Citizen is the constitutional master

Citizen is the constitutional master
Highlights

Two contrasting events in the last few days throw up a study in contrast between the attitude of leaders and the functioning of our democracy. Two major Republics -- India and the USA -- have displayed their respective maturity levels in the behaviour of their leaders.

Two contrasting events in the last few days throw up a study in contrast between the attitude of leaders and the functioning of our democracy. Two major Republics -- India and the USA -- have displayed their respective maturity levels in the behaviour of their leaders. The incident of Barack Obama having been told that his plastic money had no value would surely have angered a leader of lesser political status in our country. Forget Obama and his cool approach, how would have the followers of Jayalalithaa responded to such a guffaw if it were to happen to the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister? Unlike the American President (Nobel Laureate and all!) our chief ministers are made of sterner stuff.

The preamble to our constitution places power in proper perspective. “We the people of India….” is how the paramount parchment begins. It thus makes it clear that the depository of all power is with the citizen and the various functionaries named, referred to or implied in the constitution, are delegates and agents of the common man.

Viewed from the constitutional lenses, various constitutional authorities are pockets of power but at the will of the people. The fulcrum of our polity is the common man. His income may be embarrassing, his political acumen may be trifling, his credentials are often under dispute and his voice feeble. But all this and more notwithstanding, he is the master of the system and with all of them combined make the largest functioning democracy. Our archetype politician is the servant and the common man is the master. Structurally that is the design and also the philosophy of our government and polity. This makes the quinquennial pilgrimage across his chosen constituency with folded hands is a symbol of modesty. With near mocking humility, he pleads for a chance to serve the masters in the collective. Many a mighty leader has fallen at the test of the hustings and lived to return another day. It is beyond debate that the policies of the executive are trained at bettering the life of the common man. In fact the policies of the executive are often built around the seeming well being (Oh! That other expression welfare!) of the common man. The legislatures are always swearing by him and the judiciary applies the litmus test of the common man for most verdicts and judicial pronouncements.

One would believe in the context that therefore the creation of the class monitor of the State cabinet is a humble being – at least in the context of the constitution. This, however, is in serious doubt. It is not so much about their living styles, their social lives notwithstanding, but the constitutional framework that makes it clear that the master is doubtlessly the citizen. It is in this context that the language employed by the chief ministers that is worrying and disturbing. While one chief minster threatened to remove the eyes of certain erring sections of society, another chief minster cautioned that those who did not work for 24 hours in an emergency (with specific reference to the recent natural calamity) would be put in jail. Yet another learned (and obviously very concerned) chief minister threatened to cut the hands or clip the wings of doctors. The citizen has a choice: he takes the threat seriously and falls in line or lightly leaves it to the wisdom of the elected representatives to mind their language. In the interregnum, muscle flexing Namaste by posing powers would perhaps give up crudity of expression at least when they are addressing citizens and public servants.

Apart from reflecting the true picture of our constitutional form of governance, it would also at least ensure a peace loving system in place. I am certain all these mighty men (women not excluded!) surely have the picture of Mahatma Gandhi’s toothless smile over their working tables---a man who said our tasks remain incomplete till every tear from every eye is not wiped off. The least politicians can do is to be polite. The citizen expects this without having to demand it.

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