Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Who Is The Irresponsible Voter?

Anna Hazare has an extremely poor opinion of Indian voters. He says they can be bought for as little as Rs 100, one saree or a bottle of alcohol. “They don’t understand the value of their vote,” he is reported to have said. His comment is finding resonance with a lot of people, especially the urban middle class voters, a fair chunk of which doesn’t vote at all.
Hazare’s comment is being seen as referring only to the poor, uneducated and illiterate voters. Why can’t it apply to the section that is concurring and even endorsing that statement?
Does this section believe that it alone votes in an enlightened manner, with national interest uppermost in its mind? That is bosh and nonsense. The educated urban middle class is as much prone to being bribed as the sections they sneer at.
This section will lament that no government will take action against slum clusters because of votebank politics. But when Jagmohan, who was urban development minister during the National Democratic Alliance government and who was a middle class hero when he razed or relocated slums in Delhi, dared touch encroachments by the middle class he was promptly voted out of the New Delhi parliamentary constituency.
Take also the issue subsidized LPG and petrol. Why is raising the prices of these in alignment with such a political hot potato and never attempted before the elections? Are these items of consumption of people who can be bribed by a saree, Rs 100 and a bottle of alcohol? Certainly not. It is the middle class who are the main consumers of these. National interest – the fiscal health of the country – may demand that subsidies on these are either withdrawn or hugely cut. But that will not be done in the name of the poor, though it is the middle class (the real beneficiary of this subsidy) vote that really worries any ruling party.
Who benefits from free power to farmers? It certainly isn’t the really small farmer or farm labourer who can barely make ends meet. It is the better off and prosperous farmer who can afford pumpsets. It is quite common for parties to come to power with promises of free power to farmers.
Aren’t these all instances of buying of votes? So it is okay for political parties to buy votes of the urban educated middle class, which barely votes, but not okay for it to buy votes of the poor?
Rs 100, a saree and a bottle of alcohol for an illiterate and uneducated group’s vote doesn’t cost the exchequer anything. But these freebies for the middle class and even the prosperous impoverish the exchequer. Will the middle class stop to think of this before it sneers at the poor and illiterate voter?

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