The travesty of Indian parliamentary system:
India, the largest parliamentary democracy in the world is destined to face soon a period of serious social turmoil and political instability. A quick review of the political incidences in the past six months must depict a miserably gloomy scenario. It seems that there is a firm belief prevalent among the political class in general and small and big political leaders in particular that “election” in a parliamentary democracy like ours, is a better source of living and earn bread. The plethora of one-man party or ‘family’ –run political groups is an excellent example of the exaggerated meaning of ‘party democracy’. It’s a very simple business…invest capital –money and material and reap profiteering output in due course of time esp. during the coalitional opportunities.
Set back in Maharashtra and Jharkhand are indicators of such a situation. In Maharashtra, it’s governance of ‘all family affair’ and the helpless citizenry at bay. The analysis of Jharkhand electoral results was appropriately made by Shri Virag Pachpore. Commenting on the Jharkhand recent electoral results he states: “ In the 2014 election, the BJP had secured 37 seats as compared to 25 in 2019 and this is a big shock for the party leaders and strategists. In the state of 81 assembly seats, the ruling party could get only 25 seats is surely a matter of concern for the state as well as the central party leadership. One of the reasons for this downslide seems to be the steady unrest and dislike for the incumbent chief minister Raghubar Das. His style of functioning was not liked by the party workers and leaders alike in the state.
“Jharkhand is a tribal-dominated state with Santhals having the majority percentage in the state population. The BJP chose a Raghubar Das a non-tribal to rule the state in 2014. He had a background of RSS but should that be considered as a requisite qualification for naming him for that post? Did not the party have any prominent tribal leader who could be given that responsibility?
“Secondly, the style of functioning of the chief minister also played a role in alienating a majority of workers. The effect of this alienation was visible in this election, sources and analysts have said. Was the party leadership unware of this growing unrest and dislike for the chief minister? If so, then why did it select the same person to lead the party in the state?
“In 2014 the BJP had an ally in AJSU. What went wrong that it snapped ties with AJSU in 2019? Congress, on the other hand, decided to play second fiddle to the JMM and is now firmly in the saddle. What stopped the BJP from allying with the AJSU and even LJP?
“It is generally inferred that whenever a ruling party bites the dust at the hustings, the main factor is anti-incumbency and in this case, the possibility of this playing the spoilsport for the BJP cannot be ruled out entirely. But that was not the case in Maharashtra where the BJP-Shivsena combine won a definite majority. That, this majority was betrayed by the Shivsena with the crafty politics of NCP leader Sharad Pawar was a different story altogether.
“Some local issues cut into the popularity of the BJP in Jharkhand and unfortunately, the state leadership failed to gauge the intensity of that undercurrent and take corrective measures well in time. Rising unemployment, law and order situation, lynching cases and absence of strict action to curb them, and controversy surrounding the land tenancy act in the tribal dominant regions are some of the factors that caused the Das Government most dearly in this elections.”
Failure of the elite
“Opposition” party is the pre-requisite of the parliamentary system and a decent opposition is the product of a civilized society. Do the Indians foot this bill? Enquiry into this question does not lead to a positive lead. The opposition party in this country has failed to perform a positive role, a constructive approach and a reliable alternative foundation for a civilized society. Acquisition of power with due process of law to rule the country is a legitimate right of every party. The existence of an opposition point of view in a democracy is the pre-condition of parliamentary democracy.
Yet, there is another important dimension which is glaringly staring at the future of the parliamentary system in the region. The society at large and the opposition, in particular, has not shown its intellect and fineness in articulating the aspirations of the deprived ones in the national society. This relegated the intellectual community in the country to the miserable background and is being pushed to the brink of an explosive ‘a free-for-all- state’.
An important reason for such an enveloped stage is ‘insatiable’ lust for power brewing in the groups of people who have been on a period of probation for being termed as ‘political society’. A sense of frustration on the part of such a left out section, led to the formation of violent groups who gradually are termed as ‘opposition’. The very ethos of the term ‘parley—parliamentary’, seems to have been disgracefully targeted by the ‘opposition’ as such.
The use of the term ‘opposition’ is not an appropriate description, it is an ‘alternative’ which is the proper description. The law-less and unruly behaviour of the opposition, on the floor of the House or in the streets, is the barometer of the political health of the Indian society and its parliamentary face. The parliamentary affairs have become unwatchable episodes, as at present these state a sorry plight of once a glorious tradition of ancient India. Even, the first half of independent India’s history of parliamentary affairs depicts quite a meaningful and dignified conduct of the House. There were erudite speakers with respectful behaviour of all the members of the House. Mutual respect among the members of the House characterized its features. Political differences prevailed, but nobody doubted or challenged the credentials of each other. Nobody hit below the belt. Stands or opinions were attacked ferociously but everybody took care of the individuality of each other. Everybody was decent with each other.’ …in our times, this never happened’ was a common comment when something irrational happened. The behavioural pattern in several segments of society has become unpredictable and deceitful. One has to study carefully the foundation of the individual and society. A careful study and analysis of the society and the individual therein would lead to a few assumptions. An individual is the product of the structural inter-action within society. Let us analyze.
The following factors need to be taken into consideration.
(a) Educational system
(b) hierarchical presumption of individual’s role and functions
(c) Family foundation
(d) ethical bondage.
Educational system: The following reference to the educational system in India would throw light on several factors of building the society and the individual therein.
“The Gurukul system of education is one of the oldest on earth and was dedicated to the highest ideals of all-around human development: physical, mental, and spiritual” (Mehrotra, 2006). The Gurukuls (which translates to the house of the Guru or Teacher) were Hindu residential schools of learning established within the boundaries of the Guru’s Ashram or monastery where students were taught religion, scriptures, philosophy, literature, warfare, statecraft, medicine, and astrology. Education was free; however, students could make contributions in pecuniary or non-pecuniary forms (known as a Gurudakshina) if they wished to do so only after they completed their education at the gurukul. Students were sent off to the Gurukul at the age of 5 or 6 and were required to stay there until they turned 14. It was only then that they were allowed to return home. There was no standardized curriculum as the Guru decided based on the students’ aptitudes what they would be taught and what skills they needed to perfect. In the beginning, the gurukul was an egalitarian system where children of rich and poor gained knowledge side-by-side. Neither the state nor the parents were allowed to interfere in what the students were to learn—an extremely decentralized system. It has been speculated that during the same century that the infamous Indian caste system, the effects of which India still suffers, was taking shape. As time progressed, and the caste system grew stronger roots in society, the Gurukul started to lose its autonomy. Eventually, the gurukul was transformed into a residential school only for the social elites. (Gosh, 2001; Mehrotra, 2006).
The Gurukul system continued to flourish in India and by the first millennium and a few centuries preceding it Nalanda, Takshila, Ujjain, and Vikramshala Universities were in full bloom (Gosh, 2001). Written accounts dating as far back as 3rd and 4th century BC by international scholars and envoys such as Megasthenese, the Greek envoy and Yi Jing, a Chinese scholar, along with the various manuscripts on politics, medicine, literature, philosophy, and religion (Gosh, 2001; Sen, 2005) produced in these universities stand testimony to the scholarly accomplishments of these Universities. However, as the years progressed, the Gurukul system as well as the glorious universities started to fade and were completed extinguished by 1200 AD during which the Muslim Invasions began. Following the reign of Mughal dynasty, education took on a more localized façade.
In India, the very first attempt to standardize education at the state level was made in 1813 when the East India Company, a trading company which was rapidly annexing states and gaining a political foothold, took the responsibility of centralizing and standardizing education through a Charter Act of 1813 on a more organized policy level. However, even before the 1813 charter could be enacted, a Charter act of 1698 was released through which the British parliament compelled the East India Company to devote attention to India’s existing educational systems such as the ‘Hindu Pathshalas’, the ‘Muslim Maktabs’ and ‘Madarsahs’. In response to the charter, the very first Christian missionary school called the St.Mary’s Charity School was established in Madras in 1715. Such schools were established all across the country. Education at these schools was free and had the purpose of converting Indians to Christianity (Bagulia, 2004). The political objectives of education and the choice of language [of instruction, i.e., English] were made to improve the colonial subjects in their temporal usefulness and behavioural morals, and to have a cadre of people to assist the colonial government by working in subordinate positions and by being the buffer between the rulers and the masses” (Annamalai, 2005, p.21). The focus was on imparting education to Indians in English to indoctrinate the subjects into the British world view, a much superior world view, as advocated by Macaulay in his minutes to the British government is 1835.
The first Indian Education Commission was appointed in 1882, chaired by Sir William Hunter. The Indian education Commission, also known as the Hunter Commission made several recommendations to primary and secondary education, the role of government and missionary enterprises in Indian education, and religious education. The commission, also for the first time, made recommendations regarding the curriculum. The recommendations of the Hunter Commission, which were adopted, laid the foundations of the Indian education system, which is followed till date.
Following the Hunter Commission, the Indian Universities Commission was established in 1902 which made recommendations on the lines of University scope and administration and examinations. The university system in India, just as the primary and secondary education in India, was modelled on the education system in Britain. The debate on including Indian languages a part of the Indian education system started in 1906. The debate was settled, regional languages were included in the curriculum in the form of second or optional languages, and English continued to be the language of instruction and a required subject.
In 1911, Gopal Krishna Gokhale introduced a bill modelled on the Compulsory Education Acts of England of 1870 and 1876, for free and compulsory education for all in India. It was rejected.”
( Source: The Indian Education System, Kothari Commission 1964, and the National Policy on Education 1968—A Historical Evaluation by Pratima Dutta. Pratima Dutta--Indiana University Bloomington; December 9th, 2008 )
The educated individual left out with the loss of identity:
The purpose of referring to such a lengthy quote is to point out to the growth of an individual in the course of times thru the past. The individual was moulded by the education system on the one hand and the ‘family’ system on the other. Until almost by the time the limited industrial revolution in India arrived, the family system and tradition was intact, which influenced the career of the individual not only influenced but more or less, regulated it. Besides, the British Government too was engaged in formulating educational policies in India as well as administering it. Macaulay had proved to be instrumental in ushering in modern education and its conceptual articulation along with the administrative structure. The impact of the education on the society and the individual was so deep that the new system produced a perfect ‘anglicized’ Indian who would remain loyal to the British imperial power. Several ideas of life and the materialization of its objective, the dress code too, garnered by the individual, made him volatile.
Macaulay education system alienated the individual from the Indian nation:
Much before the independence, the individual and the society as well had already lost their identity. There was a crisis of identity. The individual and the society emerged in India as was expected by Macaulay. On the one hand, the society had adopted the parliamentary model of political administration and the burden of tradition would not allow the imported master of the behavioural pattern of the perplexed individual. The confusion begins at this point of time and the venue.
The society had lost its memory of the glorious past that Indian society had. The individual too lost the track of his erstwhile steps pushing him into the darkness of his past too. This sort of crisis of identity misled the individual who wandered astray. The world of reference of the individual and the society as well was confined to his circle around him.
This has been the factor which thwarted the growth of a prospective elitist class. It is interesting to note that most of the leaders of the political parties have their roots in this half-baked elite class. Such a class seemed more harmful when these function as leaders of the opposition.
Individual’s role and functions: The individual is required to perform his role in a parliamentary set-up under the pressures of several agencies. The pressure of institutions such as the family, the society around him, the state, the legislative clutches ( the legal frames ), his subjugation to various economic conditions limiting his scope of activities etc., circumscribes his plans of development. Most of the people appear to be aimless and lead their respective individual life aimlessly. In fact, these aimless individuals betray their very existence pronouncing their pursuit of existentialism. The urban and rural life seems to have become precarious and is under tremendous pressure. The principles of sanity seem to be scattered and have become almost irrelevant. Survival and not qualitative life has become the present inevitable order of the day.
Dominant families :
The role of ‘dominant families’ in regional affairs in Indian politics is seen on the rise everywhere. Family as a system has always been an influencing factor in the making of an individual in a civilization. In a way, ‘family-oriented parties, could be explained as the party stood to maintain a private army. This is a very sorry state of affairs in a parliamentary democracy. In Maharashtra too the family-oriented party –the regional party has nothing to depict beyond this.
The great treachery of the decade: today’s Brutus is born!
Nobody need hesitates in pointing out at the great Maharashtrian travesty of parliamentary principles, scattered all over, calling it great treachery of the decade. The pre-electoral alliance secured an absolute majority in the House, naturally, it was expected that these would form the government in due course. However, from the day of announcement of the results, the junior partner in the alliance, all of a sudden slammed claim on the chief ministership and declared that it was their irrevocable stand. The lust for power was so irresistible that the partner broke the alliance and joined its hands with those whose ideological position was diametrically opposite to their own but who had promised to fulfil their Machiavellian lust. None of these minced their words and had openly called for the grab of the highest political office in the State. Those in the opposition, who had been deprived of the political power for a considerable amount of time, were too generous to lose this ‘nature-offered’ opportune moment and to compensate their loss of power and further their streamline.
The unethical formation of the new political executive has exposed the hypocrite leadership of those who always vow for their principled approaches and behaviour. It is important to note that the voters in the Maharashtra State had preferred a particular alliance and had accordingly issued its mandate to form the government. However, the betrayal by the junior regional partner and the subsequent loss of a State for a national party in a federal country like ours is an excellent example of betrayal of the sovereignty of the voters.
Dissent in politics is natural and therefore to be respected :
The lesson of articulating amicable solution without far-stretching is a good lesson for the national parties, which exhibit a tendency of looking down upon regional parties and allow them a secondary placement in the power structure. The lesson, the national parties must learn is to improve the capacity to absorb and adjust themselves to their mistakes or their follies. The national parties must learn to respect their different views or their stand on various issues. The dissent must be respected. The national parties must introspect, lest their defeat or withering away seems imminent. INC and BJP are the two national parties and these have to rethink and redraw their battle policies. If these continue with their traditional policies, no other political group can save the falling temperature of the country.
Local issues in recent times have assumed importance as these are directly related or responsible or remain accountable to the urban way of life of the individual citizens. The lifestyle of the individual is certainly affected by the pressures of the local problems which need quick solutions enabling their day-routine possible. It is this area which requires the attention of the national parties to look into and explore the way out. A clever balance between national issues and local issues is required to be struck by the national parties. There are of course some local issues which are required to be looked in the national perspective. Regional political parties are not well equipped to comprehend the issues from a national perspective. However, their association is proved beneficial to the national parties in terms of voters’ support during the electoral battles. Regional parties seem to have greater attracting capability in securing votes. If the duly elected government fumbles over ‘confidence vote’ on the floor of the House in a mandatory floor test, the small numbers in the legislative wing suddenly assume unprecedented importance. ( Remember, Vajpayee government fell for want of only ‘one vote’). There happens a sort of churning of several –both common and contradictory ideas, which guide the individual behaviour resultantly be becomes the product of his times.
The great betrayal of the decade is a good example of this situation in India in general and the politics of Maharashtra in particular. The great defector is the representative product of the situation. He is the product of our times. For such people, the ideological position is immaterial at the prime post as long as ideology does not affect his or her interests or benefits. The Shiv Sena time and again had made abundantly clear that to install Shivsainik as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, moreover, the Shiv Sena leadership had vowed to late Balasaheb Thackerey which was their prime objective and it would be attained at any cost. It happened.
No wonder, we are reminded of the great Roman icon, Julius Caesar, when he exclaimed as he saw Brutus stab in the back,… “you too, Brutus,”! Look at the fate…when his friend Mark Antony chides, ‘… Brutus says Caesar was ambitious,… ( but ) he ( Caesar ) refused the throne thrice ….and he ( Brutus ) loved Rome more … (…. therefore he killed Caesar ), ….and Brutus is an honourable man’!
Brutus is a character, a tendency, an attitude! Required are several Mark Antonys. The elite must wake up. Their failure in the diagnosis of the tempest ahead would lead the infant parliamentary democracy in India to a ‘no man’s land’. Caesar is required to be protected. Those who clamour for the induction of a new political vision in the parties here, have to remember, the “NATION FIRST”.