Atanu Dey On India's Development

Politically Incorrect: India’s Corrupt Voters

I am never quite sure why people insist that the Indian democracy is so great. To me it appears to be the greatest curse imposed on India from up on high. It is totally politically (sic) incorrect to take this view, of course. But I don’t apologize for believing so and I am convinced that the Indian voter is corrupt.

Rajesh Jain’s blog has an item on lessons from India’s elections which got me thinking. The claim made by Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express is that India’s voter has become smart.

Compared to whom? I ask. Compared to Shekhar Gupta?

I guess so since Shekhar Gupta claims that the Indian voter has become smart. For I don’t see any reason to believe that the Indian voter has changed in any substantial way. The Indian voter continues to be a narrow-minded, ignorant, casteist, bigoted, vacuous idiot it has always been.

Here is my reasoning.

  • Exhibit A: I look at the politicians of this country. To a first approximation, they are ignorant, bigoted, casteist, vacuous idiotic criminals. These bunch of unspeakable criminals (where I use the word in its literal sense) are consistently voted into power by the Indian voter.
  • Fact B: A population of wise, informed, well-meaning, broad-minded, intelligent voters cannot continue to vote a bunch of corrupt ignorant bigots as their political leaders.
  • Major Premise C: Voters reveal their character by expressing their preferences at the polls.
  • Minor Premise D: Leaders are endogenous to the group, that is, they emerge from within the group and so reflect the dominant traits of the group.

Mr Gupta writes that the voter is not swayed by charisma. Well, how would we know? We need charismatic people first and then if the voter is unmoved, we can say that it is true.

We do know that the Indian voter is swayed by “big names”, though. Why else would they trot out an uneducated chap (Rahul Gandhi) as the Congress mascot unless they were confident that the Indian voter will be swayed?

What else explains the tenacity with which the entire Nehru-Gandhi clan is totally into getting into the highest political positions? By their indomitable courage? No. Their astonishing brilliance in academics? None are really even educated. Their thorough understanding of the problems of development? Never done an honest day’s work. Their undying dedication to the hard task of nation building? Shirley, you jest. Their selfless sacrifice demonstrated by their social work? Not a bloody chance in hell.

What then explains the astonishing idiocy of the Indian voter to continue to vote the Nehru-Gandhi clan to power?

Let’s face the facts. I would have loved to report that we are a great democracy. We are not. If we were, we would not be facing the prospect of having an Italian aupair as the prime minister of a country of 1000 000 000 people. She says that she is loyal to her adopted country (never mind that she did not apply for Indian citizen for over a decade). Well, I would ask her whether she has any loyalty to the country that she was born in. No? If a person has no loyalty towards the land of one’s birth, I would not pay a tinker’s damn to any other oath of loyalty that the person takes. If you change your allegiance once, it is all too easy to do it once again. Indians who don’t understand that simple concept are idiots and I don’t care how accomplished they may be in their respective fields. If an Indian says that Sonia’s origin is not an issue for the prime minister’s seat, I would say that Indian is a moron.

I have met only a handful of politicians personally. I have known some of them well and all of them — every one of them to the last person — has accumulated vast sums of money through bribery and corruption. It is a random sample. I have no doubt that the vast majority of Indian politicians are corrupt. Politicians are endogenous to the population. They are random samples drawn from the underlying population. In other words, the sample characteristics give an indication of the population characteristics. The corruption of the politicians is the single most damning evidence that the voters are corrupt.

That is the law.

  • http://www.wetware.blogspot.com Reuben

    Atanu,
    You abuse the Indian voter for being all sorts of things. But how is that different from one-issue voters in the United States? Why is a right-wing Republican voting for *good* Christian candidates any better than an Indian voting for someone who is a Hindu? If you are going to hold that standard against Indian voters, be prepared to use it against voters everywhere.

    You also rail against Sonia Gandhi and attack her on dual loyalty and accuse Indians of not comprehending that fact, being morons etc. Would you hold the same standards against Henry Kissinger or Madeleine Albright? If you suggested to an American that Kissinger or Albright were disloyal because they were born in Europe, chances are that you would be laughed at, right?

    Finally, you talk about Mrs G acquiring an Indian passport a long time after marriage. Lets be honest — how many Indians do you know who maintain foreign passports just because it makes travel easier??? Perhaps it was a *practical* decision to maintain the Italian passport? Do you know otherwise?

    There are plenty of reasons why Sonia G should not become PM, but I dont think her birthplace should be one of them.

  • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

    Reuben,

    The existence of ‘one-issue’ voters in the US is not material to the question of whether Indian voters are revealing their basic character by electing criminals. To reiterate, leaders are endogenous to the system. Endogeneity puts us in a vicious bind. Ignorant voters electing leaders who elect to keep the voters ignorant and so on it goes.

    Mrs Gandhi’s position is different from that of Albright or Kissinger. First, there is the question of competency. I will not abuse your intelligence by detailing the differences along that direction. Second, I should not have to point out that the US population is overwhelmingly of European descent. An Italian Catholic immigrant could easily represent the people of the US. And Italian Catholic cannot claim any great kinship to Indian the vast majority of whom are Indian Hindus. It makes a difference. Our origins have an effect on where our loyalties lie. An Italian Catholic would have little sympathy for Indian Hindus. You are an Indian Christian. Compare how you perceive Indian Hindus to how non-Indian Christians perceive Indian Hindus to be. Why? It takes a life-time to understand a people, not just being married to a person from a foreign land. I don’t care what religion a person proclaims. What matters to me is if the person is born and brought up in the land. My friend Salah Mohammed, George Fernandez, you, me, Jayalalitha, Advani, even Rahul — any one of us can be the PM of India but not an Italian born person. An Italian cannot know what India is about.

    Finally, an Indian acquiring a foreign passport for convenience is one thing. A woman who is married to a powerful person in India not letting go of her Italian passport for the sake of convenience in traveling is an entirely different thing. I am astounded that you advanced that defense. I will overlook it as a momentary lapse of reason and allow you to edit your comment.

    Sir Walter Scott said it well when he wrote, “Breathes there the man with a soul so dead/
    Who never to himself hath said/
    This is my own, my native land …”

    Please do re-read that poem before too long, will you?

  • http://www.wetware.blogspot.com Reuben

    Atanu,
    You say
    “The existence of ‘one-issue’ voters in the US is not material to the question of whether Indian voters are revealing their basic character by electing criminals.”

    You were not restricting your argument to criminality, but included narrow-mindedness, bigotry, casteism etc. On all of that standards, a lot of one-issue voters in every democracy would fit your *moron* bill. What I am saying is that there are fundamental flaws inherent in democracy everywhere. Therefore, the Indian voter is no different from any other voter anyplace else.

    “Compare how you perceive Indian Hindus to how non-Indian Christians perceive Indian Hindus to be. It takes a life-time to understand a people, not just being married to a person from a foreign land.”

    How long is a life-time? Mrs Gandhi has lived in India for longer than I have, for example. For that matter, Mrs Gandhi has lived in India for longer than you have. Doesnt that mean Mrs. Gandhi has lived more of her *life-time* in India than you or I?

    “What matters to me is if the person is born and brought up in the land.”

    Assume a situation where you have an Indian kid born to Indian parents who are techies in Silicon Valley right now. Are you saying that kid (born an American citizen) has no right to come back to India when he’s 25, enter politics etc because his/her parents decided to work in Silicon Valley?

    As for your comment about travel, I was merely using travel as an example of practical considerations. There are several practical considerations one needs to take into account when one decides what passport to hold. You know that and I know that.

    Finally, remember Walter Scott wrote that poem sometime in the very early 1800′s. The times-they-have-a-changed since. If flag-waving pax-Americana annoys you, perhaps you should also stay away from flag waving nationalism of the Indian variety too.

  • http://www.prashantmullick.com Prashant Mullick

    There is no way of knowing what goes on in the mind of Mrs G. However, this also applies to every other Indian that stands for office in India, including Mr. BJP, Atal Behari Vajpayee.

    Having said that though, it is also clear that Mrs G has taken full advantage of the fact that she is a ‘Gandhi Bahu’. There will be few people in Delhi who will deny the power and authority this one person wields. It does take you to think why? What are the qualifications that enable her to be of such value to the Congress. Frankly, the onyl term coming to mind is ‘Gandhi Bahu’. Anyone else is welcome to refute that and convince me otherwise.

    One other answer that comes to mind is the fact that the big majority of the Indian votebank is easily swayed. I agree with Atanu on this fact. What I disagree with him on is his conclusion that the majority of the Indian populace has a criminal intent.

    Just because the politicians that the population throws up are corrupt does not go on to justify that the large majority of the population is corrupt. This is hardly a random sample that can statistically determine the nature of the whole population.

    Politicians continue to remain corrupt not because the basis from which they are chosen is corrupt, but because they are not held accountable for their actions and are allowed to get away with promoting their own little dynasties.

    There is big money in politics and this without doubt attracts the filthiest minds. However, what makes a democracy successful is how well it keeps in check and balance these minds from taking advantage of their powers.

  • Anubhav

    You say that since politicians are elected from among the general population so they would be representative of the population and hence teh argument that since politicians are corrupt so is teh general population.
    I wish to differ. I maintain that as soon as politicians are elected they cease to have the same qualities as teh electorate because “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Therefore, corruption is a trait acquired externally rather than inherent.

  • Kirthi Ramakrishnan

    It is not fair to say that the Indian voters are corrupt. They may be illiterate, uninformed, short-term minded etc., but to call them corrupt is a bit cruel. Give them a break. They get one chance in 5 years to give out their opinion, and they did it. While a lot us may not like it, we better accept it. The other alternative is totalitarian government. People react to the choices that they are presented with. The poor rural voter did not perceive that the BJP government was doing anything for him/her. So they voted for the other side. This does not mean that the BJP is bad and the COngress will be better. If conditions don’t improve for the said voter, the Congress will get the same treatment next time around.

    What is more significant in this election is the performance of the regional parties and the Communists. This shows that people are not fooled by big party politics and are voting “closer to home”. The diversity in the parties finally reflects the diversity of the country. The voters have thus sent a strong signal that they want local government, not a central one. However this message seems to be completely ignored by our political and intellectual elite. It has always been the case, but has finally pronounced itself (gradually in the last 10 years) sharply now. For all the hoopla, the Congress has less that 150 seats on its own, and the BJP only slightly less. If the Congress had actuall run on its own without alliances, its tally would have been even lower.

    It is also worth noting that the Communists have done well as incumbents. I don’t know what the reasons are but I can guess that land reforms in West Bengal, and education emphasis in Kerala have helped the left parties here.

    While the new govts in AP An Karnataka are not going to be better, what really matters is that it is clear that unless we concentrate on making the agricultural sector more productive, the country is not going to be happy. This does not mean free power supply to farmers, as someone rightly pointed out, but more long term investment in irrigation management, drip farming, revamping the PDS etc. Implementing things along the lines of RISC is the way to go. But to do that, will require some humility and courage.

    People perceive that decisions will be made more with their consideration if the parties are local than if they are national. These are strong indications to weaken central government and strengthen local government. For example, if the AP chief minister is not going to have a backbone and rely on the high command going back to the old Congress days, CB Naidu has nothing to worry about.

    All of which makes the voter smarter. It does not make them more corrupt.

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  • Tushar Saxena

    Very interesting post. My dad’s perspective seemed to agree with Shekhar Gupta (before he ever wrote his analysis). He said that there’s something called “collective intelligence” of the voter as a whole…it seems like an elusive concept but intuitively I think I know what he meant. He said that this collective intelligence manifested itself by enforcing coalitions so that “no single party holds the magic wand”.

    I really can’t say I agree with him or you. I think it’s an extremely complex subject and there are so many variables involved that it would be utterly simplistic to call the Indian voter a ‘moron’. A very important variable would be educational level…we can;t really expect our poor, illiterate rural folk not to succumb to the charlatan corrupt casteist from their own midst, can we? Let’s be fair. How this situation came about can be documented and has been documented well by Arun Shourie (Nehruvian socialism).
    Also, are we forgetting that’s we the bloody middle class are the most pessimistic parasites on this democracy? Hardly any of us votes. We are ever-ready to be armchair generals but we hardly participate in active democracy. We write columns, we work hard jobs to earn for our families but if a certain policy formulation affects our job we diss the ‘illiterate casteist’ voter for voting the incumbent dispensation to power.

    Both these should be kept in mind.

    My 10 cents (lot more than 2 it seemed)

    :)

  • http://# JiggyWittit

    Kewl blog you got goin on up here.
    Peace, JiggyWittit