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Bihar That is India:POLL POINTER TO FUTURE POLITY, by Poonam I. Kaushish Print E-mail


New Delhi, 14 January, 2005

Bihar That is India


By Poonam I. Kaushish

Want to know what is wrong with India.  Visit Bihar.  A State that epitomizes everything that is immoral here.  From corrupt netas to goons and criminals.  Desh drohis juxtaposed with private senas. A gory account of muscle, money and mafia in politics.  Down to the gutter level.  Replete with blackmail, intimidation, hustling and muscling. Behaving like the devil incarnate. Add to this the intoxicating potent of power and one has a lethal mix.  Which has trashed morality and blackened the guarantee of good governance. To hell with maryada.

If one were to do a post mortem of the no-holds barred posturing by the Congress-led UPA constituents for the ensuing Assembly polls in Bihar, it would expose everything that ails Indian politics.  The shameless, ugly and raw exercise in power politics. The worst kind of chicanery and fraud by Laloo’s RJD, Paswan’s LJP and the Congress.  Everybody is not only screwing each other but, worse, none has any sense of shame of remorse. The Aya Ram’s and Gaya Ram’s are all rolled into one.  Never before has politics denigrated to an euphemism for I, me, myself.  Each party propounding its own recipe of governance in the hope it will bring them political tripti.

This is the tragedy of India.  For the gaddi of Patna would decide the raj and taj of New Delhi.  Clearly, the polls has very little to do with niti, in fact it’s all about raj-niti at its crassest worst. The issue is not whether the Congress will better its tally in the State, continue to rule the roost at the Centre or will the UPA survive. What is important is Laloo and Paswan’s showing in the polls and its ramifications on the Central Government.  Will they becoming more demanding?  Indulge in bigger blackmail et. al.. Bluntly, they will decide the mortality of the UPA since they control the crucial swing vote. If that be the case, next month’s poll will be a watershed in Indian politics.

Whatever may be the outcome the truth is that we are today caught in a vicious circle which has been made a lot more malignant by our unstable and fragmented politics.  Not just that.  With every one propounding his own recipe of governance, with the favourite recipe of communal harmony and caste bhaichara, the nation is getting sucked into the vortex of centrifugal bickering.  Thus, from the periphery of competitive politics, the regional parties are now virtually the lifeline for the national parties.  This social engineering through the ballot will be the main stay of this election.

Bringing things to such a pass that who ever sits on Delhi’s gaddi can only do so with his regional friends. For it is they who really control the vote-banks. In this political cauldron of uncertainty, the important this election is giving the regional parties is not without the grave ramifications it will have on the unitary-federal structure of the State.  Raising a moot point: Is it not time we rethink our model of democratic governance? Whether coalition politics is really the answer as India readies itself to join the global fraternity?  Or should one change to a two-party system?  Even do away with the first past the post method and opt for a proportional representation?

Recall our founding fathers grappled with this question at the time of Independence.  During the Constituent Assembly debate, it was a toss between stability and responsibility. They had two models of democratic governance before them. The American model which banked on stability and the British example which opted for day-to-day-day responsibility. Nehru was of the firm view that India should follow Westminster as opposed to the American model which could be misused and turned into a dictatorship in the wrong hands.

Everything was hunky dory till the early nineties.  Election after election the national parties trampled upon the regional aspirations, seducing them with pious platitudes and promises.  But Mandalisation brought in a new set of rules. Polarization on caste and community basis.  This radically changed the structure of the policy and consequently the nature of viable and effective alternatives, as reflected in the plethora of 40-odd regional, small or minor parties first in the poll fray and now in Government formation.  Whereby the regional blocks decisively proved that they were no longer willing to play the second fiddle to any national party.

Paradoxically, the national parties’ loss of power provided the perfect handle for the regional parties to blackmail, bully and extort their demands, especially from the ruling party at the Centre.  At the same time, they could pull the rug over any issue, to expose the feet of clay of these parties.  They intended and extracted their pound of flesh. This extraction no doubt was made easier by the total collapse and disintegration of the political moral fabric which had ripped asunder the very nucleus of each and every national party to reveal the naked lust for power and gaddi.

Arguably, one can say this is what democracy is all about.  But it needs to be noted that most of these political formations which served as instruments of democratization of society in a favour of the downtrodden and till now its enfranchised sections are themselves completely undemocratic in their organizational set-up as well as their style of functioning.  Given the dynamics of politics in the present fragmented state, there will be an inherent compulsion for the parties to come together, so as to be a recognizable force. Nothing objectionable. But when it comes to alignments, there is a chasm between ideologies and objectives.

There is no gainsaying that the people have largely preferred State level parties and small groups in several States to any of the national parties.  There is merit that regional outfits are a facilitator for decentralized political authority. But their disparate character and narrow political agenda carry an inherent and strong destabilizing element, which can lead to recalcitrant parties or groups whether singly or jointly holding the coalition and its Government hostage.

It has been exposed that when national parties cohabit with strange regional outfits for all the strong reasons to attain power, they fail to realize that it could end in an anti-climax. Tragically, national interests have been wantonly dumped in quest of power.  It has nothing to do with ideology or taking the federal structure of our polity a step forward.  Forgetting that federalism does not mean blackmail. Nor does the word coalition imply an alliance with all and sundry – with anybody and everybody.

As long as the demands of a regional ally are only confined to the development of concerned region, it is fine. But catapulted t the national level of parties which lack national perception is not a welcome development. At the same time, this is not to suggest that regional aspirations should not be reflected at the national level.  Nonetheless, this has to be done by the parties keeping the overall national interests in view.  Sadly, India’s regional parties are still dominated by the mohalla mentality.  Where reasoning does not percolate beyond what is good for the party, its immediate sphere of influence typified by the mohalla at the worst and the State at the best.  No doubt, the blame rests squarely on the national parties.

Where do we go from here?  No doubt, Bihar will stand testimony to the fact that power in privilege stands further transformed through electoral competition into powering numbers.  True, numbers will decide who sits on the Delhi’s gaddi. At the same time, we need to realize that this cannot go on forever.  Clearly, coalitions are neither guarantee for stability nor solution for responsibility.  It is time we give serious thought to reverting back to a two-party system at the national level.  At best, the regional outfits should be confined to ruling their respective States.  Fragmentation of the polity is the root of all ills.

Additionally, the first past the post method has proved to be a misnomer of the poplar electoral mandate.  We have had absurd situations where parties which polled a lower percentage of votes were in power.  Nehru at the height of his popularity polled only 43 per cent of the popular vote.  Today the Congress, which heads the UPA Government, polled no more than 30 percent of the votes cast.  Thus, it is imperative that the Election Commission applies it mind to correct the anomalies caused by a multiplicity of parties.  One way would be to learn from the German experience. Wherein the malady has been tackled by requiring every party to meet a minimum benchmark of votes polled to qualify for recognition.

The writing is on the wall. This raj nautanki has to end. Remember an old Chinese saying: When small men cast big shadows the Sun is about to set.  One is not worried about the small men. But the Sun setting on India is too frightening a prospect to be taken casually. ---INFA.


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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