- Significance of Jana Reddy’s offer in Nagarjuna Sagar by-poll
Former minister and senior most Congress leader K.Jana Reddy, one of the serious candidates in the current by-poll to the Nagarjuna Sagar assembly constitutency, will go down in electoral history of the country for proposing to the other candidates a no-campaign contest. He offered to limit the campaign to let the voters know why they should vote to him and what he would do if elected. This by issuing a statement to voters instead of going around campaigning spending huge money, candidates accusing each other, indulging in public utterances making all kind of claims and promises, ‘gumrah’ voters with doles of all kind and thus further vitiate the political environment.
Kudos to Jana Reddy
I congratulate Jana Reddy for this daring suggestion (not because he had taken a cue from my latest monograph) because he is the first any where in any state in any election to come up with such a proposition of far reaching implications to the democratic roots of the country. That no other candidate in this by-poll had come forward to grab the offer reminds the kind of mindset our political leaders and cadres are stuck with idea of elections and campaigns. That even the news media has not deliberated or pursued Jana Reddy’s idea should not be forgotten considering that no-campaign idea is irrelevant. On the contrary, the idea offers a ray of hope for reviving the spirit and sanctity of elections in a parliamentary democracy.
It is better than unanimous elections
This idea of Jana Reddy is even better than unanimous way of elections as we witnessed recently in Andhra Pradesh panchayt elections. The Election Commission of India should pursue the idea and explore the modalities for implementing in an assembly election even on an experimental basis somewhere. Why contesting candidate in an election need to do any thing more than informing the voters why they should vote for him or her and what could be expected in return if elected? There is ample evidence that election campaigns have recently become extended, elaborate and expensive to the extent of making the representativeness limited to a privileged few and to some privileges. This is because the contestants are either strangers to the constituency or outsiders, or known for their riches or for some deviant behavior. Or those who spend for campaigning and take to note for vote.
Despite so much intense campaigns by candidates and parties by way of whirlwind visits and public meetings addressed mostly by outsiders and their coverage in news media, why many candidates continue take to and rely on lures and more recently outsource to commercial consultants? If they believe that their campaigns motivate voters, they need not be distributing more and more money per vote and to middlemen as they have been in recent elections across the states? Why political parties and leaders vitiate the poll atmosphere not at all necessary? Do they believe that more the controversies and the personal accusations and irrelevant the rhetoric, campaign doles make a difference? If contestants are local, engaged in one other in public service and have any credible standing, they need not take to campaigning as we are used now.
Jana Reddy opened dialog with Naxals
This is perhaps what Jana Reddy believed from his years of experience. His role in opening up dialogue with Naxals when in responsible position as Hone minister of the state some years ago (2004) can not be forgotten.
Madras High Court Judges’ observation
On April 3,2021 two Madras high court judges of standing reminded the nation to ponder about the kind of election campaigns with all kind of lures, doles and scheme as if unconcerned of their implications to the economy and parliamentary democracy. The Judges damned political leaders and contestants in elections for the kind of expensive campaigns. These observations of madras high court at a time when the state of Tamil Nadu is in the midst of an intense but bitter poll campaigning should be taken for larger significance. If nothing is done to address such trends in poll campaigns threatening the very fundamentals of democracy, development and governance, revival of the Republic remains a challenge even in 2050. Initiatives like Jana Reddy’s offer is an opportunity to address the dilemma.
Campaigning together Going beyond, our leaders and cadres should explore ways of curtailing and curbing poll campaigns in so many ways including curtailing the duration of campaigns. They should come out of their cave and consider making candidates campaign together instead of in a solo way as now. Some restraint has to come in Poll rhetoric. This is not possible without our leaders and candidates taking responsibility for what they claim and promise and strict to a manifesto. In this they should limit to policy issues rather than to luring schemes targeting a section of voters. In the process they all should be concerned about distabilising the standing of public institutions. Only then we could prepare and gear up for e-voting and e-campaining ensuring transparency in the process. Only then we could avail humble initiatives of leaders like Jana Reddy. So that more such initiatives come from other leaders.