Just came back home post doing my duty of a responsible citizen – voting for the assembly elections. Was amazed to see some candidates with signs like “pressure cooker”, “diamond ring”, “car”, cricket bat” and “whistle” asking the citizen to punch on their symbols. Had heard about even symbols like gas cylinder, sewing machine, brush, cupboard, torch, table, cot, candle, iron, hat, ceiling fan, television, coat, electric pole and camera. We might ridicule these, but if a foreigner sees Lotus, Hand, Railway Engine, Cycle of an Elephant he will see it no differently than the gas cylinder, pressure cooker or a ceiling fan.
If you read todays Times of India (13 Oct 2009) you will find that more than 50% of the candidates (1820 out of 3559) are Independent candidates, which was just 14% in 2004. Now the question is why is there such a steep rise in the Independent candidates ? The thought around the same is as below.
Had heard some senior corporatizens talking about increasing independent candidates which is good as they might be unbiased or uncorrupted and one should vote for them or give them a chance. There is a point, but take an example of Meera Sanyal of ABN Amro who stood and lost from South Mumbai seat in 2009 elections or for that matter an example of Mallika Sarabhai who stood against Advani or even stalwarts like IAS Chandrashekhar, Capt. Gopinath of Deccan taking their plunge as independents and loosing miserably, forget the unknown common man of India who stands as an independent candidate.
Well, let us agree to the fact that with 60% middle class and upper class sitting at home enjoying a holiday – watching movie, playing golf or having a pre-diwali get together one can never expect candidates like Meera Sanyals and other independants to win as it is the masses who go out to vote. Agree to ANOTHER SCHOOL of thought which says that why should I vote for a “Film Star” like Govinda or a Personal Secretary of a Politician ? and there it follows what happened in the corporation elections in Juhu in 2007 when Adolf D’souza with Candle as a voting symbol won from a prestigious Juhu constituency slapping the candidates of the leading parties hard on face. But these are exceptions and are valid in smaller elections like chosing the local corporators but definitely not the MP or MLA, where the constituency span is comparatively huge. One always looks at either the party or the personal record of serving the society or the area where the candidates are seeking votes.
Many politicians who are denied tickets by their home party and do not want to switch to the opposition often stand as independants and also win…. Can look at examples of Buta Singh or even George Fernandes, there are many. Many stalwarts entered Parliament unaffiliated to any party in India’s early years, including Minoo Masani, V.K. Krishna Menon, and J.B. Kripalani. Later, Purushottam Mavlankar was elected twice from Gujarat. Maneka Gandhi, too, has won as an independent. Well, if one studies these candidates they had some background and also had put in their efforts into serving the society or by participating in public life in their own way and not for just a short time but for a considerable time.
People object to independents for 4 reasons. (1) that they can’t win. (2) that they take away votes from a more winnable, but not necessarily more competent candidate, even if the best way to describe such candidates is that they represent “the lesser evil”. (3) independent members of Parliament (MPs) cannot be effective without party machinery. (4) they would be hostage to their constituents’ agenda. A recent news article dated May 20, 2009 14:59 IST (refer http://election.rediff.com/report/2009/may/20/loksabhapoll-most-independent-candidates-lost-polls.htm) clearly states that 99.75% independent candidates lost LS polls.
Well, if there is a consistency data then also why do independents stand is the only question I am sure you would be thinking of. Having some close links, the underlying answer which we as citizen might not aware could be as below :
No Ramlal who is a mere tailor earning Rs 800/- a month have political vision or an urge to change India. No Nandu, who is the secretary of the local Ganesh Mandal have the funds to campaign and gain support for himself and No Ganpat, the auto-rickshaw driver has his reach beyond his chawl that he can see any chance to win. Some have a reasoning that it is to get some fame, but why would one put his self respect at stake where he know he is going to loose and will not even manage to get more than 200 votes.
The reason is simple, if you see the Big 70mm Maharashtra Picture in a Silver Screen size. As per the political analysts, many argue that MNS is backed by Congress-NCP to break the Sena-BJP Vote bank. What stops Sena-BJP or NCP-Cong or any political party to promote some Ramlals, Nandu and Ganpats where they see the opposition strong- atleast they would break away some votes of the opposition, thus making way for the prospect, their candidates. It is no secret formula, even the common man at the chai stall is heard talking on these lines....The second school of thought is that look at the reality shows thesedays- why would a mother give away her baby to Rakhee Sawant to mishandle in the Reality Show – Pati, Patni aur Woh ? For Money or for Fame – there can be no other option. Why would a family come to the reality show- Sach ka Saamna and break their relationships by divulging the dark secrets where the wife has slept with the neighbour – that too on the National television – again 2 reasons – Money or Fame.
In the case of Independents also – there can be the same 2 reasons – Money or Fame. Fame is not that important but money is. Ganpat knows that in the rest of his life which is 10 years @ Rs 800/-pm, he is going to make Rs 9,60,000/- and if he is offered Rs 5,00,000/- he would stand for the elections as the short fame would help him earn Rs 1000/-pm instead of Rs 800/-pm. One also speculated that like in the Sales Structure of products, they too have Slab structure where 500-1000 Votes gets him Rs 1 Lac, 1000-2000 Votes gets him Rs 3 Lac, 2000-5000 Votes gets him Rs 5 lacs and so on and less than 500 votes NIL. And ofcourse some basic expenses and small amount of Deposit covered.
But, as I write this, many would still be voting for Independents who could be friends or for a so-called incumbency or need of change, but am sure the results would show. Am sure out of 1800 Independents, we may see some winners too, but am sure they would have put in a lot of efforts and hard work in their areas and the voters would know it. The only appeal was to alert fellow citizens not to vote just for voting and because you don’t like A and don’t want B to come to power. Just think, analyse and act. At the end of it the beneficiary is you and the sufferer too !
And for the Independent Candidates – please put in some years of social service in your area- create some visibility of your work – and then go asking for votes –and then I assure you that even if your Election symbol is “Chappal” (shoe) or “Lota” (tumbler-which people in rural India still carry for washing their shits) people would vote for you and you would win - else thesedays, the citizen be it the literate junta or an illeterate junta - are getting smarter - they will not even let Amitabh Bachchan as an Independent Candidate win !