Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy 65th Independence Day: Should tryst with democracy end?

By R Shankar, India Syndicate, 13/08/2011
Should tryst with democracy end?
Comment: Has the time come for India’s tryst with democracy to either end or change?

As India celebrates her 65th Independence Day and has become a mature `senior citizen', has the time come to rethink on the way the nation is being governed? Has democracy lost its sheen, its soul, its meaning and its very purpose? Has the DNA of the form of governance been so distorted and mutilated that the nation is no longer a democracy in the true sense?

The fist course correction to Indian democracy was tried out during the Emergency in 1975. But the timing was mistake, the purpose a bigger mistake and the way it was implanted the biggest. It was done to save Indira Gandhi from being dethroned, not the nation. Well, the dark days of democracy are history now. But we are now faced with bigger threats to democracy.

Here are the threats:
Electables and Unelectables
Very few honest and upright persons can ever enter the portals of the Parliament as an elected member. If one wants to become an MP, he or she will need the following `qualifications': a criminal record, a huge bank balance (preferably black money), family backing or backing of religious communities.

The Congress has accused Gandhian Anna Hazare as being an `unelectable' voice. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari went on record to say that Hazare is "unelectable" and "if this democracy faces its greatest peril from someone, it is from the tyranny of the unelected and the unelectable".

Can honest and upright men like Anna Hazare, Abdul Kalam, NR Narayana Murthy or Kiran Bedi get elected? Does that mean that they do not fit into the framework of a truly democratic polity?

The answer lies here: In the present Parliament, 300 are billionaires and 180 millionaires. over 150 MPs face criminal charges with over 70 of them facing serious charges ranging from murder to rape and kidnapping to cheating.

Add to this people like Mayawati who wants Rs 22 crore to refurbish her mansion in Lucknow; the Bellary brothers who flouted every rule to mint money in crores through illegal mining and irreversibly change the very ecology of the town; and, till recently, they were `honourable' ministers in the Yeddyurappa cabinet in Karnataka. Sons of a poor constable, the Reddy brothers used to `helihop' from Bellary to Bangalore for a dine-out. And there is A Raja, Kanimozhi, Kalmadi, Lalu, Jagan and the like whose main job was to make money by flouting laws. And, they are all law-makers!

On the unelectables, all that the Congress has to do is to jog its memory. Even Mahatma Gandhi's candidate was once an `unelectable' man. In 1939, Gandhiji put up Pattabhi Sitaramaiah as his candidate for the Congress presidentship. He lost to Subhash Chandra Bose and a crestfallen Gandhiji had said that Sitaramaiah's defeat was his (Gandhiji's) defeat. The Congress made it so difficult for Bose to function that he had to resign a few months later.
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