Should tryst with democracy end?

By R Shankar
Has the time come for India’s tryst with democracy to either end or change?
Should tryst with democracy end?
As India celebrates her 63rd Independence Day and has become a mature `senior citizen', has the time come to rethink on the way the nation is being governed? Has democracy lost its sheen, its soul, its meaning and its very purpose? Has the DNA of the form of governance been so distorted and mutilated that the nation is no longer a democracy in the true sense?
The fist course correction to Indian democracy was tried out during the Emergency in 1975. But the timing was mistake, the purpose a bigger mistake and the way it was implanted the biggest. It was done to save Indira Gandhi from being dethroned, not the nation. Well, the dark days of democracy are history now. But we are now faced with bigger threats to democracy.
Here are the threats:
Electables and Unelectables
Very few honest and upright persons can ever enter the portals of the Parliament as an elected member. If one wants to become an MP, he or she will need the following `qualifications': a criminal record, a huge bank balance (preferably black money), family backing or backing of religious communities.
The Congress has accused Gandhian Anna Hazare as being an `unelectable' voice. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari went on record to say that Hazare is "unelectable" and "if this democracy faces its greatest peril from someone, it is from the tyranny of the unelected and the unelectable".
Can honest and upright men like Anna Hazare, Abdul Kalam, Narayanmurthy or Kiran Bedi get elected? Does that mean that they do not fit into the framework of a truly democratic polity?
The answer lies here: In the present Parliament, 300 are billionaires and 180 millionaires. over 150 MPs face criminal charges with over 70 of them facing serious charges ranging from murder to rape and kidnapping to cheating.
Should tryst with democracy end?
Add to this people like Mayawati who wants Rs 22 crore to refurbish her mansion in Lucknow; the Bellary brothers who flouted every rule to mint money in crores through illegal mining and irreversibly change the very ecology of the town; and, till recently, they were `honourable' ministers in the Yeddyurappa cabinet in Karnataka. Sons of a poor constable, the Reddy brothers used to `helihop' from Bellary to Bangalore for a dine-out. And there is A Raja, Kanimozhi, Kalmadi, Lalu, Jagan and the like whose main job was to make money by flouting laws. And, they are all law-makers!
On the unelectables, all that the Congress has to do is to jog its memory. Even Mahatma Gandhi's candidate was once an `unelectable' man. In 1939, Gandhiji put up Pattabhi Sitaramaiah as his candidate for the Congress presidentship. He lost to Subhash Chandra Bose and a crestfallen Gandhiji had said that Sitaramaiah's defeat was his (Gandhiji's) defeat. The Congress made it so difficult for Bose to function that he had to resign a few months later.
In post Independent era, Morarji Desai was defeated in a Legislative Assembly election. That was in 1952. But the Congress made an `unelectable' Desai as the Chief Minister of Bombay.
Then, in 1991 an unelected leader went on to become the Prime Minster. Narasimha Rao was not an MP, but the Congress made him the PM.
To a little contemporary history. In 1998, Sonia Gandhi was neither a member of the Congress Working Committee nor an MP. But the Congress made her the president of the party after nudging out veteran Sitaram Kesri.
If the Congress feels that Anna is unelectable, the BJP has an answer: that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too is unelectable. He made a backdoor entry through Assam by becoming a Rajya Sabha member from that state. This was in violation of a rule that stated that to become a Rajya Sabha member, the candidate must be a resident of that state. The law was thrown out to accommodate Singh. His brush with hardcore politics came only once when he contested for a Lok Sabha seat in 1999 and lost.
If honest and upright men cannot become law-makers and instead, criminals, billionaires and millionaires are entrusted with the task of making laws, how can democracy ever work?
Should tryst with democracy end?
Ineffective leadership
We seem to be living in a moment in history where the country is leaderless and rudderless. There is no effective leadership, resulting in large scale corruption and a paralysis in decision making. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may be an honest and upright man, but he is presiding over one of the most corrupt governments and does not have control over his ministers.
Prime Minister's honesty and integrity have never been on the debating table or questioned. On these grounds he has been well above the watermarks of doubt; but his silence has not been so. Here are some occasions when Manmohan Singh could have acted in time, but never did, and it was the nation that lost:
Should tryst with democracy end?
2G Spectrum scam
It took over a year for the Prime Minister to act; it took over a year for the CBI to wake up. Had it not been for a PIL in the Supreme Court, the scam would have dragged on and on. Why did Singh not act when the then Telecom minister A Raja refused to listen? Why did the PM not act when Raja ignored Cabinet colleagues and asked them to keep off the Spectrum turf?
Should tryst with democracy end?
Niira Radia Tapes
How come the Prime Minister was not aware of the fact that private conversations were being secretly taped? Such acts are allowed only for national security. Even if they were taped, who leaked it to the media and why? The conversations were taped by a government agency and the tapes were in the possession of this agency. How come the tapes were leaked and what was the motive?
Should tryst with democracy end?
CWG scam
For months, all the dirt on Commonwealth Games was out in the open. The stink too was there for everyone to `smell' and squirm. But for the best part, the PM adopted the three wise monkey strategy with a twist in the tale: see-no-scam, hear-no-scam, tell-no-scam. Why did the PM not step in early and stem the rot? He appointed an overseeing committee only after the mess had spun out of control.
Should tryst with democracy end?
Black Money
Why is the government dragging its feet on bringing back black money stashed in banks abroad? As an economist Singh must have acted on this first. On price rise and inflation too the government has failed.
Should tryst with democracy end?
A family profession
Politics has become a family profession. Starting from the Abdullah and Gandhi families in the north to the MIM in Hyderabad and the DMK & Sons Pvt Ltd in Tamil Nadu, politics is becoming a hereditary family profession. Wives, sons, grandsons, daughters and nephews seem to have politics in their DNA and automatically become law-makers.
How can politics be inherited? Then why not automatically include the son of a cricketer in the Indian cricket team, the son of a vice-chancellor the next VC or the son of a surgeon a doctor who can perform operations?
For becoming a doctor or build bridges or roads or teach in colleges, one has to have the necessary background and years of experience; but to run a country, there is no need for any experience; just a family certificate would do.
Should tryst with democracy end?
Political khap panchayats
An acumen in running a country or a clean and upright image is becoming a handicap to enter politics or Parliament. You need a compulsory caste certificate too. So, Parliamentary and Assembly seats are distributed according to caste and religion. How can democracy function according to caste or religion? Where is the principle of fair-play?
In the coming elections to the UP Assembly early next year, seats are bound to be distributed according to three `Cs' -- caste, currency and criminality.
Should tryst with democracy end?
An intolerable nation
India is increasingly becoming intolerable. Politicians tend to be experts in either fishing in troubled waters or creating trouble. We cannot make a serious movie on reservation; we cannot tolerate outsiders in Mumbai; in some states, love marriages are a taboo and the only punishment is murder that is `legalised' by panchayats.
In view of all this, is it not time to either end our tryst with democracy or correct the way democracy works? Why not we hand over the country to a group of enlightened citizens and mandate the group to put the nation on the right tracks?
Source: India Syndicate