We love our criminals

Embarrassment is not in the dictionary of a politician.

India’s political parties of all hues are anxiously awaiting the bypassing of the recent judgement of the Supreme Court which prohibits persons held in lawful custody from contesting elections.

“That judgement was very unfair to us ,” commented one party functionary vociferously. “It undermined one of our fundamental freedoms - the right of the convicted to participate in the democratic process. After all, they are also citizens of this country.” “But why do you need the services of these rascals ?” I queried. The politico gazed pityingly at me and clarified as if to a five - year old child, “To convince the reluctant to vote for our candidates.” “But can you not use money power for that?”

“Money power has its limitations. You can only buy a certain number of people. Besides, freebies have reached a state of marginal returns, with every party offering them. What will make the difference is the amount of muscle a party can deploy.”

A party leader who was anxiously gnawing at his nails remarked, “I hope the legislation is passed soon. There is a tremendous rush of applicants from the jailed class for our party tickets and I don’t know how long I can keep them waiting. And we need them urgently. We are the only party with not even 15 per cent of our legislators having criminal charges against them.” Puzzled, I remonstrated, “But that should make you feel proud?”

“Proud about what ?” he retorted, “The fact that we have not been able to gather enough muscle power to fight the next elections ?” Another official, whose party is adorned with one-third of its legislators from the criminal class declared in hushed tones, “I do hope the bill is passed soon, otherwise we will be decimated.”

“What sort of criminals would you allow to represent you ?” I asked the member of a ruling party in one of the states. “We would prefer extortionists, since they are good at enforcing votes. Kidnappers aren’t too bad, their talents can be used to blackmail the reluctant voter. I’m not sure about murderers, since their actions are so final. We can use them at a pinch to eliminate criminals from the opposing parties. Rapists are a no-no. They are too self-absorbed and bad for public relations. Of course, mafia leaders are most welcome since they bring a lot of muscle power with them. And then there are the con men, excellent talent for initiating scams.”

“Doesn’t it embarrass you to have criminals as your legislators?” I asked another partyman. He laughed. “Embarrassment,” he declared, “ is not in the dictionary of a politician.” “If criminals get precedence for tickets what happens to the upright politicians?” “Upright politician ? Ha – ha ! That’s an oxymoron.”  

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