By Ankit Jain
The district of Jamshedpur (in Jharkhand state) has been a witness to 7 elections in the past 7 years: Lok Sabha elections 2004, State assembly elections 2005(6 assembly constituencies in the district), Lok Sabha by-election 2007 (due to assassination of the 2004 victor), Lok Sabha elections 2009, State Assembly elections 2009, State Panchayat Elections 2010, and another Lok Sabha by-election 2011 (due to resignation of the winning candidate of 2009).
Below is a modest analysis of how these frequent elections affect the life of a common man in the district, taking an example of the latest elections:
Arjun Munda (Bhartiya Janta Party) made it to the parliament (in 2009) by defeating Suman Mahato (Jharkhand MuktiMorcha) handsomely. Hardly had he come to know the problems of the people, had just begun chalking out development plans and policies for the district, and hadstarted actually working, when there was a political turmoil in Jharkhand and Arjun Munda was made the Chief Minister. He had to now find an assembly seat for himself. A Â BJP MLA resigned from his assembly seat. Munda contested a by-election from that emptied seat, and won. But in the meanwhile, the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat fell vacant and called for a by-election.
This by-election seemed to be the biggest of all since the seat earlier belonged to the CM. Huge amount of political, monetary and human resources went in. Enforcement of the election codes of conduct meant no public welfare scheme could be implemented in the district in this duration. Most of the ministers of the state government (including the CM, and both the deputy CMs) staying in the district (campaigning for their candidates) for more than a fortnight implied no development or public work in any other district as well. People across the state cried, but these public representatives paid no heed, their life long mission seemed victory in the Jamshedpur by-polls.
Consequences of Such Frequent Elections
Employment of public servants (Bank employees, school teachers, clerks, policemen etc.) in election duty (for about 10 days) meant disruption of the financial procedures, of the education system, of day-to-day administration, of the law and order in the entire district. Children had no one to take their classes. Bank account holders had no one to even update their pass-books. Victims of any type of crime had to wait for action till the policemen returned from election duty. Leakages in the public water distribution pipes had to continue till the PHED engineers and officers returned back.
An extra day of public holiday (the day of election) meant a heavy loss on a macroeconomic scale, considering the amount of work that takes place in all government offices, the number of complaints to be lodged in police stations, the numbers of cases already pending in civil and criminal courts, the already appalling district revenue and taxation system, and an overall economic market.
Investment of huge amount of money (to the tune of Rs 3-4 crores per candidate) meant donations and forced collection from the businessmen and corporate houses of the district, leading to frustration in these communities, something which was visible in the statements issued from the Chamber of Commerce. Huge amount of money was put into the market in illegal ways: bribes, incentives to voters, and exceeding the allowed expenditure hundred -fold.
Consider another possibility – One of the candidates was a standing MLA. Had he won the election, it would have called for another by-election in that particular constituency which would have led to consequences mentioned above all over again.
Seems scary, doesn’t it? But this is something which the people of Jamshedpur parliamentary constituency and 6 state assembly constituencies under it are used to. Such conditions appear in the district every one year or so (on an average, of course).
Can nothing be done for this? Can this not be stopped? With youth forming at least half of the 13 lakh odd voters in Jamshedpur, can we not bring this to the public view through a public forum? Is anyone listening?