The Rs. 20-lakh car offer
A few years back while hunting stories for our India Yatra series, I bumped into Phoolmati. As she walked into a dilapidated house in Ramma Khera village with a heavy stack of hay on her head, someone in the rustic crowd said, ‘Yeh vidhayak ji ki patni hai’( She is wife of an MLA).
I was thunderstruck. MLA’s wife! How could it be? But the wife of late Shiv Charan Pasi, four-time Congress MLA, smiled, hiding her poverty behind her wrinkles. ‘He served all and not himself alone. As he never took bribe, he had nothing to leave behind.’ Shiv Balak Pasi was MLA from Salon assembly constituency in Rae Bareli from 1980 to 1992. He died in 2001.
I remembered her after senior Congress leader Pramod Tiwari told the media how late Rajiv Gandhi had to once give jeep to one of the party MLAs from Amethi after he failed to reach an important meeting on time. The MLA had to walk several kilometres and then take a bus to reach the venue.
Those days are gone. The MLAs today travel on the most expensive vehicles, no less than an SUV. According to the Election Watch, which conducts surveys of criminal cases and assets of peoples’ representatives, 67% of the UP legislators were millionaires. As Pramod later told me that there were still a few MLAs who travelled by bus and were agitated over the assembly secretariat’s decision to withdraw their passes.
There is nothing wrong in being rich if it is hard-earned money. I don’t know if there is any direct connection between the MLAs and MP’s fund with the economic growth of public representatives vis a vis that of their constituency, but an analysis would certainly help both the central and state governments as they would know it’s utility and utilisation.
Obviously, when chief minister Akhilesh Yadav announced Rs. 20 lakh from MLA fund, there was a huge hue and cry. Reasons were two. One, why use development fund for buying cars for personal use. Second, why the MLAs need Rs. 20 lakh SUVs and not the cheaper ones?
The government has promptly rolled back the offer while Opposition has come forth with suggestions on how cars could be given to them — cheaper loans to official vehicles.
Apparently government is keen to discourage MLA’s from taking government contracts in their name or that of their family members. The car offer won’t have helped as ‘ yeh dil always mange more’.