Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: lok sabha election

Tyranny of the unelected

Some Congress members refer to the demands by Anna Hazare group about Lokpal Bill as tyranny of the unelected and unelectable. They are against fast as protest and call it blackmail. Congress has a history of tyranny of the unelected.

In 1939 Mohandas Gandhi’s candidate Pattabhi Sitaramaiah lost and Subhash Chandra Bose won the election to become Congress President. Mohandas Gandhi said Pattabhi Sitaramaiah’s defeat is my defeat. It became difficult for Subhash Chandra Bose to function as Congress President. He had to resign some months later.

In January 1948 India was fighting a war with Pakistan over Kashmir. India had stopped transfer of 55 crore rupees to Pakistan as that would have been used against India. Mohandas Gandhi went on fast against government decision and the government that had Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel agreed to Mohandas Gandhi’s demand.

In 1952 Morarji Desai lost Legislative Assembly election. Congress made him Chief Minister of Bombay claiming he was victorious leader of the victorious party.

Sanjay Gandhi exercised power when he was unelected.

In 1991 Narasimha Rao who was not an MP became PM.

In 1998 Sonia Gandhi who was neither a member of CWC nor an MP dislodged Sitaram Kesri as Congress President and became chairperson of CPP, a post created for her.

Over the years Congress had appointed many unelected people as chief ministers and ministers. Many who have lost elections have been made governors.

BJP refers to Manmohan Singh as unelectable. He became a Rajya Sabha member from Assam when there was a law that a Rajya Sabha member must be a resident of that state. Later that law was abrogated. He contested a Lok Sabha election and lost. He continues as a Rajya Sabha member.

What Congress has to say about judiciary usurping the power of legislature or executive? Judiciary has made or abrogated laws by its judgments. Sometimes it has amended the constitution by its judgments. Recently Bombay High Court struck down mandatory death penalty for repeat offence under Section 31A of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Act, 1985.

A Supreme Court judge has written to PM asking to release Pakistani prisoner Chisti from Ajmer Jail saying if he dies in prison it will be bad for India. Such arguments were made in UK for the release of Lockerbie bomber saying he had three months to live. After his release it was said that he had 10 years to live. Oil exploration contract for BP in Libya was said to be the reason for the release. BJP finds it odd that a Supreme Court judge has written to PM for release of a Pakistani prisoner but has no problem if Chisti is exchanged for Sarabjit Singh who is in a Pakistani jai.

What about the tyranny of the unelected who resort to violence and announce money for murder? People who threw flower pots on Taslima Nasreen got away with it. Maqbool Fida Husain’s painting exhibitions were disrupted. He received death threats. Someone announced crores of rupees for anyone who murders Maqbool Fida Husain. Maqbool Fida Husain left the country, became a Qatari national and died and was buried in London.

What about industrialists who dictate who should or should not a hold particular portfolio? Usually when there is a CAG or some other report about some irregularity BJP is quick to demand the minister’s resignation. CAG report on Reliance and other oil companies had not elicited any response from BJP for some days. Then BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi wanted the government to investigate how CAG report got leaked instead of demanding the resignation of Murli Deora which BJP had done in cases of Shashi Taroor, A. Raja, Dayanidhi Maran and P. Chidambaram exposing BJP’s double standards.

India and Singapore

Singapore was once a backward country. It has made progress over the years and has controlled corruption and has low crime rate. India lags behind in many respects. When comparisons are made some say Singapore does not have free press, popular sovereignty and equal moral status of citizens.

How free is India’s press? Corporate houses control many news TV channels and newspapers. Journalists working for many others are influenced by lobbyists who work for various interests. Newspapers and channels that want ad revenue enter into agreements with corporate houses not to say or write anything against them. Columns of writers who write about misdeeds about corporate houses disappear.

Where is popular sovereignty when people who have not contested elections or lost elections become ministers? Narasimha Rao and Deve Gowda were not MPs when they became PMs. Manmohan Singh is a Rajya Sabha member and the only one time he contested Lok Sabha election he lost it. Prithviraj Chavan had lost Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha. He was made CM of Maharashra when Ashok Chavan was removed. Bhoopinder Singh Hooda was not an MLA when he became CM of Haryana. Shivraj Patil who had lost Lok Sabha election was made home minister. There is no democracy or popular sovereignty when people who are not MPs or lost Lok Sabha elections become PMs or people in Delhi decide who should be CM, more so when one who is selected as CM is not an MLA, or industrialists decide who should be or should not be minister. Singapore has elections and its leaders are elected. Mani Shankar Aiyar lost Lok Sabha election. He was nominated to Rajya Sabha.

It is not clear what is meant by equal moral status. The constitution is about equal legal status which in India is often compromised by reservations on the basis of caste, class, tribe or gender. Over the years ministers, MPs, MLAs, bureaucrats, police officers and other public servants have been made immune from prosecution without permission from some authority which is difficult to get. Cases drag on for years in courts. In one case when the Supreme Court annulled the election of an MLA it was time for voting for the next Assembly.

In Singapore there is public caning for some offences and that plays a part in controlling crime. Singapore is a small country. Justice is quick. India can do away appeal from one court to another and see that justice is quick.

People, Fasting and Parliament

The fast by activists led by Anna Hazare has elicited different responses from different people. While there is agreement on the need to fight corruption, some have criticized the method.

Their objections are as below:

1) In a parliamentary democracy parliament is supreme. Parliament can not be pressurized by fasting.

2) Self-appointed people can not make law. It is for elected representatives to make law.

3) The agitators have contempt for politics and democracy.

4) The agitation amounts to blackmail.

5) The agitation is fascist.

Let us examine the objections.

1) People are supreme in a democracy. Parliament represents people. MPs are elected to do the will of the people and not as they want. Fasting is a legitimate way to put pressure on parliament. MPs forget they are representatives of people and not lords and masters. The constitution begins with the words “We the people”.

2) Where were these people when NAC which functions as a super cabinet with Sonia Gandhi as super prime minister was formed? NAC has vetoed many draft bills prepared by cabinet committees. Many bills have been drafted by Non-MPs and some have become law. Indira Jaisingh had drafted one bill that became law. She was not an MP then, not an MP now.

3) If there is contempt for politics and democracy it is due to politicians. Winter session of parliament did not function on the demand of JPC. The government did not yield then. It yielded when budget session began. MPs disrupting parliament is not a pretty sight. MPs increasing and multiplying their salaries, allowances and privileges as they like and neglecting their duties does not inspire confidence. Where is democracy when a candidate who has lost Lok Sabha election becomes prime minister or home minister?

4) Since when fasting has become blackmail? Did Gandhi resort to blackmail when he fasted?

5) There is nothing fascist about the agitation. The activists are not stopping traffic, forcing shutdown of offices, schools, colleges and shops, uprooting railway tracks, setting fire to public and private property or engaged in stone pelting. When Jats, Gujjars and others resort to such methods no one calls them fascist. Calling a non-violent and peaceful agitation fascist is a poor joke.

There are some who say NGOs are corrupt. In that case it is for them the expose corruption by NGOs.

The government is not ready to issue a notification. The dispute about the chairman of drafting committee is not settled. Anna Hazare has called for people to fill jails on 12/4/2011.

The excuse that ministers are busy with elections and not free to do anything about Lokpal Bill till they are over is not acceptable. There are no Lok Sabha elections and central ministers are not required to participate in state and union territory elections.

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