One thing that Pakistanis often get tired of is Indians taking pride in their democracy and criticizing Pakistan for tolerating military rule during most of its 65 year history. In India, recent elections in Uttar Pradesh showed that the Bahujan Samaj Party, headed by a billionaire Mayawati who was a simple school teacher a couple of years ago, has been trounced by the Samajwadi Party which is headed by a former wrestler, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who of course is also a billionaire now.
The Samajwadi Party took 224 seats out of the 403 in the legislative assembly, while the BSP, which was in power at the time of the elections, was a distant second with 80 seats. The Congress party, which is currently heading the national government, suffered a major setback in the elections and could manage to pocket only 28 seats. The consolation for the Congress may be that BJP, which is the main opposition party at the national level, also fared poorly and could bag only 47 seats.
It is no doubt praise-worthy that peaceful elections resulted in a smooth transition of power in a short time, which seldom happens in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. However, what does one do when one corrupt politician is replaced by an equally corrupt one, as chief minister for a state?
Akhilesh Yadav, 39, is son of the head of SP, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who himself has been Chief Minister of UP thrice. He is accused of amassing billions and promoting goonda raj. Despite this, the 112 million voters of UP, the largest and politically most important state of India, voted overwhelmingly for the Yadav family. The Yadav community voted enbloc for the SP as it was headed by someone who hailed from their community. The Muslims, disgruntled with BSP’S performance during the past five years and still holding Congress and BJP responsible for the destruction of the Ayodhaya mosque incident, made SP’S victory possible in many of the seats. This phenomenon of the community voting for candidates from its own community makes a mockery of the whole system.
Is this what democracy is all about? Replacing one corrupt leader by another corrupt leader, who was routed by the same voters for this very reason in the last election? And to top it all, politics in India, just like in Pakistan, appears to run in the families. The Gandhi family continues to be treated like a royalty and has virtually been dominating the Indian political scene since the early last century; the tradition has now rubbed on the other political families and the Indian Lok Sabha and the state assemblies are flooded with sons and daughters of old politicians. The appointment of Akhilesh as the new UP chief minister is the latest chapter in this regard.
Politics is thus no longer meant to serve the masses. It is a business venture, meant to amass wealth that you can later use without any hesitation in the next election. One example is sufficient to prove the efficacy of exorbitant expenses in an election: in the Tamil Nadu elections last year, the Indian election commissioner did not permit the ruling DMK party to use government resources and tried to control the expenditure. As a result, the ruling party lost.
However, this may be regarded as an exception rather than the rule as it is not feasible for a person without adequate means to contest an election even in `democratic’ India; it is virtually impossible in the `Islamic’ Republic and of course unthinkable when it comes to Senate elections where a seat may be sold for as much as ten crore rupees. Anees Jillani is an advocate of the Supreme Court and a member of the Washington, DC Bar. He has been writing for various publications for more than 20 years and has authored several books.