Political Parties, Don’t Herd, Just be Heard!

The Discovery or National Geographic channels regularly show us scenes of animal herding behaviour:  the impala gazelles grazing and migrating in their thousands on the African Savanna.  Or the masses of penguins gathering to raise their young on the cold, rocky shores near the tip of South America.  Now, maybe, Hyderabad should be added to the list of favourite herding sites.  Not for wild animals, but for humans.  More precisely, for human beings who can vote.

Knee-jerk Response to a Complex Crisis

On April 8, the Rajya Sabha approved the Bill which seeks to remove the residential requirement for election to the Upper House from a state, and provides for open ballot, so that party leaderships can ensure election of their nominee. Predictably, this legislation (Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2001) has raised several questions about representation and attracting talent into legislatures.

Politics of Tokenism and Democratic Deficit

If there is one word which aptly describes the nature of our politics, it is 'tokenism'. All public debate and political discourse are reduced to mere symbolism and insincere tokenism. Much of our economy has suffered over the years because of this severe flaw. But greater damage is done to the political process itself, undermining democracy and institutional vitality.

Big Picture and Attainable Goals

Now that Gujarat elections are out of the way, the nation can get back to the business of the more pressing, long-term, important issues of economic growth and alleviation of poverty. For several months now, our whole energy and attention were focused on the tragic event of Gujarat, and more specifically to the political fallout of the vicious battle for power. Happily, the doomsdayers were proved wrong. Gujarat people voted peacefully, and communal violence has not spread to the rest of India.

People’s Verdicts and Political Shenanigans

The continuing political uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir after the courageous participation of voters, braving bullets and bombs, once again exposes the shenanigans of our politicians.  The murky politics of power and dissidence in our largest state of UP too expose the increasing divorce between people’s mandates and government formation.

 

A Welcome, Though Belated Initiative

The sub-continental air is thick with elections. With polls completed successfully in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, elections being held at last in Pakistan giving democracy a modest chance, and Gujarat poll dates to be announced soon, there is talk of political competition and elections everywhere. But the middle classes in the sub-continent in general are showing enormous contempt for the political process. There is very unhealthy cynicism and dangerous yearning for authoritarian solutions.

Distancing People from Politics

The government and political parties have acted with uncharacteristic speed and dynamism to thwart the disclosure provisions ordered by the Election Commission (EC). The chain of events starting with the Supreme Court judgment on May 2, and culminating with a draft bill circulated by government on July 15 is revealing. Suddenly, the political consensus, which eludes the nation even in testing times, resurfaced! All parties seem to be more or less unanimous that candidates for elective office must not be forced to disclose their criminal record and financial details.

Political Process – Problem or Solution?

On June 28, the Election Commission gave effect to an earlier judgement of the Supreme Court by making candidates’ disclosure of criminal record, educational qualifications and financial details mandatory. This was based on the Supreme Court’s decision that the electors have a right to know about the candidate whom they choose for public office. As the Court pointed out, the Commission has the authority to act under Article 324 of the Constitution, and wherever there is void in legislation, it ought to step in.

Perils of Westminster Model

The events of the past one month in Maharashtra hold a mirror to the crisis in our democratic polity.  Once again, the nation witnessed buying and selling of legislators, party hopping, back room deals, political instability, holding MLAs captive in tourist resorts in other states, a vote of confidence, and the usual scramble for loaves of office in the impending cabinet expansion.  This has been seen in several states all over the country over the years.  Now this culture of ayarams and gayarams has inflicted a grievous blow to India’s most prosperous state.

Politics of Fiefdoms

The Gujarat carnage over the past few weeks and the continual Kashmir imbroglio deflected national attention from a momentous event in the evolution of our democracy. On May 12, we have successfully completed 50 years of our parliament. This is a rare achievement among post-war democracies. There is a lot to celebrate. We are a robust and cheerful democracy. Our people treasure the freedoms guaranteed to us under the Constitution. Elections have been held to Lok Sabha under the Constitution of our new republic without break since 1952.