings to Town Hall jamborees, making sure the crowds get in. A silly caste calculation means your votes are splitting so you ‘request’ one of your own caste opponents to withdraw, which could again mean a tidy sum changing hands.  You have pawned your wife’s jewellery to give all this away in the hope that you will win the election. The party does help in all ways possible but still getting the posters and banners printed and hung all over the constituency generally comes from the candidates pocket. Many a times the party expects the candidate to contribute to party fund before they give  the ticket. Basically, you end up buying a ticket to fight election and then make expenditure over and above to give your freaking best because this is a chance of a lifetime.

And what happens on the election day? You have volunteers in every polling booth and they monitor the voting that is going on. There are some bogus voters who vote more than once. Polling booths get captured and local goon ensures all votes are cast for him. Then you try doing the same where you believe you are the boss. A fight ensues and someone fires a few rounds. People get injured and killed. You arrive on the scene and find some of your loyal workers in a pool of blood – it could have been you a few years ago when you were working for someone. The polling on that booth is suspended for another day. The election results are postponed till all such ‘sensitive’ booths have had a re-poll decided by the polling officer. You have a job to again exhort your voters to come out and vote for you another time, which most don’t care to!

After all this drama, the voting machines are sealed in boxes and kept at the local magistrates courts in safe keeping. Finally the day of reckoning comes and the votes are counted. You keep an eye on each voting machine counted, it is as if your life depends on it. Which in fact it does, if only people could understand. If you are lucky you win. If not you go back home dejected, your followers have deserted you and you are all alone – a lonely man. If you do happen to win, the world dances with you – even those who had been working for your rival will join in! Its a dog’s life. Its crazy. Its surreal.

And then after all this if you want to get away from it all with your family some crazy reporter accosts you shoves a mic in your face and quotes the Scriptures! I know some don’t go to foreign junkets and they are the ones most likely to win again. But what the heck, who knows what will happen tomorrow? A silly caste calculation could upturn the apple cart next time. Its all so ephemeral.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dr Deepak Bhanot permalink
    August 31, 2012 11:52 am

    True Mr. Sharma, a vivid sketch of the other unseen side of the coin.Well it is the fault of our constitution which gives almost a guarantee of five years in power after being elected. So the whole concentration of the elected person is to make the best ‘use’ of the tenure rather than trying to repay the electorate through fulfilled promises. It is only the non- performers who are insecure.They amass wealth for the difficult days. The only solution is to make them more accountable ‘through right to recall legislature’. They chose this life. Politics is ideally not a business but a platform to serve the country where you can make a difference for millions of citizens.Why there should be double standards when you expect a soldier to unconditionally lay his life for the country, or a doctor to get up in the middle of night to attend to an emergency. I am sure this was just to present the other side of the coin to make us understand the psyche of an average politician.

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