Sunday, June 14, 2009
India: Parliament of the Multi-Millionaires
The largest number of the poor on the globe are domiciled in India, with over 280 million people living below the poverty line. Recent UN statistics estimate that more than 80% of its habitants live on a average of less than $2 per day. There has been recent spate of suicide by more than 3,000 farmers, due to hunger and immense poverty. However, these deprived poor are separated by a chasm from their rulers, who get themselves polled to power, through the votes of these very poor. The 543 Members of Parliament, who have been elected to the 15th Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament), in the recently concluded general elections, have a combined asset worth of Rs 30,750 million, with an average asset of the individual member, coming out to be over Rs fifty million. Interestingly, these are only the declared part of the assets, that too arbitrarily undervalued. There are an estimated 300 MPs with assets worth Rs ten million or more in the new Lok Sabha, which is nearly double the number of MPs at 154 in the previous 14th Lok Sabha.A total of four MPs have assets worth more than Rs 1000 million and include Congress' L Rajagopal in Andhra Pradesh and NCP's Padamsinha Bajirao Patil from Maharashtra. These are followed by NCP's Praful Patel (Rs 899 million), Congress' G Vivekanand (Rs 729 million), Congress' Y S Jaganmohan Reddy (Rs 728 million), Congress' Rajkumar Ratna Singh (Rs 678 million), Akali Dal's Harsimrat Kaur (Rs 603 million) and National Congress Party's Supriya Sule (Rs 504 million).Telugu Desam Party's Namma Nageswara Rao, who has won the election from Khammam in Andhra Pradesh, leads the tally of MPs with assets worth about Rs 1740 million, followed by Congress leader and industrialist Naveen Jindal (Rs 1310 million). Jindal has won the election from Kurukshetra in Haryana for the second time. Besides, there are Bahujan Samaj Party's Surendra Singh Nagar (Rs 492 million), BJP's Shivakumar Udasi (Rs 482 million), Congress' Praneet Kaur (Rs 423 million), Congress' Annu Tandon (Rs 421 million), Congress' Rajamohan Reddy (Rs 363 million), Congress' Priya Dutt, (Rs 349 million) and Congress' Kapil Sibal (Rs 319 million).In terms of parties, Congress has as many as 138 multi-millionaire MPs, followed by Bharatiya Janata Party with 58, Samajwadi Party's 14 and Bahujan Samaj Party's 13. Besides, there are 11 from Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, nine from Shiv Sena, eight from the Janata Dal(United), seven from NCP and six each from Biju Janata Dal and Trinamool Congress.Interestingly, the aggregate size of the assets of these new MPs, makes their congregation more valuable than a vast majority of the public companies in the country. There are close to 4,700 listed companies in India, out of which just about 150 companies have their assets valued at more than Rs 30,000 million. The above composition of the house of Parliament, apparently depicts the domination of money power over this prime institution of bourgeois democracy and through it upon the capitalist republic as a whole. This has taken place at two levels. In the first instance, those who were elected as MPs, have enriched themselves making use of their position in the Parliament, to accumulate wealth through serving the interests of the rich. Secondly, the rich themselves have entered more and more into the Parliament. Without much effort, one may see that the noose of money around the neck of ‘democracy’ continues to tighten its grip with each passing day, as is reflected by every consecutive general election. Not only the public opinion is manoeuvred through corporate media, run on the power of millions, but the conscience of the electorate is systematically maligned through direct and indirect bribery etc. etc. This direct subjugation of the representative institutions by the money power, turns the bourgeois democracy into a farce for the proletariat. All declarations of equality, liberty and freedom remain meaningless for the poor. The right to universal franchise, under the unbridled domination of money over the institutions of democracy, turns into universal subjection of the electorate at the hands of those who have the omnipotent power of money at their disposal. In the institutions of bourgeois democracy, remains embedded the real nexus between the rich and the government. Parliament is the show window of this alliance between the capitalists and the government. Engels commented -“In a democratic republic, wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely, first, by means of the direct corruption of officials (America), secondly, by means of an alliance between the government and the Stock Exchange (France and America).”This alliance, acquires the most blatant form, among others, in the domination of the Parliament, the highest organ of bourgeois democracy, by the class of exploiters who had already gained a de-facto control of the bourgeois parliamentary system. With 300 out of 543 members of the house of parliament being multi-millionaire, the Parliament itself becomes an instrument in the hands of the rich to echo their own agenda through it, while stifling the interests of the poor and marginalised sections, within the framework of the bourgeois democracy. The parliament thus loses any effective political role or significance in the bourgeois state and becomes a platform for hollow and meaningless discourses. It turns into a virtual smokescreen for the real power of the money, vested chiefly, in the class organisations of the rich, like the Chambers of Commerce and Industries, the real directors of the state, and executed through the bureaucratic organs of the state.