Paying money for votes is not a phenomenon unique to India, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan and instanced how it was widely prevalent in Britain of the 19th century.
Addressing a meeting of NRIs as part of ‘Rejuvenate India’ campaign launched by People for Lok Satta at Dallas, Dr. JP referred to a letter a British Member of Parliament wrote to his constituents 135 years ago. In that letter, preserved in the British archives to this day, the MP said, “You know and I know that I bought your constituency with 5000 pound sterling. You don’t know that I know that I will not become your MP again because you have already sold your constituency for 8000 pound sterling. You don’t know further that I bought another constituency for 3000 pound sterling. In the process both of us have gained. While you earned 3000 more pound sterling, I could save 2000 pound sterling.”
Pointing out that the problems India is facing are not unique, Dr. JP said that all countries had faced similar problems but they overcame because a sufficient number of thoughtful and committed people understood them and strove indefatigably to address them. Pious dreams do not bring about miracles. In Britain, Gladston who served as Premier from 1868 to 1892, instead of lamenting over the state of affairs, built institutions brick by brick and developed Britain into a modern country.
Dr. JP said that the thinking, educated middle classes have to take the lead to transform society since common people do not understand the relationship between the vote in their hands and their own welfare. They vote for the lesser evil after collecting money from rival candidates while the middle classes exercise their franchise swayed by primordial loyalties to religion and caste, region and language. That was why the Lok Satta Party did not succeed although it provided an ethical, alternative platform and fielded good candidates in the 2009 general elections.
Dr. JP pointed out that as individuals we do not attach importance to caste in basic issues. For instance, we send our children to schools which have best teachers and not bother about their caste. Instead of promoting such an ideal attitude in all matters basic to society, political parties have been exploiting caste and religion, region and language to serve their short-term interests.
On reservations in education and Government jobs for socially and economically backward castes and sections, Dr. JP said the present system served only a microscopic minority. The Government should provided equal opportunities for growth to all by making available quality education and skill enhancement.
In reply to a question, he underlined the need to build a system which provided political opportunities to deprived sections, since no caste has monopoly over intelligence and competence. He also suggested that the first-past-the-post electoral system be replaced by proportional representation to mitigate the ill effects of money power in elections and to provide representation to all sections.
Lok Satta Party Tamilnadu President Mr.Vijay Anand also took part in the meetings.