By Acharya Ramamurty
19 April, 2004
Election Commissioner of India recently compared politicians with cancer.
Cancer is an incurable disease. Proper treatment can only prolong life
but can't avert death. Is this the condition of our politicians as well?
More than fifty years ago, our constitution was drafted in the constituent
assembly. It took two-and-a-half years to frame the constitution. The
president of the constituent assembly was our beloved leader, known
as a follower of Gandhi, Rqjendra Babu. The Constituent Assembly comprised
mostly of freedomfighters, not politicians. The Assembly functioned
under the leadership of Nehru and Patel. Dr. Ambedkar was the chairman
of the Drafting Committee. The constitution framed by the Assembly is
the biggest the world has known. The constitutions of England and America
are far smaller. But neither America nor England is as old, and full
of diversities great and as India is. Only China is larger.
How strange that
the word 'party' no where occurs in our constitution, still our politics
is made of parties. Where did the parties come from? Gandhiji in his
Will And Testament had advised the Congress to disband itself as an
organization and become an election-fighting machine. The Congress did
not disband itself; instead, an election fighting party was formed.
The Congress Socialists separated from the Congress in 1948 and organized
their own party. In due course of time other parties were formed. As
of today there are parties galore, national, regional, while regional
are more and national less. Present- day parties are move in the nature
of interest- groups than political parties. Soon our seemingly political
coalitions may lead to the formation of caste- and community coalitions.
outlines the process how, after the elections, a government is to be
formed. The language of the constitution is:
The President or
Governor will call upon one to form a government as commands, or is
likely to command, a stable majority in the legislature. It is this
search for majority that has given birth to parties.
The crucial question,
however, is as to how could a political party, forming the government
or sitting in OPPOSition become cancerous. The constituent assembly
did not, could not, foresee that it was producing cancerous cells. The
Assembly was composed of patriotic and seasoned leaders. During the
struggle for independence the congress was an organisation, a front,
a movement. It functioned generally under the advice of Gadhiji but
its control and direction were in the hands of the Congress Working
Committee. The Congress organization was national. It represented national
aspiration irrespective of caste, community, region etc. There were
separate organization of Hindus and muslims also.
It was Gandhiji's
speciality that he trained the nation to fight without violence. He
taught peoplel how to say 'no'. The second distinctive feature of our
struggle against foreign rule was that it united the whole country.
As freedom approached unity became weaker and weaker, so much so during
the last four years the struggle became move a mere legal bargaining
than satyagraha. On one side was pitted the British imperialism alligned
to the Muslim League, and on the other side was the nationalist Congress,
which had to fight on both the fronts of unity and freedom. This led
to the result that the Raj won and the country lost. The Raj came to
an end but the country was divided. Unity was lost. The British rule
whose foundations were laid in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 ended in
1947. The rule that was established by the law of the British parliament
after the Revolt in 1857 ended in 1947 by the law of the same parliament.
More Indians were killed in1947 than were killed in 1857. British rule
was established by 'law' but was soaked in blood. It ended by law but
India got drenched in blood.
Gandhi's last fight
was directed towards saving India and Pakistan from further harrors
of partition. He was scheduled to go to Pakistan on February 8 and 9,
1948. By sending two of his companions to Pakistan, Gandhiji had secured
the permission of Qaidee Azam Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan.
Jinnah had entrusted Abdul Rab Nishtar, one of his ministers, to take
care of Gandhi's tour. Within ten days of this programme getting finalized
Gandhiji was assassinated!
journey started with the killing of more than ten lakhs of people, besides
Gandhii's own assassination. Independence came, the British flag yielded
place to the national flag, but the weapon of non-violence with which
freedom was won got defeated. Gandhiji was not present in Delhi celebrations
to witness his defeat!
New Delhi abandoned
non-violence and Gandhi turning his face against Delhi went to Noakhali.
Delhi rule replaced British rule, while Gandhiji started his non-violent
campaign in riot-torn Noakhali. The Delhi government was formed under
Nehruji's leadership. Viceroy Mountbatten remained the Governor- General
of the new government for eight months after he had pulled down the
British flag. The new government decided to keep the structure built
by the British lock, stock and barrel. During the struggle for independence
it was sometimes thought that after the end of the Raj some type of
panchayatiraj would be established but that was not to be. Our leaders
wanted a powerful India on the pattern of European nationstates. New
India had wanted liberal democracy of the British type. The Indian capitalists
wanted English trade and commerce to be replaced by Indian trade and
enterprise. The new state needed resources and trade needed protection
of the state. It became a happy alliance between state and trade. Politics
and trade followed the same path they had already done. The country
had been delivered from a foreign yoke, the call of a powerful state
appealed to it also. Thus such an atmosphere was created in 1947 when
the constituent assembly also found it worthy to go the familiar way
of parliamentary government.
The paths of Delhi
and Gandhi became different. The alienation between Gandhi and congress
leaders started in 1934 and after that till the end Gandhi remained
an advisor of Congress, not its member. And he tendered an advice only
tbi~iT when the congress sought it. During the days after release from
Jail in 1944 the Congress president talked to the British not Gandhiji.
Gandhiji went to Noakhali not as a representative of the Congress but
as a devotee, of peace, good-will and nonviolence. Gandhiji had thought
that if the nation lives, the state lives. Delhi thought if the state
livq~the nation lives. Once it was decided the task of the constituent
assembly became easy. The structure of the constitution framed by the
constituent assembly was of a liberal democracy type. Liberal democracy
needs political parties. Adult franchise was granted. This is amply
clear from the fact that democracy enunciated by the constitution did
not fall in line with our tradition. It was alien. The constitution's
expectation was that 'Swadeshi' voters would run an alien democracy
and the bureaucracy would develop the country and give protecton to
Winning a majority
for coming to power requires a lot of money. And if money finds entry
into politics through the channel of elections, there will be no limit
to the use of money, money leads to power; power leads both to pelf
and priviledge .Government means both power and money. We are witness
to the fact that market and government are responsible for most of corruption.
And we are adopting a life-style which needs money, yet more money and
the latest gadgets. How long can man resist the temptations of a consumerist
life. We are after money. The Government makes laws the market break
them for projects. We use laws for gain. Examine it minutely and you'll
find government money is at the root of every case of corruption. Every
thing now is an 'industry- even sex!
Where are the politicians
Politics has to
be changed right from the very roots. For changing politics what needs
be changed first of all is the economic policy. We have to think in
terms of a new life-a new state, a new social order, and a new design
of life. That is why J. P. talked of a Total Revolution. No half-way
house any more!
J P said that democracy
is essential but it should not end with electing representatives as
it is today but should be of the kind that makes the citizen and voter
participants in the democratic process.. The mantra of Indian democracy
as given by the great Buddha was: meet, talk agree.
No majority rule.
The politics that
we have developed during more than the last fifty years has affected
both the state and the nation. If politicians are cancerous the roots
of the cancer are there in our politics and that cancer has affected
both the state and nation.The state has become corrupt and incompetent
while the nation has forgotten Gandhi's 'No'.
The state with its
arm ,the government is too much with us. We must have less government
much less than now. The first step is what we call decentralization.
According to Gandhiji, why should the strength in parliament exceed
fifty This is high time that in accordance with what Gandhiji had said
, power must be scattered in 5 lakhs of India's villages. This will
be possible only when we treat panchayatiraj as an opportunity for reorganizing
our power structure ,work of administration and development must be
done locally.if power is distributed in 5 lakhs of villages the workload
of state capitals will come down sharply.District and state will become
autonomous ,and with lighter workload, Delhi will be much more competent.
The government should be small but efficient and effective. panchayat
should be powerful and responsible. Panchayatiraj has given a golden
opportunity.We must not allow it to slip away from our hands.The consequences
will be disasterous. A new India backons us.