Atanu Dey On India's Development

We have met the enemy and he is us

The events of the last few days which ended with the UPA government winning a vote of confidence yesterday in the Indian parliament demonstrate something quite dramatically. Rajinder Puri’s editorial in today’s Free Press Journal goes a little bit into the matter but not far enough, in my opinion.

He writes, “The intellectuals and the media pundits, as well as the lay public, are at last waking up to the truth. The nation’s enemy is not this or that political party. It is the entire political class.” (I am appending the entire editorial below, for the record.) He suggests a remedy but I am not sure that I agree with the remedy. That is so because I don’t fully agree with his analysis of the problem.

My view is, in the immortal words of Walt Kelly, “We’ve met the enemy and he is us.” Yes Indian politicians are largely a bunch of corrupt, self-serving criminals and crooks. But let us be very careful in pointing fingers at them because they don’t elect themselves — the people do. That is the nature of democracy, that those who rule are elected. Not Martians, not god, not some evil malevolent force intent on the destruction of India, but Indians in their wisdom elect these people. Ultimately the politicians are in a strict sense a true representation of the aggregate character of the people.

Puri quotes some figures:

There are 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha. Of them 117 have been charged and are being investigated for murder, rape, assault, extortion and robbery.

Nineteen MPs have more than three criminal cases pending against them. Twenty-nine have been accused of spouse abuse. Seven have been arrested for fraud. Seventy-one cannot get credit or loans due to bad credit histories. Twenty-one are current defendants in various lawsuits. Eighty-four were involved in offences and made to pay fines. These are the people who make our laws. They are the people who rule us.

Those are just a few of the violent criminals elected by the people. Is there is a count of the number of elected politicians who are just thoroughly corrupt and any count of how many lakhs of crores of rupees that they have stolen over the decades that this rotten scheme has been in operation? Not one single politician has ever been lynched by the public. Why? Because they don’t find it the least bit outrageous.

Politicians are people, just like you and I. People come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. If people end up selecting the most corrupt among the lot, it is hard to avoid blaming the people for the crooked politicians.

This is rather depressing but there is a way out. Puri talks about the constitution and how a presidential system may be an improvement.

I blame the constitution. I think is makes enormous sense to rewrite the constitution so that it becomes impossible for criminals to become legislators and government executives. There has to be a check on what damage the stupidity of the people causes. That check can only be achieved through a constitution. The present one is really a very sorry piece of work.

What a fall in India’s image! Blame entire political class

BY RAJINDER PURI (Free Press Journal, July 23, 2008)

The recent events inside and outside parliament provided this scribe immense satisfaction. Not because of what could or could not happen to the nuclear deal. Nor even by what was or was not spoken in parliament. Not even by which way the vote went. The satisfaction came from the total exposure of politicians belonging to all parties and the political culture they revealed. The intellectuals and the media pundits, as well as the lay public, are at last waking up to the truth. The nation’s enemy is not this or that political party. It is the entire political class. Some TV channels and newspapers, some politicians, put up a brave face trying to project the debate as proof of a vibrant democracy. They did not deceive the public. They deceived themselves. India’spolitical class showed to the world how contemptible it was. It clearly demonstrated that no mere political realignment could effect meaningful change. The system has failed.

The system must change. The system must adhere to the true spirit of our written Constitution. That is the bottom line.

Why did public perception about the political class change? MPs charged other MPs of being bought. A senior leader named the price for an MP to be Rs 25 crore. Never mind if this was contempt of parliament unless substantiated. Never mind if those who claimed to have received bribe offers became complicit in crime unless they named the culprits and initiated legal action. Law is least important in the prevalent Indian democracy. One senior leader lamented that the CBI cases against Mayawati exposed that agency as an official tool being used for political purposes. Goodness, how long it took for him to discover that! When CBI cases against Mayawati were stalled was CBI not a tool? On probes related to Bofors, Jain Hawala, Volcker and a host of other cases was CBI not a tool? All these hypocrisies during the recent debate were not new. They had been exhibited before. And horror of horrors, MPs convicted for serious crimes were made to vote! But when convicted MPs voted in the presidential election was that acceptable? Political parties and individual MPs sold loyalty and policy as brazenly as harlots in a red light district. This too had happened before. So why were the publics disgust and the intellectual’s disquiet aroused this time around? Because all this happened simultaneously. The sheer volume of misdemeanors was mind boggling. Didn’t Marx say that beyond a point quantity creates qualitative change? The conduct of its political class has jolted India.

There is data being widely circulated on the Internet. It appears to be researched and accurate. It indicates what more and more young people complacent till the other day are beginning to perceive about the politicians who rule them. There are 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha. Of them 117 have been charged and are being investigated for murder, rape, assault, extortion and robbery.

Nineteen MPs have more than three criminal cases pending against them. Twenty-nine have been accused of spouse abuse. Seven have been arrested for fraud. Seventy-one cannot get credit or loans due to bad credit histories. Twenty-one are current defendants in various lawsuits. Eighty-four were involved in offences and made to pay fines. These are the people who make our laws. They are the people who rule us.

Never mind the merits or demerits of the Indo-US nuclear deal. On any assessment can this ragamuffin bunch be trusted to render sober judgment on any issue of national importance? MPs demonstrated in the recent debate that overwhelmingly their prime concern was narrow personal gain bereft of national interest. The truth is that our political system is flawed because the Constitution was subverted from the day it was adopted by parliament. It is an explicit written Constitution. It does not replicate the Westminster model. Our Constitution is presidential. This view was repeatedly voiced by this scribe for years. MPs have legislative responsibility and should have no executive responsibility. Former President Kalam said as much. In fact MPs are empowered to spend crores for development in their constituencies. On July 11, 2007 this scribe after quoting relevant clauses of the Constitution wrote: “If the Constitution is read as originally written, India’s parliamentary system would become presidential.” Further in the same article it was proposed how the President could obtain a direct popular mandate after minor Constitutional amendments that would not infringe on its basic structure: “Electoral changes that do not alter the structure of the Constitution are required. The terms of Parliament, State Assemblies and President need to be fixed and made coterminous. Nominations to them might be phased. Candidates for the presidency would be nominated by the outgoing legislators.

The Presidential candidates might then campaign for the legislature candidates.

Once elected after such a campaign, the newly elected legislators would elect the President. That would give the President a fully representative mandate.” These views were scoffed at or ignored for the most part. The recent debate seems to have altered perceptions. Apart from reputed columnists suggesting a review of the prevalent political system, even the staid Times of India editorially commented: “Has the time come to think beyond the Westminster model that India has followed since independence? India should seriously consider a presidential system of government.” Jurists as yet are not admitting that our original written Constitution was in fact presidential. If a national debate on this subject leads to a reappraisal of the Constitution by uncluttered minds, they might also start saying that.

  • http://jihadwatch.org/ Notsure

    I agree indian constitution is horrible in many respect.
    But I dont think there should be a law against who cant run for office.
    People should choose there candidates, if they like crooks let them choose it.
    I do see several problems with it which are on right to property, independence of supreme court, stupid upper house instead of elected state representatives…..I also think indias lok sabha can be 1/3rd of its size. increase district sizes