Thoughts on economics and liberty

Not one reason to be honest – Part 5

Filter 3: Perjury as a Qualification

This last filter removes those unable to sign false statements or perjure themselves, merely to represent us.
This filter is the hardest for people to grasp. Most people simply can’t see what the point is all about! Why am I so hung up about perjury? So let me tell you yet another story about Mr. Harishchandra. Let us first transform him; give him a make-over. Let’s assume that instead of getting only Rs.20 lakhs, Mr. Harishchandra now faces no financial constraints whatsoever, being left with a bequest of Rs. 4 crores. Therefore, spending any amount of money in order to contest elections is no longer an issue for him. He is also a highly improved version now – very well educated, experienced and competent. On top of that, he is dedicated to good policy and is also quite modest, if not humble. He is close to a Level 5 leader in calibre. What more could we want? Very desirable indeed!
But this is what happened to him during the last elections. Being mindful of the law, Mr. Harishchandra tried to keep the authorized expenditure for his election to within Rs.25 lakhs. Unfortunately, due to the price of petrol going up on the last day of the election campaign, the cost of filling his petrol tank tipped his total planned expenditure. He now had spent a total of Rs.25,00,001 on the campaign, i.e. one rupee more than the limit. This became a very serious concern for Mr Harishchandra; a dilemma, even a nightmare. Exceeding the election expenditure limits, even if accidentally, was something he could not possibly condone. He was firmly committed to abiding by the law of the land. By breaking them, he would lose the moral right, in his mind, to represent his constituency and country. This is what his weasel accountant told him: ‘Destroy the petrol receipt and pretend you did not canvass in the last hour of the last day of the campaign’. But Mr. Harishchandra would never sign on any doctored accounts. He would never perjure himself. He promptly fired his accountant for providing such grossly unethical advice. ‘What an astonishing accountant!’, he thought, ‘Destroying the integrity of the entire accounting profession! Is a rupee not a rupee any longer? Can people so easily cheat and tell lies?’
Mr. Harishchandra decided immediately that he could not violate the laws of India and be a lawmaker at the same time. There was no scope for any ambiguity on this matter. If a lawmaker breaks laws he can’t be a lawmaker. There is no further need to think on this matter.And so Mr Harishchandra did what has hitherto never been done in India. Moments after the close of the election campaign, he sent a message to all his supporters saying that he was withdrawing from the election. Even though his name remained on the ballot paper, he informed the voting public that he no longer saw himself fit to be their representative as he had broken the election laws of the land by one rupee.
This was an unofficial withdrawal, since the date of withdrawal of nominations had long closed. Therefore Mr. Harishchandra was still required to produce his electoral accounts. He faithfully did so, noting that he had exceeded the expenditure limit by one rupee. Upon receiving this information, the Election Commission was completely flabbergasted. No candidatein India had ever before officially declared that he had exceeded the expenditure limits. The Commissioners found this to be a great pain in their sore necks. They were at their wits’ end and tore out their remaining few hairs in despair. They had never come across a Level 5 leader; now that they found one, it was a traumatic experience for them. They were completely unprepared, having got used to dealing only with super-corrupt ruffians. Despite wanting to praise Mr. Harishchandra, they had to commence a major proceeding against him.
The moral of these three stories is that our electoral law meticulously filters out all the truthful, competent and prudent people of India.Our system is therefore anightmare the likes of which has never been imagined in any other ‘democracy’. Through this book I hope to awaken the interest of Indians who have been sleeping while the people they elect build high walls against honest people. If you think these analyses are correct, then there is no escaping the next step – you must come forward and contest elections with a view to changing the system. Once we finish this book, we’ll talk more about that step. You’ll not be expected to do this alone.
[This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru]
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