A byproduct of multiple crises in political system

Emergence of Jaganmohan Reddy is posing a threat to quality of polity and democratic governance.

Generally, newly elected legislators share their joy with their leader at the latter’s residence or party office. For 15 new MLAs of Yuvaka Shramika Rytu Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh, it was neither, but the Chanchalguda jail, where young and dynamic party President Y S Jaganmohan Reddy is kept on charges of amassing disproportionate, illegal wealth. Perhaps, it represents the paradox of our legal and political system, raising serious doubts about governance in the minds of discerning people.

Jagan’s rise on Andhra Pradesh political sky is not mere luck or accident. His upsurge reflects that different kinds of crises existed in legal, constitutional and election systems in our ‘democracy’. It might be wrong to accuse that he bought every vote, though it is a fact that huge flow of money definitely influenced the voters. This cannot be considered the sole cause of the stunning victory as evidenced by huge margins in recent by-polls even as he was languishing in judicial custody. It is not even sympathy factor alone.

Legal crisis that is glaring at justice is the long pendency of cases and vulnerability to all manipulations. Political crisis lies in the lack of leadership, while leaders suffer credibility crisis. The rule book, Constitution, did not create a system which could prevent an accused from becoming Legislator or Governor, nor did it allow the investigating agencies enough independence to probe and prosecute. That is the constitutional crisis.

India follows a voting system that gives large space for influence, confusion, bribery and, significantly, it is also not necessary for a candidate to get majority vote to win membership of a legislative house.

Though YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) secured 46 per cent votes, which is higher than that of ruling Congress and Opposition Telugu Desam put together in Nellore Lok Sabha seat, its candidate is an MP and it is an absolute truth that 54 per cent voted against YSRCP. This is crisis arising out of first-past-the-post system of voting. If you manage to get one vote above the nearest rival, though it is less than 50 per cent, you win power.

Is corruption an issue?

The hotly debated question is why did people elect a person charged with corruption, which is prima facie proved by efficient investigative efforts of the CBI? Why was it not an issue in elections? Despite the fact that Congress government facilitated CBI to arrest its own minister and son of its former chief minister, why the voters did not see it as an anti-corruption champion? When Congress charged former Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy as corrupt public servant, two years after his demise, it did not sink in the minds of people,  rather it hit back at the roots of credibility of Congress party. People know that it was late YSR who contributed huge amounts to the Congress high command to fight several elections. 

When Telugu Desam, along with its ardent supporting media, exposed the corrupt links between favours doled out by YSR regime and benefits ploughing back into briefcase companies floated by architects of Jagan’s empire, people were surprised but neither had they trusted these leaders nor their media.

Political ‘corruption’ was no issue because people perceived that all those who are in fray are corrupt except for variation in degree or gravity. When ‘corruption’ is common among all political parties, voters looked for other factors. During YSR’s regime, Backward Classes got Indiramma houses, rice at Rs 2 a Kilo, Arogyasree health care, fee reimbursement even up to graduation and pension for senior citizens, widows etc. In spite of charges of spurious caste and income certificates or false ration cards, the benefits were real and reaching. It caused serious dent in the economy of the state, which people do not understand any way. The voting blocs of BCs which so far helped Congress and TDP, were split, broken and reduced or wiped out. Taking the numbers from Nellore Lok Sabha seat, Congress’ strength was reduced to 21 per cent and TDP’s to 24 per cent, indicating the trust deficit.

Blame game

Several IAS officers and at least six ministers are in the dock for continuous CBI interrogations and regular visits to both courts and jails. It appeared as if the Government was hanging its head in shame in the box before investigators. Government has in fact become dysfunctional and morally lost. 

The principal opposition led by Chandrababu Naidu could not reap the benefit from the crisis in ruling party because of its own past track record and similar allegations levelled by Jagan’s mother in writ petitions, though they did not culminate into DA cases. In recent times, every political party in AP was found making huge noise charging other parties of collusion and conspiracy. Congress says YSRCP and TDP are colluded, while TDP says several cohorts of YSRCP are working in Congress for Jagan’s benefit, which is evidenced by his arrest during campaign that boomeranged and reduced the chances of Congress candidates drastically. TDP also levelled charges that TRS, agitating for separate Telangana State, is hand in glove with Congress or YSRCP. Though this repeated talk was sans any basis or reason, the net conclusion people could draw is ‘these political parties are corrupt, selfish and each of their statements could be true’. Hence, a beneficent and benevolent should be found among them.

Forty-five per cent voters found those characteristics in Jagan, notwithstanding the solid criminal charges under investigation.  They ask even if his father was corrupt, how could he be responsible. (Of course legally, the receiver of undue benefits or abettor is equally guilty). They believed that it was political vendetta of Congress, and CBI was just its tool. The judicial institutions are no exception as they came under a cloud with cash for bail scam hitting headlines.

(The writer is Head of the Center for Media Law and Public Policy, Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad.)   

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