India Uncut

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

What's politics worth?

We all know that people who get into politics driven by the desire for public service are a rarity, especially in ultra-corrupt India. Most politicians here enter politics to get to power and make money. The higher up the ladder you go, the more money there is to be made. And what is the best way to find out the commercial value of a particular political post?

Why, auction it, of course. NDTV reports:
In the Kodikulam village near Madurai, various panchayat positions have allegedly been auctioned.

While the money would be spent for the development of the village, the local community will ensure that the highest bidder gets elected.

Although by-elections are six months away, a local farmer candidate has offered over Rs two lakh to be elected as a Councillor and then be made the Vice President of the panchayat.
Given that those figures reveal the market value of a particular post, consider that they also display the scope of corruption for that particular office bearer. (If a rare candidate wants the post to help society and suchlike, it merely reveals the extent of his philanthropy, but I doubt you'll get too many of that kind.)

I agree with anyone who says that this makes a mockery of democracy, but do consider that it also lays bare the way this particular democracy works. The very fact that these villagers thought it natural to think of these political positions in monetary terms tells us something. And I suspect one reason this practice will be stopped from above will not be because it corrupts the system, but because it reveals its inherent and inevitable corruptibility. It is better to be in denial about it, no?

(Link via email from The Rational Fool, who blogs on it here.)

Update (November 24): Nilu explains why "[i]f at all market forces are at play, it is the power of monopoly that the caste system generated. Centuries of powerful inertia."

Update (November 26): The Rational Fool investigates Nilu's point:
I dug a little deeper and found more fascinating details of the story in the Indian Express. It seems that the seat in question is indeed reserved for the Dalits. It's held by Ms. Balamani, a poor Dalit woman. What was auctioned, however, was not the seat, but the right to control Balamani! The highest bidder would retain the right to use her as a rubber stamp, and expropriate all the commissions that she would earn while she held the post...
Stunning. What to say now?
amit varma, 6:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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