Wisdom in democracy
Efforts by the ruling party to sidestep and gradually assimilate dissenting sections within the government and the country are transforming India into a ‘choiceless representative democracy’
Although it has further aggravated our sagging economy and tumbled stocks, the scare of Coronavirus across the globe turned out to be a great boon for the government to conveniently generate mass hysteria to keep the attention of the country away from all pressing issues. Gearing up to confining themselves to homes and collectively clap to drive the virus away, people lost sight of the country-wide anti-CAA protests. Shaheen Bagh cannot be an exception to the unavoidable and inevitable 'Janata curfew' and lockdown. In the meanwhile, the ruling party, in their wisdom, brought down the Congress government in MP, made some Congress MLAs of Gujarat switch sides and accommodated former CJI Ranjan Gogoi in the Rajya Sabha, proving that wisdom in our 'flawed democracy' is now the wisdom of those in power.
Constitution expects bureaucracy, constitutional institutions, judges, journalists, and for that matter every citizen, to act according to their wisdom, conscience and free will, and primarily in conformity with their mandate. But, unfortunately, the wisdom of the political executive has overrun that of everyone else as they make a mockery of the Constitution, even by exploiting the 'Aya Ram, Gaya Ram' culture, that began in 1967 when Gaya Lal, the Haryana MLA switched between the United Front and the Congress three times in just 15 days.
The machinations in the fall of the Kamal Nath ministry in MP only demonstrate the mastery of this culture as a tool by the ruling party and does not absolve them of the fraud it has been committing on our representative democratic system in one state after another – in Karnataka, Goa, Meghalaya, Arunachal, Manipur and so on. Ever since it was voted to power in 2014, their agenda has been 'Congress-mukt Bharat'. After all, they have enormous money, power and control over central agencies. But, what they lack is honesty and respect for the faith of people. Not surprisingly, even a vocal critic of the BJP, Jyotiraditya Scindia, was baited in.
The inducement of the RS seat and a cabinet berth on the one hand; and the disillusionment with Congress culture of keeping young leaders outside the Nehru-clan away from positions in government for long on the other, like what had happened with Mamata Banerjee, Jagan Mohan Reddy, etc., and now happening with Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, and others, made Scindia resign from the Congress to join the BJP to 'serve the state and nation'(!!). And, along with him, there are 22 MLAs, whose loyalty is on sale.
It is true that elected members of Congress defect to the other side for no reason other than power and pelf; can be treacherous, ambitious, self-serving, plan greedy or morally wanting in a democracy. But the BJP, with the avowed goal of service of people, encouraging it and playing a part in holing up the MLAs in a luxury hotel in a BJP-ruled state and other blatant manoeuvres, is outright making a mockery of the representative forms of democracy. It is an insult to the Constitution. The reasons are clear.
While they have a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha is a hurdle to promote the agenda of the RSS. Since elections for over 55 Rajya Sabha seats are scheduled now, they are in a rush to shore up the majority in this house. The resignation of 5 Congress MLAs in Gujarat is also an attempt in this direction. Only the ends matter; means could be any.
Those who are involved in bank frauds of thousands of crores and action was taken through central agencies against them, like Sujana Chowdhury, RS member from AP, become saints when they adorn saffron. It is not a party with a difference when people like Yedyurappa and Reddy brothers of Karnataka, Mukul /Roy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Narayan /Rane, and many others, who are all involved in scams, are now holy men. Wisdom and will of people have no place in this tragic drama of democracy.
Although the term political party was not defined in the Constitution, now we have more than 2300 political parties, scrambling for the crumbs of power. It is an open secret that money is the biggest decider, from purchasing party tickets, hiring of crowds for rallies to paying slush money to news and social media and advertising. The ruling party went a step further by introducing the fraudulent electoral bonds which solely benefited them, that too immensely. Voting as per one's conscience and wisdom is a rarity.
Thus, instead of a ballot serving as the democratic path to serve the voter, it has become the key to power and self-aggrandisement, the hegemony of the self-seeking rich and power-and-money-hungry politicians and parties. The most dangerous fall-out is that power is vested with unscrupulous and ruthless people belonging to parties which lack inner democracy and they provide the diktats.
As a result, every institution gets bulldozed to serve them. Even the autonomous Election Commission maintains stoic silence in the face of allegations of 20 lakh missing EVMs and serious discrimination in counted and polled votes in 374 constituencies, and silently destroys VVPAT documents without even reconciling the facts. And the Supreme Court keeps a distance, instead of acting as the autonomous Constitutional watchdog on the political executive, as it is mandated to be.
Arrogated with power, the political executive gives scant respect for the separation of powers envisaged by the Constitution. Bringing the institution of the judiciary into the political fold, Gogoi has been made a Rajya Sabha member soon after his retirement.
Not that such nomination is unprecedented. But, at the same time, it is not necessary to repeat it, all the more because of the present circumstances. In the matter of NRC in Assam, Gogoi had virtually usurped executive functioning, which led to CAA becoming sinister for the Muslims. His unique sealed cover technique in this matter as well as in Rafale and CBI director's matters only raise suspicions. He finds no criminal case in the Rafale deal, while his brother-judge KM Joseph does not mince words to say that CBI should have registered an FIR. Similarly, in the issues of Art 370, detention of leaders, the lockdown of communications and more importantly, in the Habeas Corpus and civil rights matters of Kashmiris, as well as in petitions related to CAA, electoral bonds, EVM frauds, etc., his approach was blatantly in favour of the government. Instead of according priority to these petitions, he had focussed only on Ayodhya and delivered a judgement, even by ignoring the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India that there was no Ram temple at the disputed site.
Yes, he was hit by the allegations of sexual misbehaviour with a staff member. Was it the turning point, since he was one of the foursome who had held an unprecedented press conference against the CJI Deepak Mishra deciding the allocation of work? Is it for no reason that a former SC judge Markhandeya Katju castigates him as a 'blot on judiciary', and justice AP Shah speaks vocally against his orders? Does it not smack of the iron-hand of the political executive when they try to punish judges for their forthright orders to uphold the rule of law? Hurdles were put for the elevation of Justice KM Joseph for quashing President's rule in Uttarakhand and Justice Muralidhar was transferred out for his bold orders for FIRs against some ruling party leaders for hate-speeches that led to Delhi riots. Are we in a democracy or in a authoritarian dispensation?
Abraham Lincoln said, democracy is the 'Government of the people, for the people and by the people.' 'Government of the People' means all persons without any exception would be subject to the laws of the State; none would be above them. However, those in political executive treat themselves as exceptions. 'Government for the People' means real welfare of people. But, it is only in rhetoric. The present government is primarily concerned with the welfare of the rich and powerful. 'Government by the People' implies every adult citizen participates in the work of the government either directly or indirectly through the representatives. But, the representation has become only symbolic. It is the whims of the party in power that gives the diktat, leaving the wisdom and will of people in the lurch.
In the absence of the right to recall based on non-performance or a provision for impeachment, India has become a 'flawed, choiceless representative democracy,' with a deadly cocktail of caste, religion, muscle, money and lack of morality. People are helplessly waiting for a miracle to happen.
But, it can happen only when all the parties in the Opposition come together to form a united front, with a sturdy party constitution that engenders true federalism with real internal democracy and honesty. Otherwise, those in power will increasingly replace the wisdom of every stakeholder of democracy with their own skewed wisdom.