அறிஞர் அண்ணாவின் கட்டுரைகள்


While affirming our faith in the ballot box as a means of attaining our political objective, we had written last week with almost prophetic foresight that it is not always the most desired, let alone desirable, candidate that achieves success at the polls. We had said that pelf often replaced patriotism as the critical criterion and nefarious influences came into play at election time. The Tuticorin bye-election has come to prove this proviso to our general statement. The recent victory of the Congress at Tuticorin has no particular political importance— it did not act to allay the anxiety of a tottering administration struggling with a precarious majority (as in Devikulam), nor did it determine any sharp issue specifically posed before the electorate for its mandate. The Tuticorin by-election was an ordinary and normal sequel to a vacancy caused by the death of the member representing the area. The Congress party has retained the seat. We make no attempt to deny or detract from that victory—but it has been a Victory Without Honour. A victory achieved at the cost of principles or fairness, may be victory to those who value only the Ends. As we had pointed out last week, Means matter as much to the D.M.K. as Ends. The Congress has reached such a state of decadence that ends matter most to it. Its boss in this State is a past master in the art of achieving his ends; he has also acquired a deftness in dropping all ideals or principles in the process. The D.M.K. may have lost the bye-election, but it has re-established the fact that it will not stoop to dirty devices or mean methods to win an election. Our hands are clean, our conscience clear, and our eyes can look anyone in the face; but we have been defeated. We ask whether the Congress can say as much for itself. We shall place a few of the factors that operated at Tuticorin below, and we ask Congressmen to look at us boldly and deny that they adopted base means to snatch success. The D.M.K. can assert that it was defeated, but not disgraced, for we held aloft our ideals to the very end. The ruling party succeeded, but it lost something very valuable in the bargain—its reputation (but of course, this had been lost long ago!); we are proud of our failure, for we have a clear conscience; the Congress must be ashamed of its victory, for it stooped very low to win.

When we say all this, we should not be taken as offering excuses, whether valid or lame, to explain away the result. On the other hand, we have no hesitation in confessing that if one has ever to do what the Congress did to win, we shall never win. We must first infuse healthy democratic traditions and conventions among the people, and make the Vote a political instrument in the hands of an elector, and not a mere piece of paper to be bartered away for various considerations. When the ballot becomes so mature a democratic institution, it acts as a true reflector of popular will; till then it will be a hunting ground for hawkers of government. The D.M.K. is rooted in Democracy, and it must resolve to elevate the electorate from that condition in which the ruling party prefers to keep it—a situation in which Poverty persists (so that anything that finds a purchaser will be sold) and in which Ignorance is established (so that political ideas may not permeate the popular mind). We cannot make the people prosperous, for we do not run the State, and our valid suggestions for the people's prosperity will not be accepted by the ruling party for its own reasons. But we can at least educate the people, so that a Political Conscience grows and acts as an effective barrier against the blandishments of the Congress at election time. Only when such a healthy environment is created, can we meet the ruling party with its vast resources of men and money and its opportunity for abuse of powers of government, on an equal footing. Bereft of its adventitious aids, the Congress is no match for us. Armed with these facilities, it wages an unequal battle, and its success can be likened to that of a dwarf armed with an automatic pistol against a giant with his feet and hands secured firmly!

What is that the Congress did? We do not lecture Law but we mouth Morality. Let not any curious Congressman therefore begin to think in terms of election petitions! What the ruling party did to win the seat may be within the law, or it may transgress its boundaries. Even in the latter case, by constant training in that direction, they may have done it so beautifully well so as to cover up their tracks, and leave no traces behind for formally proving the act. We therefore talk generally and on a higher plane than merely seeking to invalidate the election. The election may be legally perfectly valid, and still it may be morally quite invalid. We here appeal to Morality, not to Law, to establish our case. The Congress adopted some methods—each of which we consider highly improper and immoral—
Lavish expenditure of Money
Personal visits of Ministers
Abuse of governmental machinery
Appeal to Communal feelings

That each of the aforesaid four devices were in full swing at Tuticorin during the past fortnight, cannot be denied. That is has borne fruit is obvious; but such victory, is degrading,

Money flowed like water. Facilities that money can buy were patent. The opportunities that money can purchase were evident. When so much cash is in circulation, not all of it could have gone for fair expenditure. We are putting it as mildly as we can, for Congressmen will easily see what we hint at! "The crowds may come to your meetings; but the votes will be in my favour" has often been the burden of the Congress chief's song. What else could he have meant, except that he knew how to "buy" though not how to "get" by propaganda. It is as well that we also face this fact. It is only the Politically Conscious person that attends political meetings. It is only he that is swayed by political principles enunciated eloquently. But to every one such politically "alive" individual, there are three or four who are quite unconcerned with political life—as the Tamil proverb says, "not caring if Rama reigned or Ravana ruled". The Congress does not bother any more about the former, for it now knows that every patriot in the South spurns its rule, and patriotism comes with political awakening. By concentrating on the politically slumbering masses and dangling temptations in front of their innocent and simple eyes, the ruling party uses its financial resources to profit. We can not, will not and do not do so. We place our policies and programmes before the people, and where there is political awareness, we succeed; where it is still to develop, we fail. Every single vote cast anywhere in favour of the D.M.K. is therefore a pledge and a dedication to our ideals; every single vote that the Congress secures is a confession of weakness and inability to resist the lesser self. We can always get the votes of the Congress, as time wears on and nationalism grows with political education; but the Congress cannot hope to buy away a single vote of ours.

The undesirability of Ministers in office, canvassing for candidates has been emphasised more than once, and by various authorities. Lastly we have the pronouncement of the Election authority itself deprecating this practice. And yet, Ministers camped at Tuticorin (it would be interesting to investigate, on what pretext they came there) and attended diligently to election work. It is illegal in strict law, for a village munsif to work for elections, as his official status, however humble is supposed to be, an unhealthy influence on the free choice of the electorate. But the law, with its characteristic illogicality that Dean Swift spoke about, seems to allow Ministers—the highest official influence possible—to canvass. Even if sanctioned by law, this is surely shocking to Morality. And no one who has seen the manner in which Ministerial tours at election time are manipulated and misused to further party purposes can gainsay the pernicious effect which such a practice has. The chance of any dispensation of official favour is undoubtedly far greater and far more effective too, when Ministers go about than when munsiffs do. Yet, the former are allowed to brandish their office about at crucial times, and the law is content to place a ban on the latter. In Tuticorin, we had many instances of Ministers coming to persons ( who had earlier promised support to other parties) and by sheer force not of personality or policy but of power, swerving those persons away. Few can resist the lure of official favour, and when Ministers start going from house to house, soliciting votes with smiles, and meaningful looks, the weak yeild. If this is not interference with the free choice of an electroate, what is? In this respect the example of the Kerala Ministers who stepped not into Devikulam—though the election was vital—was refreshing. But the Congress will not take such lessons from others.

Abuse of Governmental power arises in two ways, both of which were in evidence during the Tuticorin by-election. The first is, to employ Governmental forces against opposition workers, for example by taking into custody some strenuous workers of the opposite camp at the psychological moment, on some frivolous charge and keep them out of action for a few days and then release them. This is sheer abuse of power. But it goes on. If opposition parties were to retaliate, they would be violating the law. But the ruling party breaks the law really, but by employing the law for the purpose! This both paralyses the opposition's work to some extent and also terrorises other workers. Another way in which Governmental power is abused by the ruling party is to hatch schemes and announce plans for improvement just at election time. To give one example out of many, a whole village was really "bribed" when the Ministers laid the foundation stone for a bridge that the villagers had been asking for many years. Perhaps the bridge may never be built, and the whole thing might be an election stunt, but nevertheless the abuse of Power had its desired immediate effect, and that is what the Congress cares for. This gives the ruling party an advantage, which is also employed often and unfairly.

The Pandit and the President of the Congress have repeatedly shouted against Communalism in the Congress. As the Madras Chief Justice pointed out at a Symposium on Caste abolition recently, the Communal feeling generally comes up most during election time, and parties which resort to that are to be blamed. Both the Congress and the Communist parties had little compunction in kindling the embers of caste feeling. The Congress candidate, cleverly selected to secure a double advantage if possible, made it a point to add his caste name to his real name; he is generally not known by that nomeclature, being a convert to Christianity. Still, he flaunted his caste—and not without reason. What is to happen to Pandit Nehru's protestations?

It was in spite of fighting against these odds that the D.M.K. managed to record over 14,000 votes, as against about 21,000 by the Congress. We have nothing to be dejected about. But we are not to be complacent either. We must see how we can fight against these evil forces that are brought into action at election time. As our victory lies in political awakening, we must spare no effort to rouse the sleeping ones, and show to them the rising sun of patriotic nationalism. Educating the ignorant masses, and taking the lessons of politics to their doorsteps and not expect all to attend our meetings, would be a necessary and first step. We can not outbid the Congress in money and indeed we have no desire to do so. But we can make the money of the Congress worthless by educating the people, not to sell their rights for a glittering coin.

We have been asked about the votes polled by the Communists. We do not desire to give any elaborate explanation. But we may say this:—Even the votes secured by the Communists were anti Congress votes—and the ruling party cannot therefore boast of an absolute majority. Indeed if the Reds were keen on infliciting a blow on the Congress, they should have approached the D.M.K. (which secured more votes than the C.P.I did during the general elections) and offered to support our candidate. This, they did not do. As long as they do not gloat over the Congress victory, it is something! Besides, one cannot help recollecting what the Kerala Congressmen said when the Devikulam results were announced. They had their own theories about the Red tactics at election hour. Some times even Congresmen may be correct!

We must congratulate the voters who voted for the D.M.K. without yielding to the forces of pelf or power but wielding the banner of patriotism. We must give our grateful hand to the numerous party workers at Tuticorin who toiled day and night against much difficulty. We must pat on their backs our party leaders who went to Tuticorin to supervise the work, for they did a fine job. We must thank the donors who gave us funds to met the minimum expenditure and we say "Your coppers and nickels are more valuable than the thousands which the Congress got from the capitalists. Your contributions helped us to work. Theirs helped to destroy democratic traditons". We appeal to our party men and to our sympathisers and well wishers to view the Tuticorin result as a timely reminder to us that the devices which the rulers will employ are not always above board or in conformity with the high ideals of a democratic State. We hold our Integrity in high esteem. The Congress has fallen to win. We shall not stoop to conquer.

Let the Tuticorin result inspire us to work with greater zeal and gusto. The window of political feeling must be opened in every home so that the Sun of Dravidian resurgence may be seen. The victory is ours.

(Editorial - 03-08-1958)