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New Vote Slogans:CAN MPs TRULY USHER IN CHANGE?, by Deepak Thimaya,18 April 2009 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 18 April 2009

New Vote Slogans


By Deepak Thimaya

‘Your vote can make a difference’, ‘Vote for your future’. Many more such slogans carefully worded, attractive sounding and directed to the thinking man’s heart this election are a laudable exercise and must be supported and encouraged. But, what difference will our votes make and what different future is our vote going to ensure us are simple questions most votaries of ‘don’t waste your vote’ campaigns are unable to answer.

Do the elected MPs, whether illiterate, ignorant, Harvard-educated or celebrated, have any role in Parliament, apart from perhaps getting their 10 to 30 minutes due in the entire term of a Lok Sabha? If we are sending intelligent MPs to debate in Parliament, is there actually anything to debate there at all? Recent instances when 17 Bills were passed in less than 12 minutes do not speak ill of Parliament and the MPs but only mirror the current system, where MPs do not have any role in the process of legislation, even if they wanted to.

The most shocking thing about Indian politicians is not about corruption, misuse of power or lack of interest in public good, but a total lack of knowledge of the Indian Constitution, which is the reason and the basis on which they get elected.

The MPs not having executive powers is something not only they and their electorate, but even most journalists don’t know. Expecting too much from an MP is not only ridiculous but undermines the very purpose of electing them. For the desperate need of electing most MPs is that they promise heaven and earth to their voters. However, they end up doing very little and are a butt of ridicule by the both the Press and the public.

Recently, an economist remarked that apart from participating in intra party fora and discussing issues with the executive authorities and perhaps putting political pressure on the Government for sanction of funds, there is very little an MP can do with all his personal capabilities and credentials. At best he can only vote for his party or his Government as the case maybe.

This apart, ten crores is a pittance to be spent on a constituency in five years, with all the cuts and commissions to be paid to execute MPLAD works. Even an MP from the ruling party cannot impress upon the Government to do more for his constituency in a scenario where development and release of funds is based on who needs it the most to keep the government afloat. All thanks to the absence of a single party government or a government of coalition of selfish interests.

Thus, blaming an MP for not representing his constituency efficiently in Parliament or with his Government in the Centre is naive on part of any critic. When asked why an MP should not be candid about his pitiable inability to play his role as the true elected representative, the answer is: ‘Do you think anyone will vote for me if I tell them I have no powers and I actually cannot do anything?’

The usual allegations against an incumbent MP is that he has done nothing much for the development of his constituency. Is it actually the job of an MP to do developmental works in his constituency? Does he have the executive authority or does he have the sanction for it in the Constitution? How can one expect such a preposterous delivery from an MP, who among other marginal roles is just a representative in the highest platform of democracy in the country?  

While we are all so proud of being the world’s biggest democracy, we must at the same time be ashamed of the farce of this election. The elections are conducted according to the whims and fancies of political parties, who collectively have coded an unwritten constitution that functions quite oblivious of the Constitution of the land.  The very idea of a representative in the Parliament has nothing in common with the idea of a development agent that the voters expect to see in an MP.

Policy making takes place at the highest level in political parties and most often is not even discussed with the back benchers, who are just expected to support it whether they agree with it or not. Even if a right thinking, intelligent and qualified MP has an opinion opposed to that of the Party, it is of little significance as at any time the party only needs to take into consideration pleasing powerful leaders, coalition interests, opposition scrutiny and the next elections.

Viability, future of the nation, media opinion and academic ratification are not the priorities of any party which wants to either retain power or win the next election. So what does an MP do? The best he/she can do is, be in good terms with the party bosses, make friends among powerful leaders, not antagonize the opposition to the point of enmity, network with powerful business leaders and power brokers, go on foreign study tours, get into a few house committees, make some money for the next elections et al and finally wait and try to get elected again.

So, does our vote matter? Even if 20 MPs are elected by a majority of educated and well-informed voters, they may not belong to the same party and therefore, what is the difference they can make? What future will a few extra votes bring about for the country? Also, there is a new interest among the IT circles of casting their vote this election. But are they serious? One could not help but sit in bewilderment while watching a voter- candidate interaction, wherein some techies were more interested to know what he could do about pub deadlines, if elected. If these are the new voters, what kind of change are we talking about?

We all know that there was less corruption in Nehru’s time than there is today. If we are talking about the future, then by simple calculations we can confidently say that the level of corruption will only be more and not less. As of now a sustained campaign to get the educated to vote appears a futile exercise as there is no guarantee that this class will vote for better candidates. Most Germans were educated enough when they supported Hitler. Sixty years hence the human blunder, meaning of education has changed little.  

Sadly, electing an MP has the basis of the Constitution, but not its spirit. Politicians use it only to quote from as they have their own rule book to follow. The voters too go by their own rules before they elect someone. It is time we understand our Constitution or else slogans will only remain slogans. –INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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