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On Gandhi, Congress, and campaign finance
I said I'd send in the quote about the apathy of the Indian citizen in
contributing for the great congress party before independence, forcing
Gandhi (the star fund-raiser of the congress party) to beg for funds from
big businesses and to 'regularize that' by calling it 'the principle of
Well, here is the precise quote about the lack of interest in Congress, in
"In November 1924 Mr. Gandhi had to note: 'There are but seven thousand
men and women spinning voluntarily in India and the membership of the
Congress is only 15,000,' a considerable drop, indeed, from the ten
millions he had aspired for, in February 1922."
The fact that the register of members of the Congress was a fudged
document in the very formative years of that organization was clearly
stated by Gandhi himself:
"And just a year before it declared for complete independence to be won by
mass civil disobedience, this wis what Mr. Gandhi said of it: 'Our
Congress roll to-day is nothing but a bogus affair. Let us face facts. It
is worth nothing. We want a living register of the Congress. In the
present state of the country where we cannot trust our own brothers and
sisters, our parents and party leaders or anybody else; when we have no
sense of honor, and when we cannot allow our words to remain unaltered for
twenty-four hours, do not talk of independence.' "
These are paras from, "Indian Liberalism" by VN Naik, 1945. Padma
Publications Ltd. Bombay.
I'm reminded of my personal tryst with politics. A long time ago. The
'reality check' that all of us must face. This was for the election for
the post of Secretary to the College Students Union in DAV College,
Jullundur, in 1978. Sanjeev Chopra, who is on this list, now at the
Academy, knows all about that election. The official rule was: no external
funds should be used, and no official support shown by any real political
party. The fact was that the Congress party - recovering from the shock of
the 1977 defeat, had started making its inroads into student politics. I
forget my opponent's name (Sanjeev could remind me of that name if he
remembers: maybe my opponent is an MP now, you never know!). I had no
money, just the power of persuasion. My opponent was being sponsored by
the Congress party, informally. We had a limited electorate: students
selected out of the entire body of 5,000 students. Apart from the use of
brute force (which Sanjeev Chopra knows all about, and how I resisted
that), the other tactic used by my opponent was to dine selected students
out of the electorate in a big posh hotel. I had no chance. Money won.
Today, again, I know that while one or two Prems might get in, it is
basically money that will win. Not transparent, official money. But
illegal, hidden. Evil money.
I won't give more instances of the personal misuse of money by various
political groups in India (I have reported some cases in earlier mail,
here and there). But just to remind folks that in my humble opnion, unless
we make everything above board, and let the entire electorate know what is
going on, men like Gandhi will never arise today. His plea for a clean
electoral roll rings out over the decades. His method of using business
funds for politics was OK, since I believe everyone knew of it. Today, why
do we hide from the reality that only businesses have the funds to
"Let us face facts." Gandhi said, 80 years ago.
I would urge us to do that, today. Face facts. Talk about the bogus
electoral rolls of most political parties. Talk about the apathy of the
citizen in not contributing even to the party that was fighting India's
independence. What horrendous levels of apathy have been reached today!
How can we expect a citizen to contribute to any electoral campaign?
The citizen does not have faith in ANYONE today. We have butchered our
democracy by our hypocrisy.
Charu: You dont' want this, you dont' want that. You dont' like this. You
don't like that. Sure. I too don't like this and that.
But now tell us, what is it that you DO like: don't put up these half
baked formulae of half and half and things like that. These things don't
work. How can I explain that to you?
Tell me if it was fair and OK for Gandhi to get money from the Birlas to
promote India's independence, why is it that we cannot get funds from
Birlas and Tatas and others, to promote India's rise to the top of the
world? They are already funding all elections in a big way - but
illegally. I will have nothing to do with illegal money. Remember one
clause: no citizen will give you a paisa. In India, citizens are not used
to donating for political parties. They are either too poor, or simply
preserve their money to bribe people against actual favors granted.
Now, that's a good one: No longer Charu vs. Manoj.
Now it is Charu vs. Gandhi!
Actually, even Manoj said he did not want corporate funding. So it is
Charu, Kush and Manoj vs. Sanjeev, Girish, Barun and Gandhi!
Fight on! Let us see which side has more Truth to it. Does someone have
access to the actual campaign expense statements of poltical parties in
India? We could examine them to see the level of fraud being committed.
Simply make an estimate of running an actual election in Delhi or Madras
and then compare with the expenses lodged to the CEC.
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