Festival of democracy

Festival of democracyFestival of democracy
Highlights

In the last six months, major metropolises like Delhi and Mumbai saw thousands of farmers, adivasis...

In the last six months, major metropolises like Delhi and Mumbai saw thousands of farmers, adivasis threatened with displacement, anganwadi workers, students, young job aspirants take to the streets to let the governments and the people know how wide-spread these crises are. Corruption in defence purchases finally began to find traction in public discourse, what with the sensational removal of the CBI chief in a mid-night swoop and its fall-out.

A war of words broke out about these issues only to be conveniently detonated out of public discourse by the Pulwama blast. And then election schedule is announced. From the moment the election process gets underway, the debate shifts to the "political mandi" where politicians are bought and sold. Only money and power on offer determine who will be end up where.

This blatant marketplace of middlemen and power-brokers is watched from the side-lines by our venerable institutions like the courts and the Election Commission. More than the political parties, it is the judiciary and the Election Commission that have facilitated the demise of Anti-Defection Law.

Since the five-judge bench has not been constituted by the Supreme Court to examine the defections taking place in various states, the farce continues unabated with the active collusion of the speakers of the house and the pliant governors who administer the oaths of office. What happened in Telangana is repeating itself in Gujarat too.

What prevents the courts from barring defectors from becoming minsters till their status is determined either by the speaker or the court? By allowing the newly defected persons to continue as ministers, the courts have facilitated blatant horse-trading.A legislator who gets elected on the ticket of a particular party crosses over soon after the election to be in the cabinet of the ruling party even as his status is unclear. It is a betrayal of the voters and a subversion of the democratic process.

In this era where autocratic leaders have ambitions of "ruling" without opposition in the legislatures, the flood-gates have opened up not just for spending limitless amount of unaccounted for money, but for offers of ministerial berths. The prices offered and received speak volumes about the state of politics and the economy in India.

For this new political animal who has no ideological pretences, being with the winning party, being in power, is necessary. From one election to the next, the interim period is to accumulate resources for re-election. But what happens to those farmers, adivasis, unemployed youth, students, and anganwadi workers while this farce of democracy is enacted so publicly?

Even as the politician is selling his voters to the highest bidder for personal gain,

The young students continue to sit under street lights to prepare for exams as there are no public libraries or reading rooms. The alternatives are expensive private libraries.

The farmer sees his village lands being dug up in contempt of court (Mallannasagar).

Parents are casting about to find money to meet the escalating demands of private schools. The same schools that provide buses free for the political rallies of the powerful.

The unemployed are taking 300 rupees a day to campaign and swell crowds for the politician. In gratitude for the fortnight of "employment" he will vote for him and also tell others to do so.

Even as the politician sells his voters to the highest bidder for personal gain, the Adivasi communities will continue to be hunted and driven out like animals by the 'security' forces.

In the midst of this, the election process will be successfully completed. New governments with same people will be formed. The politicians will get busy to recover the election expenditure and to accumulate for the next round of elections.

The Election Commission and the courts need to disqualify candidates indulging in malpractices. Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha finding Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices, declared her election from Rae Bareilly constituency "null and void", and barred her from holding elected office for six years. The Judge did not entertain charges of bribery but found Indira Gandhi guilty of misusing government machinery as she was the sitting prime minister then.

While champions against Emergency let no opportunity to speak of her disqualification, today, politicians of the sitting governments go into elections seamlessly using government resources, vehicles, the police infrastructure for party work. Government resources are used to clear lands for helipads. Opposition party campaigners are illegally detained to provide the politician in power sanitised field to campaign, which is not available for those not in power.

In fact, a contestant Revanth Reddy was arrested in campaign days by the state police during recent Telangana assembly elections. No permission is given to civil society groups to spread voter awareness as Section 144 (an emergency provision) is permanently invoked by the state to clamp down on political activity. The Election Commission may at the most get the ruling party to pull down the advertisements but that is about all.

Television channels grandiosely called the election process the festival of democracy. Because of the indifference of independent bodies like the Election Commission and the judiciary in providing the checks and balances as mandated by the Constitution, this festival democracy is fast becoming a macabre dance of death and misery for the people.

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