Tuesday, July 26, 2022

How Democratic is Democratic India: Lalit Kumar Kaul


How Democratic is Democratic India?

                                                                      Lalit K Kaul

India is a democratic country because we have Parliamentary Democracy. We are a democratic Nation because Parliament embodies “the Will of the People" that manifests through their elected representatives who are supposed to carry their aspirations- social, economical, religious and political- to the “Temple of Democracy" for finding their resolution through debates, laced with logical reasoning, among the people's representatives from all political parties. As logic would have it, at the end of electioneering, voting and declaration of election results, those elected to the Parliament are Indian people's representatives and not of their individual political outfits, but that's not how it works out in the Parliament.

The Whip and Freedom of Expression/Speech:

It's one thing to get a Bill passed in both the houses of Parliament and another to have a democratic content in its proceedings leading to enactment of the Bill. Passage of a Bill introduced by the ruling party is a number game, and becomes void of any democratic content, once a whip is issued to all its MPs to vote in favour of the Bill.

One can get away with anything that one may speak within the walls of a Parliament because that level of immunity from law of the land is provided to every parliamentarian; in most of the cases such speeches/comments would attract some clause of IPC, outside the Parliament and Assembly. That's unlimited freedom of expression. Yet, this freedom to state a point of view in context of the introduced Bill is taken away from each and every MP by issuing a party Whip that MPs should vote on party lines.

Freedom of Speech/Expression is meaningless in absence of this Freedom to have an Opinion; because only when one has an opinion on an matter- social, economical, religious and political- this freedom to express can/may be utilized to express that opinion uninhibitedly. Therefore, the very act of issuing a Whip is to strangle a very natural human instinct/attribute – opinion making.

It's nigh impossible to believe/accept a thesis that all the MPs of a political outfit have one & only one opinion on the introduced Bill that's going to become a law, if passed; but if indeed the difference of opinion is truly non- existent among the MPs of a political outfit, then it doesn't portend well for Indian democracy because Parliament is not supposed to house herds of sheep obeying the command of herdsman.

And, if, indeed, they are like herd of sheep then the Parliament need not house them because herdsman can directly take decisions unilaterally and make laws without legislating on them. That makes the Parliament infructuous which indeed it remains in view of the party Whip.

Lot of noise is made about freedom of expression and people (outside Parliament/Assemblies) make full use of it as do the highly polarized Media. Such exercises can be termed as one’s ‘past time' for, it doesn't matter what people think about enactment of a certain Law in the Parliament while their representatives’ opinion was stifled by virtue of a Whip.

Do MPs truly represent people?

No, not really. The electorate doesn't vote for a MP or MLA candidate of a political outfit. They vote for the party's leader.

During Smt. Indira Gandhi years, the Congress party won majority in Parliament and State Assemblies not because the contestants were popular among the electorate (exceptions are always there), but that Indira ji was leading them. People voted for Mrs. Gandhi and in 1977 they voted against her for Congress to experience humiliating defeat in the general elections.

Similarly, the NDA was born because Sri A B Vajpayee had a political stature and standing that made leaders of other political outfits to join BJP. People voted for Sri A B Vajpayee and not for BJP and, like during Indira ji days, it never mattered who were contestants in various constituencies from where BJP fought elections. Replace Sri Vajpayee with Sri L K Advani, NDA wouldn't have been born. Sri Advani led NDA election campaign twice, 2004 and 2009, but people didn't vote for him and NDA lost the general elections.

Then in 2014, came “Maut Ka Saudagar" on to the central stage to lead NDA and people voted for Sri Narendra D Modi as PM candidate and BJP for first time won majority in the Parliament, on its own. Rest is the history. Political commentators/analysts, economists of different shades and others may agree or disagree with his government's policies; may even question the Indian military on their missions; people voted him back to power with much bigger numbers in favour of BJP. So, it is Modi ji at the helm and whoever contests, a majority of them are bound to win; the unknown faces.

Had Indira ji shifted to CPM, CPM would have swept the polls; today, if Modi ji joins Congress, it will sweep the polls; BJP will disappear into an oblivion like Congress got on to the crutches post assassination of Indira ji; Rajiv Gandhi having won on the dead body of his mother and his government and governance turned out to be a huge scandal in that for the first time in the history of independent India, a PM had been directly charged with corrupt ways.

Popular saying is: let a 4-legged donkey contest under Modi ji's leadership, the chances of donkey winning may not be slim!

Is Parliament a non-representative body?

Obviously Yes. The “people's representatives” from the ruling party side are disallowed to vote for or against the Bill based on their opinion; not allowed to question certain points related to it; and the Opposition is always pre-determined to oppose everything and anything that the ruling party may introduce for legislation. In such a scenario how do people get represented in the whole process of passing/ blocking the proposed Bill.

The passage of 3 Agri Bills in the Parliament followed by their unilateral withdrawal by an address to the people of India; without going back to the Parliament and follow due process for their withdrawal, not only undermined the stature of the Parliament, but also rendered a fatal blow to the democratic content within the Parliament. It also exemplified undemocratic way of functioning.

No Democracy Within Parliament! How would it be Outside?

In a system where democracy begins and ends with casting of vote in elections, is by no definition of the term a Democratic Set-up.

People are informed through annual budget about, how the economy would grow; increase or decrease in defense budget, if any; investments in health and education sector; transportation and aviation sector, et al. A vast majority from among the MPs, belonging to all political outfits, don't have any clue about the economics or defense preparedness or, for that matter, anything that concerns ordinary citizens- their vote bank.

How much of a feedback/information is collected from “people's representatives” regarding requirements of their constituencies is not known, as it's never made public. What's known though is that the Finance ministry has a meeting or two with FICCI & ASSOCHAM, before finalizing the budget; in such meetings their requirements are noted down because they are supposed to create jobs, but more than that are to do large scale election funding. All political outfits are funded depending upon their chances to be in the future government.

It's an oligarchy at the helm that decides the fate/future of 135 crore people. What kind of an economic model is being pursued since decades now, is poignantly betrayed by the fact that 80 crore people are to be provided basic needs of life free of cost (as per Modi ji's statement). That corona vaccination had to be provided free, is a political gimmick or it's about accepting the harsh reality that people don't have purchasing power. Feeding 80 crores free may be a remarkable act of charity and human compassion, but it's a hard slap on the self respect and dignity of such hapless people whom the entrenched economic model disallows to make sufficient earnings enabling them to take independent decisions at their level and that too democratically in consultation with their family members.

A street dog/ a pet before irrigating a place goes around sniffing before finalizing the same. Same process this dog repeats for adding fertilizer to the soil. So does a bird, which flies from tree to tree and from house to house to fix a suitable place for its nest, before building the same. All this implies that the Mother Nature has ingrained every living being with the instinct of 1) selecting/determining a few options, 2) deciding to choose one from among them and 3) implementing the chosen option.

To select a few samples and then choose one from them to put into use for day-to-day life, is the democratic right of all living beings as ordained. The Indian democratic set up has succeeded in robbing a very large section of the society of that democratic exercise. The government shall decide upon gas connection and number of them in a family; size of the toilets and their numbers in a household; and indeed, the floor area for a house, because all these are to be given free as a display of human compassion and the ones who have been robbed of their enterprise have no say in such acquisitions that are going to be an inseparable part of their day-to-day life. This is not only undemocratic, but more than that it's about making a human life as undignified as it can, perhaps, get.

Distributing free, robs this individual of the happiness/satisfaction that one draws from buying it on one's own strength and at one's own discretion.

To deprive humans of such freedoms and democratic functioning which even animals and birds enjoy, is the greatest scar on Indian democratic set-up. How that scar can be healed is a Question that needs to be answered, perhaps, by designing a democratic set-up which affords every individual opportunities to contribute to the development and growth of Indian society by employing their knowledge base without being discriminated against by labeling them as backward, superstitious and unscientific.



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