It's rather warm here in Bangalore but, just as at home in London, Karnataka is awash with election fever, with polls due to take place here on 10 May for the State Assembly.
The various political parties are vying for supremacy, as observers are of the view that the result in this southern state will influence the timing of Lok Sabha (the Indian equivalent of the Commons) elections to come. One interesting effect of this is the flurry of party switching for personal advantage. Whilst at home, political switching at local level is not unheard of, at more rarified levels it is extremely newsworthy.
Here, it appears to be part of day to day political life, and the threat of switching in order to obtain what is called a 'ticket' or candidacy is used, and not just behind closed doors either, but often through the pages of the highly influential local and regional press. Blackmail it may be, but it appears to be successful, especially as personality plays a much more significant role in getting elected than it does in British politics.
One of the side effects of such behaviour is to engender a tremendous amount of cynicism. It is assumed that politicians are corrupt, the argument being reduced to the degree to which they are. One result of this is that potential candidates are obliged to make a public declaration of their assets, the theory being, one presumes, that if a candidate is significantly enriched in the course of a term of office, this can be made known to the electorate.
Interestingly, two researchers from Harvard recently published the findings of their review of the estates of successful and unsuccessful Conservative parliamentary candidates. They discovered that those who had been successful tended to leave larger estates than those who weren't. Now I wouldn't suggest that patronage is necessarily profitable, but it does make you wonder whether all politicians go into the business for purely altruistic reasons...