Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: lok sabha elections

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.

Abolition of Rajya Sabha

Shivraj Singh Chouhan suggested abolition of Rajya Sabha and later in face of opposition retracted. It was a good suggestion. Shivraj Singh Chouhan referred to businessmen buying votes to become Rajya Sabha members and mentioned Vijay Mallya. That put BJP in an embarrassing position because BJP had supported Vijay Mallya.

The constitution refers to Council of States which is known as Rajya Sabha. During British times Council of States represented princely states and had a membership of 216 members. There was no need to have Rajya Sabha when India became a republic.

Many times people who fail to win Lok Sabha elections get elected to Rajya Sabha. Twelve members can be nominated for their special knowledge and practical experience literature, art, science and social service. Political affiliation is the main consideration in such nominations. Mani Shankar Aiyar who lost Lok Sabha election was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. The requirement of residence of a state to be a Rajya Sabha member from that state was done away some years back.

Many countries have bicameral legislature. In UK, members of House of Lords are not elected. In USA, Senate has important functions like ratification of treaties and approval of important public appointments. In most countries Upper House has fewer powers than Lower House and can be done away with.

Lok Sabha can have fixed term of five years with election and swearing-in taking place on particular dates. We can have presidential system so that the government does not depend on the confidence of Lok Sabha.

We can also abolish Legislative Councils, Planning Commission, National Advisory Council, Animal Welfare Board and similar organizations. NTR and MGR had abolished Legislative Councils in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. They were revived by Congress and DMK.

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