Nowadays, as part of the Jantantra Yatra, Anna Hazare is touring the entire country. Wherever his travels, he minces no words in calling the political parties, corrupt, charlatans and cheats. The surprising and amazing thing is that no political party seems to be able to pick up the courage to face Anna. Actually, democracy in India has become polluted, tainted and corrupted and because the responsibility of keeping democracy alive is that of the political parties, if those political parties turn away from the people, neglect their workers and supporters, and corrupt, unscrupulous, criminal-musclemen begin to be respected, political parties and leaders become bereft of ideas, and a party instead of following a particular ideology or belonging to a group of people becomes the property of a family, then leaving the responsibility of running a democracy in the hands of such parties is equivalent to ending democracy. The truth is that the political parties of India have been afflicted by all the grisly diseases which are sufficient to destroy democracy.This is an alarm bell for democracy in India.
Where is democracy?
A system in which the Government is of the people, by the people and for the people is said to be a democracy. Of course, there are several other criteria too for democracy, but when a Constitution was being framed for the country, then the founding fathers of our Constitution accepted the above mentioned interpretation of democracy. It was this form of Government which was considered to be real Independence. Making any compromise with this form of democracy amounts to compromising with the country’s Independence. This being so, the question arises whether at present democracy in the country fulfills the criteria or yardstick of democracy or whether a compromise has been made with the agreed and accepted form of democracy?
In the last 67 years, democracy in India has suffered not just a fall, it has also been blotted by an eclipse. In fact, because of the Government’s agendas, the people themselves for whom democracy was originally made seem to have become invisible. Democracy in India has now changed into a party tantra or a party system. Governments in the country are of the party, by the party and for the party. In Parliament, public opinion is no longer given any weightage. In fact, when problems and issues connected with and related to people come up for discussion in Parliament, the seats are empty. Which issues will be raised in Parliament, on which issue there will be no discussion, which MP will say what and who will raise which issue is decided by the party. And when there is voting, the MPs do not have the freedom and independence to vote according to their belief or preference. If they do not vote according to the party, they stand to lose membership of Parliament. In other words, after they are elected, instead of being the representatives of the people, MPs and MLAs become bonded labourers of the party to which they belong. They become representatives of the party in Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies. Is this the nature, the form of democracy? Do people choose their representatives so that they become agents of the party in Parliament and in the Legislative Assemblies?
Democracy in India has now changed into a party tantra or a party system. Governments in the country are of the party, by the party and for the party. In Parliament, public opinion is no longer given any weightage. In fact, when problems and issues connected with and related to people come up for discussion in Parliament, the seats are empty.
– – –
The time has now come when to bring in true democracy and enforce the Constitution, the people of the country must be ready and prepared to fight the second fight for freedom. The youth of the country and people with character must take the political leadership in their hands, otherwise in the coming days the entire country will become subservient to a few families.
Neither is this democracy in the real sense and neither do the political parties of the country have faith in a democratic system. Democracy is not just an institutional arrangement, but it is a value, a system, a way of life. Whichever person or organisation or whenever a person or an organisation does not run according to democratic values, it implies that the person or organisation does not have faith in these values. There is no internal democracy among the political parties of the country. It is a violation of the rules of the Election Commission, but in fact, the Election Commission has no rights to keep these parties under control. Neither are political parties in the country organised on the basis of democratic principles and nor are their free and fair organisational elections. Within the party, decisions are not made on a majority basis. And if there are elections within these parties, they are for the sake of appearance. In every party the people who take decisions are those who have no concern for or with the public. The status and condition of political workers has become like that of bonded labourers. They work for the party, but they cannot participate in and have no part, no role in the decision making process. The amazing thing is that political workers who are connected with the grass roots at the ground level are neglected and people who have money and muscle power are paid respect in the party. Today, those working in the political field have made corruption a way of sustenance. And in fact, this is the reason why they have fallen in the eyes of the people.
The ideological fall of political parties is also now at a peak. The Congress Party has sacrificed or abandoned Gandhi and Nehru’s thought and socialism, and the Bharatiya Janata Party does not now even mention ‘swadeshi’ or Article 370. The Left parties have begun to regard the basic features of their ideology as a dream. With the agendas of socialist parties socialism has disappeared. The leaders who emerged during JP’s movement are, instead of fighting against corruption, writing a new history of corruption. In the name of Kanshiram, who opposed Brahminvaad, the Bahujan Samaj Party is now holding rallies of Brahmins. In fact, all the parties in India have today become pragmatic parties. And that is why they do not have their own ideology. Whatever ideology there is just for deceiving the people.
When their Government is formed, not even a shadow of their ideology is seen in their policies and decisions. In books by political experts and on politics and the craft of politics, the Congress Party is described as Centrist, the BJP is described as Rightist, the Communist Parties are described as Leftist and many of the parties in the States are described as socialist. But the reality is that is that these parties have been devoid of any ideology for many years. In fact, political parties have made the political atmosphere of the country such that they think that elections cannot be won on the basis of ideology. For winning elections it is necessary to do wheeling dealing and use caste factor calculations. This is the reason why, to win the maximum possible
number of seats in the elections, political parties have sacrificed or abandoned ideology. Politics without ideology works like a termite for any democracy. There is no doubt that the country’s political parties have become termites and are hollowing out democracy in the country.
The poison of ‘familyvaad’
In fact, political parties themselves are becoming hollow. Almost every political party seems caught in the morass of ‘familyvaad’ and that is why the running and operational control of most parties is in the grip of some family or the other. The President’s son is a President, the Chief Minister’s son is a Chief Minister, a Minister’s son is a Minister. In other words, all the cream is distributed between just a few families and their relatives. And in fact, only they get tickets who have some connection with a politician’s relatives or family. This tainted tradition is considered the key to winning elections by political parties and it is on this plea that the party workers are jilted and given the thumbs down. In other words, because of their activities political parties have alienated their workers, their supporters, their voters from democracy. This not the nature, the form of democracy, but a political culture to pollute and denigrate democracy. Now in such a situation questions arise: cannot the political parties be compelled to follow democratic values? Is democracy not possible without political parties? These questions are important also because Anna Hazare has attacked corrupt political parties and their corrupt conduct and practices. In the coming days the people of the country will definitely do an analysis of the political parties on these issues.
Political parties and the Constitution
It is essential to understand here the Consitutional existence of the political parties in the election process. Despite the undemocratic conduct of political parties, the Election Commission has given them an important role in elections. The question also arises here whether the Election Commission wants to conduct elections by sidelining the fundamental values of democracy? The most important thing is that in the Constitution of India political parties have no existence at all. In our Constitution, the words ‘political parties’ have not even been used anywhere. The responsibility for conducting elections in the country is that of the Election Commission. According of the Constitution, the Election Commission’s responsibility is to get voters lists prepared and conduct the elections. But the Election Commission gave the political parties a central role in the electoral process. The consequence of this was that the real and true democracy could not be established in India. Neither is the Government of the people nor is it being run by the people. After casting its vote, the public becomes a virtual ‘slave’ for five years. It is because of this mistake that the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas were converted into Party Sabhas. It is the party that issues the manifesto. It is the party that chooses the candidates. It is the party that uses money power and garners votes by distributing alcohol and money. In this entire process of elections, the public is invisible. Neither is there any candidate of the people, nor is there a representative who will fight for solving their problems. What form of democracy is this where the people’s representatives becomes not a representative of the people, but a party agent? The political parties did one more thing that made representatives slaves of the parties instead of mere agents. Through the 52nd Constitutional Amendment, an anti defection law was passed and the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas and were crippled even more. But with this the political parties became fully dictatorial.
Whether it is a mistake by the Election Commission or whether it was a deliberate conspiracy, we must ponder over this. Due to the central role of political parties today the ordinary citizen has gone far away from the electoral process. Even though the role of citizens in a democracy is not limited to casting a vote, the political parties have created such a political atmosphere in the country where the common man cannot even think of contesting an election.
The situation is such that the political parties have tainted even the panchayat elections. The first condition today for fighting an MP or an MLA’s election is whether you are willing to, whether you are capable of and adept at gambling crores of rupees. The importance of money in elections in a democracy is loathsome and frightening : political parties consider distributing alcohol and money the most viable strategy for winning elections. Because of the supremacy and the corrupt mentality of political parties free and fair elections in India have become completely prejudicial and breed corruption. That the Government will do something to solve the problems of the people, that hope too has ended because the Government is not moving according to the principle of people’s participation.
There is no doubt that the political parties of the country have polluted and tainted democracy with their wheeling dealing. The dreams of eminent personalities who were part of the freedom struggle have been strangulated. Even today there is the same exploitation that existed in the country before 1947, the way ‘rulership’ was imposed on the people then, it is the same today. The way the British looted the wealth of India, it is being looted in the same manner even today. The only difference is that earlier it was foreigners who were indulging in looting and today, with the help of political parties, it is the people of the country itself who are indulging in looting. In fact, today’s Government is even more exploitative than the British Government. The lands of farmers are being snatched away at throwaway rates, people no longer have a right over their forests, the public does not have a right over its river waters, mineral wealth is being looted and the benefits of this loot are being taken jointly by both indigenous and foreign companies and the amazing thing this is that the Government is working as a middleman for them. One after another, shameful scams are taking place but no action is not. There is unemployment, illiteracy and malnutrition in the country along with lack of health services. The shameful thing is that each scheme designed to address the above problems fails because of corruption and no one is even held responsible. The strange thing is that public welfare schemes are not just unsuccessful, but are sacrificed at the altar of corruption. Every child in the country knows that these schemes have become source of earning for leaders, officials and people connected with the party, but nobody is punished and nobody is held responsible or accountable. Political parties have rendered the important values of democracy void of transparency and accountability. It seems that behind the veil of democracy in the country, political parties are practicing dictatorship. Passing Bills is actually the work of Parliament and the Opposition parties, but it is the propensity of Parliament to even reject or turn away from proposals passed in the Houses of Parliament. The judicial system is such that because of the Supreme Court people still have faith in the system, otherwise the way judicial system is in the country, the people are quite disappointed. That democracy on which the people have no faith is meaningless.
A disappointed public is now angry, which is why andolans or movements are getting support from people. People have got tired from the narrow posturing of political parties. Like Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan, Anna Hazare is attacking partisan party politics. It is meaningless to expect that political parties will reform themselves and will ensure that there is true democracy in the country. Therefore, to bring true democracy in the country, the people themselves will now have to come forward. They will have to oppose the wheeling dealing of the political parties. The time has now come when to bring in true democracy and enforce the Constitution, the people of the country must be ready and prepared to fight the second fight for freedom. The youth of the country and people with character must take the political leadership in their hands, otherwise in the coming days the entire country will become subservient to a few families.