Tempestuous lighthouse: solace and warning:
Parliamentary democracy is the strongest public will articulate for its mandatory execution by the ‘Executive’. Parliament is a place for debate and discussion in a free and fair atmosphere. Open and free debate on ‘issues’ is carried out by several contenders of various public policy shades, who battle it out through persuasion with respectful peaceful dialogue involving various ideologues. Barrister Nath Pai, Prakashveer Shastri, Jagannath Rao Joshi, Dr.Ram Manohar Lohia, Madhu Limaye, Atal Bihari Vajpai, Pt.Nehru, Balraj Madhok, George Fernandez, Indrajit Gupta, Somnath Chatterji, are some names who belong to the galaxy of orators, which cannot be forgotten.
Of course, this is an ideal situation. Yet, its relevance and indispensability cannot be undermined. Parliamentary methods did not appear on the Indian stage in 1947 until after the exit of the British power as is made out by some thinkers. It existed in India since the ancient times in various forms. 1947 was its reformed version in tune with its Western projection/model, which was quite new to the Indian practitioners. The model therefore soon became overweighed and the practitioners now find it unpalatable.
There are several sociological dimensions to this by-pass flight /plight. The question raised is whether the Indian society essentially believes in the Western concept of ‘rule of law’,( according to some thinkers, in ancient India, there were two sets of legal applications, one was, ‘sadharan dharma’ and another, ‘Vishesh-dharma’, indeed as at present some select ‘offices’ enjoy legal immunity from indictment ) any way , there is no going back from the present. Recent General Elections held in February-March 2017 to the 5 State Assemblies besides the local self-government agencies in urban and rural Maharashtra and in urban Odisha as well, is an SOS signal for and from the lighthouse, imperative to seriously ponder over the impending situation of the modern parliamentary traditions. It is also important to remember that it is only in India that the Western cabinet-system styled parliamentary democracy has lasted for a period close to three-quarters of a century.
The solace is that the Second ( upper ) House which has been a big hurdle as at present, for the incumbent Union legislative process is bound to become more comfortable for the ruling party as far as the game of support numbers is concerned , and it will gradually inch into a safe zone while passing the legislative Bills in the face of an obstinate odd number of outwitted opponents. The INC is reduced to miserable two-digit strength on the floor of the lower House; it has lost its political fervour and at present exists merely as a ‘family enterprise’! (Source: a news item in Times of India).
A review of the results of the General Elections held in early 2017 to the 5 State Assemblies is summarised as following: ( Statistical figures are drawn from ‘Wikipedia’ ).
Popular votes polled by the national parties in India in these five States are as following:
(a) Indian National Congress—2,67,95,010
(b) Bharatiya Janata Party---3,82,79,409
(c) Bahujan Samaj Party-- 4,27,265
(d) Aam Adami Party—36,62,665
(e) Shiromani Akali Dal—38,98,161
(Statistical figures from Manipur are not available). It is important to note that despite huge electoral losses in these States, the Congress party has proved its metal by garnering as many as 2.67 crore votes, whereas the BJP polled more than 3.82 crore votes. The fact of INC voting turnout power cannot be ignored. BSP too is seen as perhaps irrelevant. Moreover, AAP’s ‘corruption’ plank too seems sidelined.
Punjab Legislative Assembly General Election was held on 4 February 2017. The result was declared on 11 March 2017.
Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh were held between 11 February to 9 March 2017 in seven phases. The result was declared on 11 March 2017.
Elections for the State assembly were held on February 15, 2017, with a 65.64% turnout. The result was declared on 11 March 2017.
Recent Manipur Legislative Assembly elections were held on 4 March and 8 March 2017 in two phases. Results were declared on 11 March 2017.
Later on BJP, NPP, NPF, AITC, LJP, NCP, Independents form an alliance to form a government.
Result: BJP, MGP, GFP, and two independents later form an alliance to form the government.
The performance of political parties in Maharashtra in elections to the Local Self-Government Agencies held in February-March 2017:
The elections held for the 10 Municipal Corporations in Maharashtra during the same period i.e. February-March 2017 project the performance of different political parties across urban Maharashtra as following:
Total No. of seats in 10 Municipal Corporations in Maharashtra: 1261 Seats won by parties: BJP—628; Shiv Sena--- 268; NCP---101; INC---123; MNS---10. Eight out of 10 Municipal Corporations were won with the absolute majority by the BJP.
There are 3705 elective seats spread over 147 Municipal Councils and 17 Nagar Panchayat in Maharashtra all of which went to polls in 2016-2017. The following statistics signals a huge leap of the BJP in Urban and Semi-urban areas in Maharashtra:
BJP---851 ; INC---643 ; NCP---638 ; Shiv Sena 514 ; MNS---16 ; BSP---9 ; others---839. The traditional strongholds of INC and NCP in these very semi-urban areas were reduced to minority status while Shiv Sena was reduced to a miserable fourth position as MNS and BSP appear to have been almost wiped out. (Source: Wikipedia) . (Statistics may be corrected).
It is important to take a note of the engulfing omnipresence of the ruling party i.e. BJP, across India. Even in the local self-governing agencies at the grass-root level as is seen Maharashtra, it is an indication of how a national party is gradually rising as a force to reckon with at the national level and of course a party who is wielding reign of persuasive influence over the hearts of the common man in the street. Moreover, it seems that the BJP appears well entrenched in urban Maharashtra, which is supposed to be its stronghold.
The Two Don Quixote is of India:
The warning is that the handsome victory won is much after electoral slanging, abusive naming, hitting below the belt, belittling the prestige of the office of the Prime Minister, personal accusations against the Prime Minister and hurling abuses against everyone in the fray. It was a bout ring, free for all. The regional outfits were on the forefront. Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is an example of how worst the slanging level of electoral propaganda could slip to the nadir point. The irony of the situation is that the said regional outfit is the alliance partner sharing political power in the government of Maharashtra.
The Two ‘Don Quixotes ’- one-- crusader against ‘corruption everywhere ’ from Delhi and, the second Mumbai name from Shiv Sena –the grand unpredictable, self-styled, self-appointed, self-declared savior of Mumbai, Marathi and Maharashtra who could manage to secure in 2015 , hardly 1/5th of the total Maharashtra Legislative Assembly strength ( 62 out of 288 ) in the Modi wave in the country and barely 1/3rd seats in Bombay Municipal Corporation ( 84 out of 227 , whereas the BJP swung from 31 to 82 out of 227 positioning itself at a close second ) –both these Bombay and Delhi ‘Don Quixotes’ in Indian political affairs have earned perhaps most obnoxious discredited names of late in the field of political decorum. These two are ‘warning signals’ in Indian politics. The obvious ‘third’ short-serving dynastic racehorse is immature and ignorant of the Indian society, therefore needs to be ignored.
However, the mutual mud-slinging cannot be ignored. The mud slinging was seen ably instigated by the media esp. the electronic one. The dubious role played by the media during the election period needs to be corrected and regulated. It is necessary to understand that the social health is more important than the free media. If we scrutinise the telecast news, not so verified and unsubstantiated, more of a ( paid news ? ) propagandist nature, calls for legal scrutiny and subsequent legal recourse. The damage caused by the unbridled media has always been colossal and has shown personal cleavages and enmity instead of unearthing scandals of any relevance. The influence of the media has emerged of late, as a secret device of blackmailing.It has become a source of unaccounted income for those involved in it. Although the freedom of the ‘fourth estate’ deserves guarantee under the law, it is also expected that the media world behaves with utmost care and self-regulation. It is believed that those who undertake investigative journalism, many of these themselves fall prey for corruption and favouritism.
A glance at the recent General Elections held in India since 2014 certainly appears as a signal that the mood of the nation is undergoing a change, a tilt towards nationalistic fervour.
Latest elections held to the State Assemblies in India:
In order to analyse the above, it is necessary to discuss the following factors, which are the causes of shaking the foundation of the civil society in India.
a) Growing political intolerance:
Political intolerance amongst the parties clandestinely appears on the rise. In fact, it is not only in the realm of political relationship, it is so in almost all occupations and fields of activities. Political parties with different ideologies do not share common platform amicably. Political party leaders do not meet each other to seek the common ground of agreement. Peaceful debates do not take place on the floor of the Union or State legislative Houses. Different party ideologues despise each other and do not see eye to eye. The undercurrent atmosphere in mutual political exchanges is essentially that of distrust. A minimum decency expected at different levels between political leaders is largely absent. Cordiality does not find its due share. Almost every Executive decision is greeted with disdain and violent reaction. Plan of defiance is prepared. The behavioural pattern develops from adversity to enmity. Inter-relations remain strained and peace is seen far away at a long distance.
The recent electoral battles in several parts of north India, as well as in all the local self-government agencies in urban and rural India in Maharashtra ( i.e. Panchayat raj institutions--Zillah Parish ads, Taluka Panchayat Samiti, Village Gram Panchayats and urban local bodies i.e. Municipal Councils and Municipal Corporations, ) had become battlefields free for all . Mutual allegations levelled against each other had vitiated the atmosphere. Election arena in Mumbai Corporation limits had crossed all limits of a minimum political and civil decency, further it was also witnessed that two alliance partners in the Maharashtra government fought each other like sworn enemies disregarding all political norms of governance throwing all the public administrative responsibilities to winds and their behavior had brought the administrative machinery grinding to a halt.
b) Mutual Respect declined: All that is important in a parliamentary democracy is to ‘respect for each other’. There appears to be a sharp decline in this regard. Not only respect for individual dignity declined, equally true is that respect for law too is dwindling. The tendency to disregard rules may be those of traffic rules, paying taxes, customer-care obligations, enjoying public services at somebody else’s cost, everywhere self-centered attitude seems to make a mockery of the rules. These instances look to be small isolated ones, but these have repercussions in the process of the democratic ethos. The very essence of political democracy is decency in mutual exchanges in public life. It is important to remember that a civilised individual citizen is the kingpin of a strong and healthy democracy. Indian politics in the recent times esp., since 1970's, more or less after Mrs India Gandhi era rose, has taken an ugly turn and a generation possessed by power crazy attitude took over the centre stage and demolished the debating decency.
c) Patience and wisdom on the wane: Every announcement by the Executive is retaliated by impatience, this is true of any new development scheme, or a plan of action or a measure of restriction of some sort. Media is responsible for such an unwieldy haste and instigative exaggeration, e.g. there is a railway accident in the early hours of the morning, media persons hastily reports‘ the aid reached after 6 hours, railway efficiency exposed’, ‘ riots broke out, police arrived at the scene 4 hours later’, these are routine examples of how the underfed inexperienced reporters fail to take into account their wisdom that in such cases the ‘administration’ takes some time to mobilize the apparatus and the machinery. These media misfits gradually weaken the fabric of democratic structure over a period.
d) Hypocrisy galore: It is important to note that the goal of ‘perfection’ in every manner everywhere is seen on its decline. Missed goals and false satisfaction for non-performance are celebrated with media encouragement and suitable twists. Hypocrisy is widely celebrated and that make-believe is treated as a fact and truth with wide publicity and much fanfare. The attitude of hypocrisy in public administration and individual citizens’ life it is feared, will lead to hollow out the edifice of democratic society.
In spite of corrective signals from top corners of the society, the media does not appear to change its perception and style of approach and continues with its negative stance. It is high time that a probe in the organisation and management of the media world has become imperative (not only in India but in the world too). Their real source of income along with its statutory audit needs to be publicised. The media world, of course, is not the sole factor in pushing further the decaying structure of the society. Is it not the duty of the State to protect the society from such viruses? The sanity of the civil society is endangered.
e) Fading intelligence of the media anchors: The media world suffers from the dearth of properly educated journalists and anchors of the TV programmers. The anchors do not seem to ask questions, they deliver speeches to the guest interviewees and leave out very few moments for their opinions. This is witnessed on almost all TV channels; moreover, the guests are put on media trial with rigorous cross-examinations. These anchors may be well placed but these are inadvertently weakening the democratic society. Moreover, these are sowing the seeds of cleavages in the society. Most of these are not well prepared since these do not bother to do their homework. It will not be an exaggeration to submit that these journalists possess only paper qualifications without adequate and proper field experience. These speak to their guests with arrogance and do not hesitate to express their pervert submissions. Perhaps these treat the mike and the camera as a license to humiliate the guests. These persons jump to the conclusions and ask questions that too without homework. These media persons fail to speak with any amount of respect for the guests. These persons do not in any way express their earnestness towards the society, the people, the country or the truth and the facts.
This is not a suggestion for the media persons to side with or favour anyone; the point is that these persons many a time become ruthlessly indifferent and close to being insensitive. The tragedy is that the media owners and managers fail to recognise their pervert psyche under the pretext of constitutionally guaranteed liberalism.
f) Operational exaggeration of defining democracy: Understanding of democratic practices has in recent times become so cheap that one finds everyday news appearing about some or other mass agitation , strike , road blockade , procession , assault on government officials in their offices , blackening faces of public officials, rapes , these and several other hurdles while in the discharge of their duties. Nobody has the patience to hear the ‘other side’. Democracy is defined as obstructing everything that the Executive does! ‘Satyagraha’ so badly misconstrued by white caller criminals is plenty. All these activities are a bad omen for the future of parliamentary democracy.
g) Plenty, but no satisfaction: General income output appears to have been increased, but people do not seem to be happy. Somewhere the shoe continues to pinch may be in civil supplies, taxation, prices, housing, public administration, and the list can be further made longer too. All organised working groups sector hold the Executive to ransom for their unending demands. Medical practitioners, lawyers, school-colleges and the university teachers, even the students (remember FTII agitation?), retail traders, petty service contractors, house maids, government employees at all echelons – all those who are connected with public administration and public services, treat agitations, strikes, no-work and pen down, mass leaves, bank employees, are quite a few devices which are frequently adopted destabilizing the society. Satisfaction is considered as the base of democracy. Peace in the hearts of the citizens leads to satisfaction, which in turn consolidates the democratic society. The election is an opportunity to ventilate their greed and dissatisfaction disregarding the larger public interest.
h) Whither law abiding society? People need to introspect seriously whether they are law abiding citizens at all since many individuals keep on seeking ways and means to evade the rules and regulations. The initial period of the ‘demonetization’ announcement is a classic example of such a psyche. Trade and traffic management, income, and expenditure esp. taxes are a few areas where the limitations on the part of individual integrity are examined. Many feel proud about such evasions and subsequent savings! These tendencies run into the democratic society.
I) Judiciary and justice: It is said that one of the costliest commodity in India is ‘justice’. One not only has to pay for it, but also spend both, any amount of time and money as well. It is said that it is necessary to bring about drastic changes in the ‘Evidence Act, part of IPC 1860, and quite a few related Acts. It is to be noted with great satisfaction that more than 1000 (out of 2900 Acts since the colonial period) outdated laws have been discarded or annulled by the new Modi Government. The disentanglement of outlived laws has eased partially the delayed justice.
Senior Adv. Ram Jethmalani, the former Union Law Minister, made genuine efforts to improve the Evidence Act and make suitable amendments conducive to the acceleration of procedural and speedy trial esp. the number of ‘adjournments’ used by the litigants to delay and hijack justice. However, it was so unfortunate that the proposed measure was opposed tooth and nail by the law fraternity. This was a serious blow to the very process of democracy since the litigating clients were deprived of their legitimate dues for no fault of theirs. To make things more complicated, in the recent times the Indian judiciary has developed a sort of ‘judicial activism’, which in any way has not made things easier for the process and the deliverance of justice.
In fact, it has pushed the Executive with its back to the wall. The seriousness and the efficacy of the several rulings appear eroded. Honest citizens are hurt when such rulings are ridiculed and the Executive finds itself in a fix and such orders are not executed. There is a plethora of orders and at times contradictory orders are passed. (Orders issued to the Municipal Corporations to remove huge flexes, hoardings from public places, silence zones to be observed between 10 pm to 6 am every night are good examples in this regard, and the citizenry and the judiciary are seen helpless).
The sincere citizens feel let down when the Executive too looks red-faced. The orders and rulings of the judiciary many a time do not reflect the social undercurrents and expectations as these are made based on ‘rule of law’ (remember ‘Dahi handi’, bullock cart races?). Such situations widen the gulf between the society and the judiciary. Further, it is important to take a serious note of the increasing number of applications of Public Interest Litigations (PIL), which too has proved to be the bane of contention for the Executive. The recent ongoing tussle between the Judiciary and the Executive is unfortunate and unnecessary.
It is to be kept foremost in the mind that the Constitution is a supreme tenet with checks and balances mode with a slight tilt towards the legislative role. Judiciary is not legislature itself nor can it assume the role although it has to examine the constitutionality of the law passed by the legislature. After all, the Executive makes the appointments in the civilised world.
j) Need to review the law of land i.e. the Constitution: Constitution of a country is all time sacrosanct until it is abrogated by a bloody revolution at the worst, or people deciding peacefully through a duly resolved parliamentary fiat. There cannot be any emotional issue in it unless any evidence is found while launching an improved version of a new Constitution, which is deliberately discriminatory against any weaker section of the community. Public behaviour of the non-officials in Urban local self-government agencies, Panchayat raj institutions in rural regions , State Legislative Assemblies and Union legislatures has become so unbecoming that to regulate their behavior, strict legal measures are required without exception. The live telecast of their behaviour makes one feel guilty of being a part of a decent democratic society.
The future of legislatures in Indian democratic structural set-up appears to be in jeopardy. Debates, proceedings in the House are not allowed to take place almost every day. The legislative process becomes unable to proceed. The arms twisting tactics by the disgruntled opposition members on the floor of the House such as obstruction, disturbance , boycott , ambushing the well of the Speaker, shouting, waving placards, and near coming to blows in physical fights, these are some instances which are strong signals of uncertain future of democracy. These are the instances which border on the lines of incriminating activities and therefore need a strict legal punitive punch. These shameful commotions leading to utter pandemonium scenes are percolated down to the grass root levels of parliamentary democracy. The question is raised about the very future of democracy in India.
The campaigns carried out in the above-mentioned elections are a tragedy of the electoral proceedings. Canvassing for the parties, their ideologies, their programs and their official candidates, is a part of the electoral proceedings. The underlying mandatory expectation is that all these activities would take place in a peaceful manner and there would not be any place for unruly punch-ups and brawls. However, all these scenes happened, fortunately not many murders .Taking into account it becomes imperative to consider legislating stringent laws to control the behavioral patterns of the elected representatives during the proceedings of the House.
It is necessary until the citizens lead themselves into a decent political society which is the kingpin of parliamentary democracy. Therefore, in the changing scenario in modern India, a new look at the existing political management of the Statecraft, becomes imperative. In such a process, the existing draft of the Constitution can be retained and various improvements could be carried out in order to attain the goal of purposeful debates on the floor of the House without any pandemonium enabling the legislature to function.
Another option is to effectively execute the punitive measures incorporated in the provisions of the existing laws through the presiding officers by making it mandatory. Further, a relook at the educational policies is an urgent necessity as Nobel laureate Dr.Amartya Sen. has argued that ‘education is an investment’ in the economy. Even the property and inheritance laws require a considerate relook, perhaps the number of property litigations are likely to be reduced lessening the pressure on the judiciary.
Therefore, it is felt that the most opportune time has arrived to press for the need to review the law of the land in the supreme interests of parliamentary democracy and in the interest of the poor common average person waiting in the corridor for justice and a life with human dignity.
k) Modi as a ‘hope’: Narendra Modi is not an individual, but it is a ‘direction’, a ‘programme ‘and himself a ‘programme coordinator’. Modi is an assuring phenomenon for the haves-not. Narendrabhai Modi’s socio-cultural schemes to build a decent Indian political society, such as ‘Swachha Bharat’, ‘Ujjwala’, ‘Beti Bachav, Beti Padhav’ , ‘surrender gas subsidy’ and most importantly is the recent bold masterstroke of ‘demonetisation’ , all these steps are considered as a clinical as well as a pathological treatment of a plan to revitalize the parliamentary structural society . The country has all along been excessively wasting valuable national time in the process of excessive democratisation bypassing the goal of development. The ‘Sangh pracharak’ in him has been carefully analysing the post-independence planning and administration in the country and carefully improving the growth model designed by the preceding governments , albeit their sincere efforts, which did not prove successful as was expected to be.
The event of mini general elections in the country as referred to above have unearthed and exposed the weak and worrying dimensions of making of the political society in India. The mid-course of electoral lessons of 2017, have sounded warning bells from the lighthouse before the impending tempests which warrant curative measures lest the modern political institutions which the British bequeathed in 1947 are defiled.
A public debate on the following postulates is solicited:
(a) reinforcement of the Executive , (b) reiterating constitutional supremacy with a tilt towards parliamentary preponderance ( residuary powers with the legislature ), (c) disciplining the media ( not controlling or suppressing them ) and circumscribing the right to information periphery in the interests of the Nation-State , (d) Taming the ‘super state behavior’ of the ‘Non-Governmental Organizations’—a civic-oriented fantasy ( wildly dreamt human rights activism ), ( e ) planning to reduce the pressure on the Election Commission of India by holding simultaneous elections to all elective bodies in the country , ( f ) trimming the exaggerated role of the local self-government agencies and Panchayat raj bodies in rural areas, (g) overall relook of the property and inheritance laws, ( h ) overall relook at the educational policies , and (I) imparting the lessons of ‘nation-first’ attitude.
The above-mentioned postulates and measures are considered to save and preserve the democratic ethos in the country as a matter of faith of the covenant—the attitude of ‘NATION FIRST’.