Making sense of the by-poll result

By Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu

The social media space has been abuzz with obituaries of the Andhra Pradesh voter after YSRCP won 15 of the 18 seats that went to by polls. The song by lyricist Sirivennela is once again on the lips of many of the middle class citizens on the social media. The results according to them signal the end of any hope in democracy and people. “How on earth can people vote for a party headed by a corrupt man who looted this state along with his father?” is the million dollar question that each of these middle class citizens is trying to find an answer to. One newspaper editor declared that rural AP voter has accepted corruption as a way of life. Against this backdrop, I will try to analyse the results explaining why I do not find anything unusual with these results and why the knee-jerk reactions of the middle class are misplaced.

The humungous amount of corruption is aided by large amounts of land grab for throw away prices by crony capitalists close to the power circles. This formula of corruption was not initiated in 2004 only after the Congress led by YSR came to power. Chandrababu Naidu during his 9 year tenure sowed strong seeds in this direction. How crony capitalists close to the power circles can make truck loads of money by using Land as a commodity was his invention. The staunch supporters of TDP might deny this, but a close look at who owns lands in the vicinity of all the projects initiated under the TDP rule will give us a clear answer. The supporters might also say that AP flourished during TDP regime and the IT sector got global recognition. While it is true that he has done his bit for the IT sector, he had neglected many other sectors and sowed seeds for the future corruption during the congress regime. As a matter of fact, the growth rate of AP and many other indices were way below the national average for many years in the TDP rule (Read Sainath’s article ). YSR after he came to power in 2004 reaped the rewards of this formula.

One of the so called analysts on TV (he is more a YSRCP supporter than an unbiased analyst) was proudly explaining the new socio-economic policy framework of YSR and that he was the first in the whole of India to have come up with such a policy. YSR indeed came up with a new socio-economic policy framework that has destroyed the state already and has the potential to wreak havoc while at the same time bringing him votes. He either had a super brain or had a brainy consultant who advised him on this framework. Make the poor perennially dependent on you by doling out various freebies (I believe some of them are acutely needed) on one hand while on the other loot them by grabbing their lands and handing them over to your crony capitalists in the garb of development. Thus he attained this superman image in the masses who was seen to be their savior. It would not an overstatement to say that almost every rural family got benefitted by his schemes one way or the other. While doing all this, he made sure that his superman image was being built and carefully positioned himself as the one doing all this on his own will and love for the people. At the same time, thousands of crores were made in land acquisition and land grab in the name of SEZs, Industries, Irrigation projects et al. In a way, he legitimized corruption by making sure that the poor are perennially dependent on him. Arguing that all this happened without the notice of the Congress leaders or the high command is foolish to say the least. The Congress was very happy as long as he won them votes. It would not be an overstatement to say that he was able to do all he did only with the support of the party top brass. This is a dangerous trend and many politicians across the country seem to follow the same since it does both things simultaneously.

Now let us come back to the results. This is not the first time that the so called corrupt people have won elections. Money and other issues have been playing a major role in AP elections more so since the late nineties. To analyse this result, we have to analyse the choices present before the rural voter. The voter had to choose between the three major parties (TDP, Congress & YSRCP) and a few other parties like the Communists & Loksatta. Both the TDP and the Congress targeted YS Jagan and made the corruption their central campaign point. YSRCP made use of the sympathy generated out of Jagan’s arrest and Vijayamma and Sharmila accused the Congress and TDP of a witch hunt. The other parties also spoke about corruption. Against this background, the voter had little to choose from. The TDP and the Congress are themselves corrupt and hence had no standing to talk about the issue. And statements from people like Ghulam Nabi Azad made it worse and made the voter feel that all the cases against Jagan are a result of the political fallout. Hence corruption was a non issue for the voter even though most of parties spoke about it. When everybody is corrupt (more or less is a different argument), corruption ceases to be an election issue and the same happened this time. Rather, sympathy made sure that YSRCP benefitted. The oft heard observation of the voter is “Who is not corrupt? At least YSR gave us something”. The superman image he built in the 6 years is paying rich dividends for his son and the party. Hence the arguments of the middle class that how can citizens vote for such a corrupt man is flawed because corruption was not really the issue in this election. The other smaller parties have very little organization, ground strength to benefit from the lack of choice before the voter and they were not able to convince the voter either.

One of the other issues raised by the middle class is that the rural voter takes money from all the parties in exchange for his vote. The middle class takes pride in saying we don’t take money and we don’t vote. They ask in a puzzled state of mind, ‘How can they take a few thousand rupees and sell their most powerful weapon, the vote?”. But did the middle class conveniently forget how, many of them forge medical bills, LTA claims, come March every year?. A sudden realization of service dawns upon them every March and many of them go in search of NGOs to make use of 80G exemption. If the middle class, that is leading a fairly comfortable life compared to the rural voter, can indulge in such practices for a benefit of a few thousand rupees, what is so strange about the rural voter taking money? He is not living in a different country anyway. Infact, there are quite a few of them who take money from every party and vote for a candidate of their choice.

To conclude, there is nothing unusual about the result. What happens in every Indian election time repeated itself. So, we need not unnecessarily lose our sleep assuming that this is the end of democracy.

Democracy has a long life, much longer than you and me. We need not write obituaries or sing that legendary song once a day for the next seven days and forget about it till the next election. Everything has to end and these practices will also end. For that to happen, it will not help if we sit down, sing songs and write obituaries. We have to be part of the policy making, protest when useless policies are made, protest the resource grab in the name of development, protest when state commits atrocities, do a lot more. Let us start behaving like proper citizens with rights and duties. Let us stop forging our medical bills and let us stop doing certain immoral things before we can preach our rural brethren.

Long Live our sudden spurt of activism!!!

Inquilab Zindabad!!!


Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu is a renowned RTI activist. He is based in Warangal, Telangana.

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