Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Indian Parliament is Infructuous (The Collapse of Parliamentary System of Democracy/Back to Lokvidya Swaraj & Panchayati Raj) Lalit K Kaul

The Indian Parliament is Infructuous

(The Collapse of Parliamentary System of Democracy/Back to Lokvidya Swaraj & Panchayati Raj)

Lalit K Kaul

In recent times an emerging trend is to defy any act of the Parliament on the streets; hold entire country to ransom; cause inconvenience to general public only to exhibit their muscle strength supplemented by those designated as ‘opposition’. Fight for ideological values don’t require muscle power, while agitations may be carried out. A very dangerous precedence was allowed to be set with the connivance of all political parties by allowing Shaheen Bagh & similar baghs for not very intelligible reasons. Yet, whatever the apprehensions of agitating women (most of them didn’t know   why) their enforced blockade shouldn’t have been allowed. Farmers have picked up from where Shaheen Bagh ended & are following the precedence. In the eighties, the protests led by farmers didn’t employ such ways as they are now. What’s the reason? Corona ended Shaheen Bagh; BJP didn’t gain anything in Delhi elections despite their chosen inaction, but Delhi riots followed. Which virus will end farmer’s blockade? Only Virus can tell.

Degenerate Political System:

Few reasons why our political system is degenerate:

1.    Opposition parties are to only oppose anything and everything that the ruling party may legislate. Like, nuclear test during NDA regime was opposed / criticized by the entire opposition. BJP, while in opposition, opposed Aadhar Card implementation. This is not by choice, but as a duty because all political parties have implicit understanding on it.

2.    Anybody can float a party; anybody can become a politician; more the number of crimes more the reason to become a politician; always welcome in any / all party’s fold if capacity to garner votes (muscle power)

3.      Political parties are allowed to be run as a family fiefdom.

4.    Every MP and MLA can get away with whatever they may speak in both the houses of Parliament and respective Vidhan Sabhas. It provides criminals full lung power to cast all kinds of aspersions on their opponents. This provision leaves a very harmful impact on the common citizens. Like, Kejriwal felt bold enough to declare in Delhi Assembly that he and his 61 MLAs had no birth certificates and so they were passing a resolution against CAA. Were they born to animals? These kinds of statements are very highly provocative and help generate vicious environment all around.

5.    During election campaigns and public rallies all kinds of unsubstantiated allegations can be hurled on the political opponents knowing pretty well that they will go scot free. It creates bad environment and the message that goes across the public is that unsubstantiated charges can be hurled at others.

6.   Self styled/proclaimed leaders of people are allowed to exploit the provision of ‘Freedom of Speech’ without any sense of responsibility. This freedom has been grossly misused by the Communists, some of the Moulvis and the rabidly communal elements in both the Hindu and Muslim communities, as was very evident during anti CAA protests. Even the politicians, while in opposition, have this indulgence; like, the way Sonia family publicly instigated people to move on to streets against CAA.

7.     Modern Indian establishments and political leaders have conscientiously shaped modern Indian societies in a way that they are particular only about their rights to avail anything and everything while the right to duty has long got lost into oblivion.  

8.     The Constitution of India talks of rights of all and sundry and ways to uphold them, does it talk of duties?

Recent Examples of Degenerate Politics:

        While Agri Bills were always going to go through the Lok Sabha, in the Rajya Sabha the opposition combine had the majority and therefore they could have stalled the bills and disallowed their passage. It was not blocked and thereafter the opposition parties sided with the farmers’ demands including scrapping of the bills! It can be nobody’s take that opposition parties sympathize or relate with the farmers’ problems. Had UPA been in power, then in the present situation BJP would have stood with the farmers’ demands & called for Bharat bandh.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee which has members from political parties had approved of bringing the Agri Bills in to the Parliament for initiating the reforms in the agriculture sector. Now, opposition parties are opposing publicly & associating with Bharat Bandh.

More significantly, the AAP government had already issued a notification to this effect, regarding Agri Bills implementation; but thereafter it gave a call to support farmers’ movement.

Peoples’ Representative Election Flawed:

The much talked about & acclaimed elections in the world’s largest democracy are fundamentally flawed in that they end up electing peoples’ non representatives. In the elections, people vote for a political party of their choosing nay, but more precisely, the leader of their choosing. Party selects the candidates; each candidate is supposed to represent on the average 3 to 4 lacs of people & that by itself is as incongruous as it can get. However, when the people vote they vote neither for the party nor for the candidate; they vote for the leader of the party. Earlier it was Indira Gandhi & now it is Modi and in between for coalition governments, people voted for leaders of their choice who happened to belong to different parties. Thus contestants’ credentials were never important to people, because मोदी है तो मुमकिन है; इंदिरा है तो इंडिया है! In between some pygmies don’t matter because they too tasted power- courtesy coalition governments.

The icing on the cake is that post election; every ‘representative’ as ‘elected’ through an election process within moments of winning gets transformed in to Neta ji – the very first act violative of the Constitution of India. What is the responsibility of this Neta ji? To propagate his/her party line from a platform/ dais that places him/her at much higher plane in all dimensions of life; so the subjects must hear in rapt attention else, there are goons to take care of any dissent. So there is no way this ‘representative’ shall be amenable to his subjects’ opinion on various issues concerning their day to day life.

Standing Committee out of synch with Ground Realities:

The members of the Standing Committee belong to various parties and obviously Akali Dal & Congress members in Punjab/Haryana etc should have been aware of the farmers’ apprehensions about the proposed bills which incidentally were a part of Congress manifesto and some others. Had they been, then the Standing Committee would have deliberated to determine what kind of bills, in terms of reforms & to what extent, would be acceptable to farmers. The problem is that fundamentally these MPs MLAs don’t represent people & therefore they don’t converse with them on one to one basis; they can’t legislate on real problems of the people because they remain out of synch with the people as they owe their chair in the Parliament / Assembly to their leader & indeed people did vote for the leader!

Politics on the Streets only Alternative:

The public display of disagreement by the people on any and/or every law enacted in the Parliament/Assembly is a symptom of diseased democratic set up. The politicians- the so called peoples’ representative- make the situation worse by making a U turn & opposing the bills they had supported in the Parliament/Assembly; all this in the hope that visibly standing by the people may help them in the next elections. So, the Parliament stands disgraced and it loses it place of pre eminence insofar as enacting of laws for the welfare of the people is concerned. Such kinds of deadlocks are avoidable only if the MPs/MLAs function like true representatives of the people & take their requirements to appropriate places of power & jurisdiction in a bid to find solutions for the peoples’ problems. That this organic link between the MPs/MLAs & their respective constituencies has been missing since 73 years now, safely extrapolates to making a statement that it shall continue to be so.

The biggest Incongruity in the Democratic set up:

It is to expect that a single individual can represent few lakhs of people in that establish an organic link between the elector and the elected. Life is not uni dimensional & so are not the day to day issues/problems of the people. Laying of multi lane roads & raising tall buildings, etcetera to explain development combined with linking increase in consumerism with economic growth may help project rosy pictures about the GDP & % growth as also FOREX reserves, but all these types of indices don’t portray the true picture of how a majority of the total population live in the country & more so when a vast majority lives only by labour having been disfranchised of their knowledge base. When more than 54% of the populace contribute only to 16% of GDP while being employed in unorganized sector then all the talk of % overall growth becomes a non representative figure.

In a democratic set up with its associated growth & development plan based on a certain economic model, if a vast majority from among the total populace lack capacities to buy energy, housing & other amenities- required for decent & honourable living- on their own and some Messiah in the form of PM/CM takes pride in distributing these free of cost then the state of affairs are indeed sordid. A growth & development model, that lacks the capability to empower people to buy things of their own accord & choosing and doles out charity for the fear of widespread unrest, gets perpetuated only when in a democratic set up the organic link between the elector and elected is snapped. Poverty cannot be tackled by act of charity; humans don’t live just for food, clothing & housing; they want to take their own decisions & be free to exercise their varied choices and therefore in this context doling out charity is tantamount to insulting the very human existence. And this must change.  

Back to Lokvidya Swaraj & Panchayat Politics:

The 3 tier system of Panchayati Raj is perhaps the most optimal system yet in terms of the feasibility of establishing an organic link between the electors & elected. Some thoughts on this are explained in the sequel. It needs to be debated for its feasibility and other related issues.


Election of Peoples’ Representatives:

The Panchayat Raj system has been seen as a developing system. It has three major components:

1. Lowest order: Gram Panchayat

2. Middle order: Panchayat Samiti

3. Upper order: Zilla Panchayat

The “Gram” is constituted of a village or a group of contingent villages. It is based on the voting population of the (covered geographical) region. Based on the voting population, the electorate is divided into 5 or more voter divisions/categories and each division/category elects one representative, who then come together to constitute the Gram Panchayat.

Each region of the District is represented by its Panchayat Samiti. The members of the Panchayat Samiti are elected by the respective Gram Panchayats constituting the region. Each Gram Panchayat elects 3 or more representatives to the Panchayat Samiti. These representatives constitute the Panchayat Samiti.

The entire District is represented by the Zilla Panchayat. Its representatives are elected by the Panchayat Samitis constituting the District. Each Panchayat Samiti elects 3 or more representatives to the Zilla Panchayat. These representatives constitute the Zilla Panchayat. Elected members of the State Assembly from the District are also members of the Zilla Panchayat.

The Constitution allows for only a three-tier system and so the Gram Sabha has no Constitutional validity or recognition. The Gram Sabha can be convened to meet up to 2 or 3 times a year. It can make suggestions for the implementation of programmes but cannot examine or reject the decisions taken by the 3-tier Panchayat Raj system.

An examination of the powers and scope of the Zilla Panchayats indicates that it has the right to take decisions on fundamental issues such as health, sanitation, safe drinking water, electricity, roads, employment etc. However, in reality there is tremendous interference of the government and political parties in all sectors and stages. The political parties influence the elections to the various bodies of the Panchayat Raj system. The result is that the Central & State Governments and political parties have rendered the Panchayat Raj system ineffective and meaningless.

This structure can be utilized to establish Lokavidya Swaraj through the election of Peoples’ Representatives. The rule by party-centred politics can thus be replaced by the rule of People-centred politics. In order to take this process forward towards the establishment of Lokavidya Swaraj, a few points are listed hereunder:

·         Gyan and Samajik Panchayats need to be constituted in place of Gram Panchayats. The manner of constitution of the Gyan and Samajik Panchayats is similar to that of the Gram Panchayat and any necessary changes may be brought in. The membership categories of the Gyan and Samajik Panchayats have been detailed in an earlier part of this document.

·         The Panchayat Samiti will be constituted from the members of the Gyan and Samajik Panchayats of that region or from outside. Every effort will be made by the Gyan and Samajik Panchayats to elect members of the Panchayat Samiti through unanimity/ consensus failing which an internal election may be held without any outside interference whatsoever.

·         The Zilla Panchayat will be constituted of members from the various Panchayat Samitis of the region and the number of representatives from each Samiti will be decided through mutual consent.

·         For Parliament and Assembly elections, regions have been delimited to form constituencies. Many districts fall under such Parliament and Assembly constituencies. For every district there is a Zilla Panchayat.

·         Zilla Panchayats in Assembly segments will constitute regional Vidhan Sabhas and similarly the ones in Parliament segments will constitute regional Parliaments. The membership of both the houses will be drawn from respective Zilla Panchayats and its methodology shall be worked out by mutual consent of Zilla Panchayats.

·         At the state level, the membership for the State Assemblies shall be drawn from their respective regional Assemblies.

·         For the Parliament in Delhi, the membership shall be drawn from their respective regional Parliaments.


Through this method the members of Assemblies and Parliament will be truly peoples’ representatives and not representatives of political parties. The Assemblies will elect their respective Chief Ministers and Council of State Ministers, and Parliament will elect the Prime Minister and Council of Central Ministers.

This manner of electing peoples’ representatives will avoid the influence of capitalists and requirement of large money. The generation of black money will also be greatly reduced. Vote bank politics based on caste, creed, religion and gender will cease to be a divisive element of electoral politics. Antisocial and criminal elements will find it hard to enter the Assemblies and Parliament.

The destruction of the natural environment and displacement-for-development could then be halted.

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