I am not surprised by the results of the Andhra Pradesh byelections but I am totally in shock that 18 Assembly elections could have cost close to Rs 300 crore or more. I know I am being repetitive but increased criminality is evident and we are heading towards the Banana Republic syndrome. The CBI has MP Jagan Mohan Reddy in jail for excessive assets and he has swept the polls; on current trends, he can be the next chief minister. Can you blame the voting public for its decision? The YSR Congress and Jagan Mohan are being prosecuted by the sins committed by his father when he was the chief minister. Can the Congress or the TDP claim to be any different on funds and claim the moral upper ground? I think the electoral verdict speaks for itself.
As I write this, I must admit that I am horrified that a single Assembly election can cost `10-15 crore—virtually equal to what the Congress party spent on Lok Sabha elections for 542 seats in 1985. We talk of multiple scams; we talk of illegal mining of many commodities; and now we have a gigantic coal scam. We talk of corruption and extortion at all levels; and we talk of black money, but all those individuals and syndicates who control these illegal criminal activities fund the elections and control the political lever at multiple levels and vitiate political authority. Leaders come and give sermons on morality and human values and while most may not indulge in treating party funds in their personal piggy banks, almost everyone turns a blind eye to the illegality involved in party funds.
Jagan Mohan is guilty if he fights against the ruling party and is in jail, but the public verdict is clear. The hunters could well be the hunted in the near future. Will the CBI continue to keep him in extended custody? If it does, he will possibly take his oath as chief minister in jail. Chief Minister Kiran Reddy, I am told, is a cricketer and in IPL terms, he has batted through the innings but is yet to score a run. We are now told that the BCCI president is being baked, grilled and fried by the CBI in this case as well, but I think nothing will happen to him. If something does happen, we have several Union ministers and MPs in the BCCI to take his job for the future.
There are no innocents in the case of political funding. Cutting across party lines, everyone has a problem and this must be resolved. Corporate funding which has existed from the early days is no longer able to carry the load. I suspect that in the last decade, the bulk of finance has come from illegal and criminal activities. I think we are wasting our time investigating scams and most of these will reach a dead end. Excessive cash and its preservation have changed the character of many political parties. Tax lawyers and chartered accountants have replaced political advisers and the party treasurer is more or less an ornament. We can see that political funds are largely controlled by a few people who also control the party.
There is always a funny side to every situation. Politics is in fashion as anyone lucky to get a ticket for an Assembly election becomes an instant millionaire and a Lok Sabha seat propels the person to a billionaire status. No matter if you lose the election or even your deposit and the party funds (saved) to fight the elections far exceed what most can save in a lifetime. There will be a very long list of candidates, and commission agents exist on both sides. This is a nightmare for political managers handling the cash. Temptation will attract several other criminal activities as hundreds of crores in cash and gifts enter the electoral scene.
I wonder what will happen in Karnataka if the CBI arrests and jails former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, his son and son-in-laws. Will we see another regional party and another landslide victory?
Pranab Mukherjee is a very old friend. He has seen the peaks and valleys, and has endured many accidents. He will be surprised by all the action his selection has raised but this has little to do with him but is rather aimed at the future alignments, and he will win by a mile.