Many political commentators have described the Centre’s desire to push through legislation through the ordinance route as an act of ‘constitutional terrorism’, though it is clear that the claim is slightly exaggerated. The government could argue that due to an obstructionist opposition, it was forced to use executive privileges that were bestowed upon them. However, the BJP-led Rajasthan government’s decision to promulgate an ordinance, which mandates a Class X pass certificate for those contesting panachayat elections and Class VIII for zila parishads, undermines the basic principles of a participatory democracy.
The law will deny nearly three-fourths of Rajasthan’s rural population and more than half of its women a chance to contest in these local elections, considering that rampant presence of rural illiteracy. In a move that reeks of constitutional impropriety, the amended law was not even tabled in the state assembly. What makes matters worse is that the BJP holds a two-third majority in the assembly, thereby nullifying the presence of an obstructionist opposition. On Monday the Supreme Court stated that it would not take up a Public Interest Litigation, seeking to strike down the state government’s ordinance and that it would have to taken up in the Rajasthan High Court. Although the court has put up the matter for next week, local elections are set to be held in three phases, beginning on January 16.
Given the time frame, the court is unlikely to have any say in the ongoing election process. Instead of improving rampant illiteracy in the state, the BJP-led government has denied a large portion of its local populace an opportunity to further improve their own lives. The hypocrisy of such a move is brought to light by the fact that 23 BJP MLAs in the current Vidhan Sabha are below 10th pass, as are two BJP MPs from Rajasthan.