MPs deliberately wasting an entire session at a monetary cost alone of Rs 170 crore. Dozens of MLAs going on private pleasure trips abroad at public expense. Never has democracy been so openly disgraced in our country. If there is anything more offending than these acts, it is parties putting the blame on one another. All of them are really the same. All of them are irresponsible and unethical when it comes to spending taxpayer's money on their private agendas.
Currently a 17-member team from Karnataka, many of them with families in attendance, is visiting South American countries with a thoughtful stopover in Dubai. Eighty MLAs from Maharashtra are rearing to land in Europe in a month or so. If they went quietly without too many pretensions, the public outrage would have been less. But they display arrogance in justifying their indulgence. One freebooter from Karnataka even argued that their junket expenses were nothing compared to the expenses on terrorist Ajmal Kasab. How obnoxious can politicians get in their insensitivity.
The disregard for public opinion must be due to elections being decided not by voters but by courtesy of party bosses, financiers and sundry fixers. The few leaders who show lip sympathy for public opinion make lame excuses. “I am helpless because the Speaker had cleared the trip”, said Karnataka's Chief Minister. But the Chief Minister is a member of the special board, along with the Speaker and some others, who approve proposals like junkets. Besides, after the way B.S. Yeddyurappa ran the Government, no one will say that the Chief Minister of Karnataka is helpless in any situation. It is the state that is helpless before a chief minister.
The Congress and JD (S) leaders blamed the Government for allowing the legislators to go. But what about their own party people? The Karnataka team already in South America includes six Congress MLAs and two from the JD (S). Why did not the two party high commands order them to stay home?
MLAs forget party labels and act in unison when it comes to their own privileges and emoluments. They are law makers with constitutional authority and if they make laws that suit only them, the rest of us have no way of stopping them. The recent move – hopefully abandoned since – to make Air-India's pilots and station managers attend personally to the comforts of travelling MPs is still fresh in memory.
Karnataka MLAs forgot their party differences and collaborated early on to pass a rule that an MLA was entitled to one foreign and two domestic trips during his term. This was bad enough since it had no purpose other than giving MLAs a free jaunt at taxpayer's expense. Then they went and expanded the rule, making two foreign trips part of an MLA's “rights”. In their generosity to themselves, they also ruled that (a) they did not have to submit all the bills of expenditure and (b) they did not have to submit a report on their study.
That made “study tours” a great convenience. No report means more freedom to study shopping patterns in Lima, Peru and attractions in the entertainment quarter of Rio de Janeiro. Not too many bills means yet more freedom to squander the Rs 20,000 allowance they get per day in foreign exchange. The allowance of course is from the public exchequer. In Moscow the study tour can become a teaching tour with our MLAs instructing Vladimir Putin on how to end dissidence through the art of resort politics, an Indian speciality. There's no dissidence that cannot be erased with a few crores – even in rubles.
The Speaker and Chief Minister of Karnataka are said to have told MLAs to cancel forthcoming junkets. Don't be fooled. What they mean is postpone by a couple of months by which time they hope the people will have forgotten the current furore. These are types who believe that squeezing the country is their right. Who will save us from these turbulent priests of evil?