Sunday, March 11, 2012

Elections, politics and black money

According to one estimate, till February 5 in UP alone, the EC nabbed Rs 32 crore of unaccounted cash, Rs 12.3 crore from Punjab, R1.35 crore from Uttarakhand, R47 lakh from Manipur and R36 lakh from Goa.

Elections now do not mean the spending of crores, but of multiples of crores.

When I read those figures, I was reminded of an election episode in UP of 75 years ago.

It has been recounted by Lal Bahadur Shastri in a 1959 tribute to Jawaharlal Nehru:

“The general elections under the new Government of India Act took place in 1937; they were of great significance. In these elections Nehru played a very important role. I remember his visit to the district of Allahabad. It was about 8.30 pm when he finished his speech…
Nehru had taken no tea in the afternoon and… he was feeling very hungry. He asked me whether there was any restaurant in the city… I remembered the railway station where some tea could be got. He said: “Let us go there.” We motored to the railway station and went to the railway restaurant…
After having taken the tea we were asked to pay the bill. Everyone of us searched his pockets and found that none of us carried sufficient money. Between us we could collect about R2.50. Nehru had about a R1.25. Purnima Banerjee another rupee and I gave the few annas to complete the full amount required.
How awkward would it have been if we had failed to make up the amount among ourselves!” 
Seventy-five years is not all that long ago. That is, we are not talking of the 1800s. And we are talking of people whose names are invoked in today’s election campaigns.
Money played a part in elections even then, but by and large it was licit money, modest money. It was money, not the monster called black money.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi in Hindustan Times. Here

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