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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Politicians the problem,people the solution

The bell has sounded and the voters are voting. Now at last we can breathe a sigh of relief and think about wider issues. It is quite clear that politics....

Written by Meghnad Desai |
April 19, 2009 12:27:07 am

The bell has sounded and the voters are voting. Now at last we can breathe a sigh of relief and think about wider issues. It is quite clear that politics in India is devoid not only of ideology but also of principles. Every major party poaches rejected candidates of their rivals,blinks at criminals within their ranks,shamelessly accuses rivals of opinions and prejudices no different from their own and tries to look virtuous when caught red-handed. There is nothing good which can be said about the quality of public life in India except that in terms of the number of voters and candidates and parties India is the world’s largest democracy. If we are to reform the system we need to understand how we came to where we are and who can get us away from this diseased state.

The cure of the defects of politics will not come from within the political parties. They have no interest in reforming themselves. Thus there is very little chance that the Congress will have internal democracy like it used to have till Indira Gandhi split it in 1969. Her break-up of the Congress reversed the good days of Indian democracy where integrity and honesty ruled. The Congress used to be a party which reflected the best in the country’s traditions. After Indira,no longer. Indeed the BJP and the Left parties are the only ones which have internal party democracy. The rest may be secular or communal but they are grossly undemocratic in their internal workings.

Indira Gandhi also is the one person who made Jana Sangh respectable enough so that it became as the BJP,a respected national party. Until then the Left and the Congress had integrity and democratic instinct on their side and the Right was on the defensive. Once the Jana Sangh leaders went to jail in 1975,their martyrdom was guaranteed. The Right had fought for people’s liberty while the Left sucked up to authoritarianism.

It was also Indira’s legislation declaring donations from businesses illegal which has introduced the highest degree of hypocrisy and black money laundering in Indian politics. She may have done it to damage the Swatantra Party at that time but the result is that business has to connive in illegal bribery of political parties. If one had any chance of reversing this ban,then India could begin to have transparent and honest financing of its politics. Don’t hold your breath as even the Third Front is not advocating it.

So what is to be done? The first step is to admit that reform will not come from within the party system. Young middle class disaffected persons are voicing their views and some are even running for the Lok Sabha and all power to their elbows. But the best way citizens can contribute is to stop expecting the system to reform itself. The time has come to seize the initiative and do a bit of DIY to improve politics. The first step is stock taking,then will come action. But both require patience. The system has been corrupted for 40 years. It won’t be cured in four.

What is needed is for civil society,especially leading NGOs and business associations like FICCI and CII,to set up a private commission to examine the ways of reforming the system. It should be done with no person with any political party attachment and no money accepted from any party political source. The report should have transparent financing and open proceedings. It should use Internet resources to consult the widest possible number of people for their views on reforming the system. The consultation should be continuous with interim proposals being issued by the commission to test the waters. India’s official democracy has stopped talking to its citizens except in the most cynical terms of a few rupees per kilo of rice or a free TV. Let a large non-governmental dialogue begin wherein the people of India will cure the ills of their own system.

Once we have the diagnosis then the cure will be provided by the many who would take the process forward by changing their own behaviour as voters and perhaps even as budding political leaders. It can’t be any worse than what is there right now.

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