Friday, April 17, 2009

The Election of a Government
The Indian Model

Sivananda Murty

We are on the threshold of the general election for the fifteenth Lok Sabha along with the elections for A.P.Assembly. The election manifestos in a healthy democracy in a civilized country must necessarily be the issues that the people have before them. In our country, this does not appear to be the case. The manifesto of any political party virtually promises of utopian boons to the suffering people which tantamount to temporary bribes. These promises are neither totally fulfilled nor possible to fulfil.

Among the election promises we find millions of houses to the poor, jobs to everyone, old age pensions to every one and two rupees for a kilo of rice and so on. If, atleast, three sucessive governments could fulfill these promises the country would have been different from what it is. Neither the countrywide slums holding a one third of the population have been cleared or replaced by apartments nor the millions of poor people got any pension. The stink of the slums increases steadily and provides material for making shameful but prize-winning movies to clever business men. The hospitals and schools run by the government being sub-standard, create excellent business opportunities to commercial enterprise in expensive hospitals and expensive education.

These institutions are of course unapproachable even to the lower middle class and the poor. Corruption in the country grows by leaps and bounds which results in creating more black money day by day. Black money in turn raises the cost of a dwelling, unapproachable to the wage-earning middle class. The black money rules the economy of the country unlike in any other country in the world. Selling or buying any property in real money transaction escapes all record. Thus, the unaffording lower middle class and the poor move farther and farther away from a hope to own a house.

Moneylenders including banks make brisk busienss by lending moneys to the tempted people who can never repay within their earnings. The economy is galloping fast in our country to suit only the corrupt blackmoney maker, thus widening the gap between the salaried middle class and the money-making politician or dubious business men. The poor are nowhere in the picture. Such an economy is bound to crash because the poor and the middle class have no part to play, have no say, and have no voice to be heard in the situation.

In fact, the budget of the government is entirely contributed by the wage-earning middle class who can not escape any taxation whether as a consumer or as an income tax payer. And yet, the politician never goes to the educated middle class to know their grievances nor suggestions. It appears that the politician has only a single minded objective of going to the poor masses for votes promising them all sops. The masses consisting of labour, organized or otherwise, the self-employed poor who eke out their living as a vegetable vendor, petty trader, or rickshaw-puller, porter etc. neither pays any tax to the government nor does he know what the politicial process in the country is. The promises made to them, in fact, spend the budget without all
the benefits reaching the poor.

Thus, the poor millions listen to the mouth-watering promises of the politicians, ever hoping to get a free house, a job, a pension, a school, a hospital etc. The billions that are shown as spent are from the earnings of the middle class, whether as an employee with recorded salaries or a struggling shop-owner. The tax that the latter pays is some times equalled by the bribes he pays to the harassing government servants. The middle class people are the very substance of the society.

To sum up the phenomenon, the voiceless tax payer pays for the expensive schemes ostensibly meant for the benefit of non tax-paying majority population. One loses and the other does not gain! The benefits go largely to the politicians, contractors and the ranks in government. The budgets grow in size year by year, election after election. The black-money in the country, it is said, has reached a whopping four million crores, not to speak of the unaccounted millions in the Swiss banks.

If this system continues unabated, the country will reach, if it has not already reached, to an irreversible failure of democracy which would lead to any disstrous consequences, like a violent revolution. There are revolutinary leftist forces with violence as their means, committed to whipping up the passions of the masses calling upon them to revolt against the system of governance in place, to destroy the rich and even the culture of the middle class called the bourgeois. These forces like the Naxalite, Maoist etc. are drawing thousands of youth into their fold and indulging in violent destruction of the men and machinery of the government in no small measure. This is a growing danger which the politician of any brand pretends to be ignorant about.

This is a potential danger to democracy ifself, more so due to the corrupt and failing democracy ( Nepal is an example). Political parties or the existing Laws in the country have evaded their responsibility in this matter. Neither there is a policy, nor an action-plan in the country today even after six decades of continued violence.

Election time is a mile stone in the political history of a country. When a government is formed, a vote by a citizen is inherently meant to be his judgment on the performance of the government thus far and a considered choice of the next government, in our country, this basic meaning of a vote is long lost. It is, in bulk a maneuvered extraction in numbers from the uneducated, gullible non tax-paying masses which are a numerical majority. This massive manipulation goes unabated without being an expression of any choice or judgment.

The visible boom in consumerism need not be considered as progress of our economy nor as success of our democracy. In fact, both are in peril. It is nothing but diversion of the middle classattention from a responsible citizenship to a debt trapped attraction towards a glamorous life style.

It is high time that the educated middle class are separately consulted without mixing them with the millions of purchased votes. A process has to be evolved wherein the educated, understanding the relevant opinion in the country is heard and allowed to play a role in the making of a government. The tax-paying citizen should be treated on a different plane from the bribed millions of voters, who can neither understand what is happening to the economy of the country, what is defective in the functioning of government, what justice is being done to them etc. An educated citizens vote by quality should count for much more than that a poor villager who does not vote with any opinion.

The educated man as a tax payer can certainly judge what is good for the poor, what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. His vote is a vote of discretion. He does not cast his vote for a bottle of liquor and Rs.200/-. These purchased votes with no opinion behind are like fake currency. The intrinsic value of vote therefore must be accepted as several times more than that of a cheaply purchased vote. This is in fact a real election. He can certainly think of security of the country and welfare of the poor. Is there a mechanism to recognize such a differential value of his vote? In the name a democracy and equality of all citizens, the system of election has benefited the cash-rich candidate to win the election bypassing the judgment of the people. Thus, the election is reduced to a farce!

In countries like France, for a long time all men and women did not have a right to vote because a few thinking men could decide what was good to all. We should, therefore, evolve a system in which there are discreet and considered votes in an election. The P.R.Act should be made to be truly representing the educated tax payer If the present system continues inevitably, the performance of the government after about two years should be judged by a separate opinion-poll from the eligible tax-payers and the educated citizens. Such a mid-term election should be a statutory judgment binding on the government.

After the maneuvered election there ought to be checks and balances on the performance of a governent involving the judgement of the people instead of a wholesale mandate to misrule. This aspect of a necessary reform should be considered by all including legal experts, honest politicians and responsible citizens to save our country from a future disaster. I am aware that the issue raised here is seeking a differential treatment between voter and a voter which under the Constitution in place is legally unacceptable but if the Constitution or a Law has not proved to be beneficial to the society by an experience of six decades, under the principle of natural justice such letter of Law needs to be reconsidered and revised in the interest of the people.

If such revision can be accompanied by disqualification of tainted politician in election and if it can effectively prevent violence between constesting political parties, the country can hope for real democracy with justice for all. It can also include a reform in the matter of reservations. Reservation and exclusive encouragement to the down-trodden to become more competent for selection would be far more beneficial to them rather than reservation of employment. It is high time our country had a re-look at our performance in the past six decades and thought of radical reform.

Sivananda Murthy

Date: 04-03-2009