I got an email from an old friend in Assam. It is written: ‘Can we resort to the intervention of the court to stop the annual flood caused by the floods?’ There is some hesitation in writing to a friend, as if he were unable to make up any firm mind about the court and its decision. People and gardens ask me these questions every day, but there is no hesitation or doubt in their minds.
Be it the Agniveer scheme, wheat export or wheat export ban or anything like that, the questioners are sure that once Prashant Bhushan will file an application against these things and will approach the court. This country will save itself by paying so many taxes. Most of these things are close to my heart, but the way to solve the problem or its solution is through the law, why people think like that, I don’t understand. Forwarding a few such requests every week, I say to myself with a sigh of relief, if friendship is with Prashant Bhushan, this is the price you will have to pay!
There are certain types of these requests. They are related to my friends who want to reform Indian politics through legal intervention. From the 1960s to the 1980s, in the spirit of reform it was said that the “winner of the most votes” system in elections should be replaced by a “representative in proportion to the number of votes” system. When the Election Commission under the leadership of TN Seshan nurtured this reform sentiment and the issue of reforms became prominent in the elections, these demands gained even more thrust, such as: Preventing non-serious candidates from joining the electoral race. be somehow that the mandate is not broken, criminals and corrupt politicians should be banned from standing for election. In this list of demands, one thing or the other is added every day, such as: ban on issuing caste or communal angle resources in elections, make it legal for parties to fulfill the promises made in the elections, go , etc.
Whenever I hear about these deals, I remember the joke about how a man was trying to find his lost key under the lamppost. They asked him, “Where did you leave the key?” In response, the man pointed to a distant dark corner. “But then why are you looking here under the lamppost?” “Because here is the light” was the man’s innocent reply. Those who look for legal, judicial or institutional solutions to the evils of politics are as innocent as the same man who looks for the key under the lamppost. In other words, the situation is even worse because most attempts to intervene in democracy give priority to the concerns of the elite over the needs and aspirations of the common man.
Not so long ago, in 1996, I wrote a scathing article on the subject of electoral reform entitled ‘Beyond the middle-class fantasy’ (see Seminar, no. 440, April 1996). Everything remained the same, nothing changed, however, after the publication of the article, the sympathy of some friends was definitely lost. Later, in more moderate language, he wrote a longer article in which he mentioned ‘Political Reforms – What, Why and How’. But those who want to find the final solution to all the ills of the country’s politics in some law or judicial intervention, their enthusiasm remained, there was not a single difference of opinion.
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Our community (country) is in search of such a magical herb. We are very arrogant people: in our haste we do not even see whether there is a real disease or not, and if so, it is necessary to treat this disease in the same way that we are looking for it. Our restlessness is so great that we neither bother to try the medicine nor the Hakim. All we need is a safe solution, right now and right here.
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treatment worse than the disease
A new story is attached to this ongoing Ram story on political reforms. The Supreme Court has been asked that political parties do not distribute “unnecessarily free newsletters” or make such promises in election campaigns. If the political parties do not desist from doing so, the Electoral Commission should recover their electoral symbols. We will not discuss here the strength of the application in its arguments or the character of the petitioner. Suffice it to mention here that Ashwini Upadhyay, a lawyer by profession and BJP chhotbhaiya leader, continues to be in the news for various reasons, including allegations of spreading communal hatred. We will not even talk here about the peculiarity of the Supreme Court that it does not have time to study issues like electoral bonds directly related to political reforms, the Supreme Court has to devote its precious time to the application of this issue. I think so. Chief Justice NV Ramanna has reportedly asked the central government to clarify its stand on the issue of distribution of ‘free ravdis’ to people whether this practice should continue or not. The next hearing on the matter will be on August 3.
We have assumed for a while that a widespread disease of free Revdi distribution is troubling our policy. Obviously, then anyone concerned about this has to ask the question: how serious is the disease? Should I put this at the top of my priority list? Is it possible to cure this disease and can the cost of this treatment be covered? Or if the treatment is more expensive than the disease, will I have to make a habit of living with this disease? If the disease can be cured, who can be the right doctor for it? And what is the right medicine for the disease?
Now, without stressing for a moment, you can say that depriving political parties of election symbols means throwing them out of the race to win elections, that is, this medicine is worse than the disease. No one can be allowed to use these scissors in a democracy because the person or organization wielding these scissors will be more powerful than the people. If we want the Election Commission of India to retain its rightful credibility, it should not be given this power. The affidavit submitted by the Electoral Commission to the Supreme Court is absolutely correct that “it is right to leave this matter to the voter’s decision”.
According to reports, a bench headed by the Chief Justice is looking into whether the Finance Commission can be given the responsibility to do this job. The truth is that no organization can use this power in a non-arbitrary way. The most common way to kill democracy is to disqualify your political opponents from standing for election under one pretext or another; we must not forget it. There is no way to do this in our country. And, if there is no such trick, it should not happen even more.
Is it a disease to distribute ‘free crows’?
But then how else can this disease be cured? Before we think more about this issue and look for some other remedy, let’s look at one thing: politics in a democracy is an activity of self-governance. You can protect democracy from external threats, immediate disturbances, personal whims, violations of the majority, etc. But democracy cannot be separated from the people.
If people are tempted to go for free ravs, you can warn them about the pros and cons. You can legislate for more disclosures so that the lightness of these promises (to distribute free revri) is known. You can strengthen the hands of the media so that they can question parties and leaders who make such impossible promises. But if a large part of the citizenry wants a particular work to continue for a long time, nothing can be done against it without suspending democracy.
Finally, something about the “disease” itself. Why do we think distributing free revri is a disease? From a superficial look, it seems that these policies are irresponsible and their implementation leads to a waste of the country’s economic resources. I’m also one of those people who thinks that giving away free electricity is bad policy. But I also wonder why we are so concerned about the policies of giving frivolous gifts to the masses? Why don’t we worry about those big schemes related to loan waiver, tax relief and giving them windfall?
Is it not so that the poor voter, who falls into the trap of these unreasonable promises of free revdi, is not as unreasonable as we have taken him to be? Perhaps, the public knows better than scholars that the logic of democracy works and what is the reality of a ‘trickle down’ economy with the idea of ’upar bahut lega-phullega toh bahut bhi lega-phullega toh bahut bhi khoon kar zaarrega’. Maybe, the public has understood that if the policies seem rational, they follow their normal course, then these policies will not help them much. Maybe, the people know that now and at this time, they can only get as much as they can take . In the name of ‘free ki ravadis’ they can get some necessary and tangible things to live directly, maybe that’s why people, gardens also go to vote. People who are so worried about free ravadis are not the same as the economist Amartya Sen once recalled as “cultured and illiterate”?
(Click here to read this article in English)
(The author is a member of Swaraj India and co-founder of Jai Kisan Andolan. Views expressed are personal)
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