India has entered the new Millennium without the aura of the much-touted millennium. Indian democracy is shallower and hollower now than a decade ago. If India has to develop into a full-blown democracy, instead of merely gloating over sustaining democracy as its greatest achievement, India ought to strengthen its democratic structures and institutions and make concerted efforts for clean, corruption-free, efficient, secular, transparent and people-centric governance; rapid expansion of civil space for rapid secularisation and democratisation of state and society with secular public institutions mediating between both; equip and energise the judiciary for expeditious justice delivery, especially for the masses who cannot afford to spend and cannot afford to wait; and protect and uplift the weaker sections from poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and social oppression. As the nation has been caught between the two evils Congress and BJP, team-Annas anticorruption surge, launching of th
AAPs new political paradigm as game changer
Professor P Radhakrishnan
We would like to have educated, committed and dedicated people to come forward as we want to change the face of politics in India. Delhi being our debut election, we want to showcase it as a model for the rest of the country.
IN the opening paragraph of one of the essays in this book, I have said the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare is the best thing to happen to India since its independence in 1947. I would now go a step further and say the surge in Delhi of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) launched by the Arvind Kejriwal teambarely a year ago, doing virtually the impossible in the Assembly polls of December 4, 2013 and the unthinkable thenceis the best of the best things to happento India since its independence.
Aam Aadmi Partys arrival
With a band of dedicated persons, mostly young, thrown up by the Anna Hazare movement, in which Kejriwal played a major role; with no funds, experience, and muscle power, through hard, sincere, well thought out and well-coordinated work the AAP has shown the possibility of extricating the nation from the morass into which successive governments have pushed it, with Kejriwal proving to be a historic game changer or change maker.
Since the Anna Hazare movement politicians, Delhis bumbledom and crony capitalists across the country have been a worried lot because of the fear of Kejriwal exposing their corruption, money-laundering, and other crimes. When I look back I feel happy for my following statement in a later essay published in response to nitpicking by some TV channels:
It is impossible to take on the might of a byzantine state which has surrendered national interests to crony capitalism, and is pervasive in corruption, undemocratic, unscrupulous, disdainful and insensate to constitutional morality and people-centric governance, and frighteningly turning more and more autocratic and fascist with every passing day. It is in this calamitous context the work of Arvind Kejriwal and team has to be understood. It is idiocy to dismiss it as expression of political ambition. Even if it is political ambition instead of speculating it may become power hungry it ought to be encouraged; for India is badly in need of young, well-informed, upright, upfront and no-nonsense politicians committed to cleansing its political Augean stables.
The youthful AAP and the young
Though half of Indias population is young and by 2020 Indiais set to become the worlds youngest country, as The Economist of June 15, 2013 reported, yet it is the young who should really moan: about the elderly who clog Indian politics, and a stultifying culture of deference to the old. Manmohan Singh, at 80, is one of the worlds oldest leaders and his cabinet creaks with pensioners. Pranab Mukherjee, the president, is 77.
In a dismal situation like this, as in the Anna Hazare movement in the rise to power of the AAP in Delhi there was much to rejoice. Among other things it enabled the aam aadmi to dream of a better tomorrow; and that dream has been strengthened by the AAPs voluntary exit from power on February 14 barely 49 days after it rose to power.
As sections of the media reported,the AAP Cabinet was not just the youngest ever but also probably the first in which all members, including the Chief Minister, were debutant MLAs. The AAP hasthus begun to create the much-needed political space for the youth across the country, beginning with Delhi. The significance of this can be understood only if we bear in mind that, going by estimates reported in the press, of Indias 833 million voters in 2014 about20 per cent and 47 per cent are in the age groups 18-23 and 18-35 years respectively. So any political party that can capture the imagination of the voters in these two groups will have an edge in elections. And there is none other than the AAP to do so.
That apart,as politically important and meaningful gestures can do a lot to strengthen democracy and youth power, with austerity as watchword, demonstrating the ordinariness of the Aam Aadmi Party (literally, the commoners party) as a first step to put an end to Delhis VIP culture the Kejriwal team taking Delhi Metro to reach the Ramlila Maidan on December 28, 2013 a thoughtfully selected venue for the swearing-in as it was from here Anna Hazare started the anti-corruption movement --, without any fanfare and VIPs, in the heart of the capital that was thronged by over a lakh of people hoping to see a new alternative political system, with Kejriwals impassioned speech after the swearing-in in which he spelt out the rules by which he would govern Delhi, promising an end to corruption. Capping his speech with a Manna Dey song (from an old Bollywood film "Paigham")Insaan se insaan ka ho bhaichara, yehi hai paigam hamara (people should have brotherly relations, this is our message)," sang to loud cheers, Kejriwal struck an instant chord with the masses, especially the youth. In keeping with the AAPs promise to end Delhis VIP culture as a second step Kejriwal declined the offer of official bungalows to the AAP ministers, official security, lal battis (red beacons) that signal VIPs' cars and confer right of way,and escort vehicles, to ministers and officials.
The AAPs contribution in too short a time is too big even to imagine. That is, the new political space and the new political culture it tried to create devoid of the VIP syndrome, with aam aadmi or common man or commoner at the centre of governance. The report of February 16 by Gaurav Sharmafor the news agency IANS on Kejriwals 49 days in power under the headline Arvind Kejriwal: 49 Days of Adrenaline-pumping; Will It Return?ran thus:
Under the weight of expectations of 16 million people, the rookie establishment set sail by reshuffling bureaucrats considered "loyal" to the Congress which ruled Delhi for 15 years. Delhi Secretariat was thrown open to public on the AAP's maiden day in power - an unprecedented act. Within a few days, the AAP began delivering on its big ticket promises on which it had wrested power from the Grand Old Party of India - the Congress - which has ruled the country for over five decades.
Contrary to the expectations of its critics and political opponents, who had termed its promises impractical, the AAP delivered on cheap water and power. The government worked on weekends, giving a tough but exciting time to journalists who were never short of stories. Even a single line statement by the Chief Minister was a story for journalists, who relentlessly reported each and every step of the government. It seemed like a carnival.
Obviously by his stormy exit from as by his stormy entry to power in Delhi Kejriwal cast a long shadow on which the hidebound and opportunistic would fear to tread. That explains the criticism by sections of the media, politicians and some individuals of Kejriwal going by Delhi Metro for the swearing-in; swearing-in at Ramlila Maidan; Kejriwal as Chief Minister of Delhi leading a group of some 150 cadre from his AAP on January 20, to launch an unprecedented protest outside Parliament House, demanding executive control of the Delhi Police and transfer of the police personnel who defied his governments orders; filing FIRs against Mukhesh Ambani and cabinet ministers for flouting the contract, increasing the gas price and hence causing loss to exchequer; Kejriwals resignation when the Jan Lokpal Bill was stalled in the assembly by the Congress-BJP combine; and so on.
It is not that the Kejriwal team was in perfect harmony in running the Delhi government, for which the Centre has to be squarely blamed as the Delhi assembly is still an appendage of the Centre. As beginners in the theatre of the absurd the team might have had introspection, and having realised when and where they were blunderbuss they are expected to be better politicians in the making. In any case, it is preposterous to have a Union Territory which has elected chief minister and other ministers without the vital law and order machinery, which is with the centre; and the continuing control by the central government of large parts of Delhis governance which makes a mockery of the Delhi assembly and elections to it. This goes against the very ethos of federalism and democratic decision making. That apart, when seen against the functioning of the centre and the 15th Lok Sabha the criticisms are trivial; and Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, calling Kejriwal an anarchistagain showed the palpable lack of democratic ethos in the UPA ministry.
In this context it is relevant to quote from the article Anarchist or activist by Dipanker Gupta in The Hindu of January 29:
From Annas rally to the anti-rape agitations to Chief Minister Kejriwals sit in and sleep-in earlier this month, discussions on this subject are only getting louder. Even the President of India sounded the bugle in his speech on the eve of Republic Day when he warned against anarchy taking over constitutionalism... If a Chief Minister is anarchist because he took to the streets, how then would we label the late French President François Mitterrand? After all, in 1983 he gave a heros welcome in the Élysée Palace, no less, to anti-racist protesters who were angry with his own government. In fact, in 1980, as leader of the Socialist Party, he joined a widely popularised street march against attacks on Jewish people, along with Pierre Chevènement and Michel Rocard. Were they all anarchists? Or think of Bertrand Russell and his activism against nuclear bombs. Another anarchist or a well-meaning democrat? ... Neither street demonstrations nor working from a makeshift office under a tent amounts to anarchism.... When streets erupt in a democracy it is nearly always because institutions are not delivering as they had promised to. It is never a good idea to barricade popular voices by institutional walls.... The AAP has forced us to discuss all these issues again and that can only be good for democracy.
An article, Arvind Kejriwal, a messiah against crony capitalists in The Economic Times of February 17 by V. Balakrishnan, who joined the AAPby paying Rs. 10 for becoming a member justone day after he ended a 22-year career at Infosys, where he rose to become a director of the infotech company, and told the press "AAP is the most successful start-up by an IIT-ian ever; I would like to be a part of the revolution happening in the country, places in perspective Kejriwals rise to power and exit from it to take his fight to other parts of the country. The article merits full reproduction:
In a country which was used to the traditional parties coming back to power again and again with no intention to change the status quo, Aam Aadmi Partys... ascent to power in Delhi was a breath of fresh air.
This is almost the first time in the history of this country an infant political party formed with the sole aim of providing clean and honest governance had captured the imagination of the people in such a short time. They ran an honest and clean campaign with full disclosure of their funding, which is, quite alien to the current political system in the country. They got enough seats but still not enough to form the government on their own. The Congress party gave its support, without even it being sought for, as the mandate of the people became very clear. The main agenda of AAP was to bring in the Jan Lokpal Bill and the Swaraj Bill which is core to its agenda of clean and honest governance while empowering the citizens.
One needs to understand that AAP is not a traditional political party. AAP from day one made its intentions very clear that it is not going to play by the status-quo and would resort to unconventional means, if required, to achieve its goals. They were fearless to take on any system or individuals to prove their point. Some call it anarchy while many call it revolution.
There are divergent views on the constitutional powers of the Delhi assembly to pass Jan Lokpal bill without the consent of the Central Government. Without getting into the merits of such arguments, there are two things, which I think are important.
First, what is the use of the power if you can't bring the change you want to bring in? AAP's core agenda is to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill and Swaraj Bill in the Delhi Assembly. If the existing system does not allow them to pass such laws, for whatever reasons, without falling into the trap of the traditional status quoist compromises which the system demands, what is the use of such power?
Second, with the dependency on Congress and BJP being very high to pass the bill, waiting for some more time is not going to help. If both Congress and BJP wanted a strong Lokpal Bill as requested by Anna and his team including Arvind Kejriwal, they could have passed a strong Lokpal Bill in the Parliament itself. The diluted Lokpal Bill passed in the Parliament is a testimony to their intentions. Going to courts is not an option as the timelines are long.
One can hate him, ignore him or term him as an anarchist. But, majority will see him as a crusader who had questioned the current system and asked the most difficult questions which the mainstream parties are scared to ask. He will be seen as a messiah who had sacrificed the power just to fight against the crony capitalism and corruption in this country. His focus on providing clean governance where honest enterprises can do business and flourish, will resonate well with majority of the corporate that are honest.
By resigning, Arvind Kejriwal had clearly made Corruption, Clean governance and Crony capitalism (three "C"s) as the main issues for the 2014 parliamentary elections. It will clearly resonate well with larger sections of the electorate who are honest. I strongly believe that it is very important for the idea of AAP to succeed, as its failure will only take the Crony capitalism and Corruption to disproportionate levels.
16th Lok Sabha elections and the AAP
End of the road for UPA and Congress
An editorial in The Hindu of February 6, thoughtfully titled No business as usual, drives home effectively the all-round degeneration of the nation under the UPA-2:
Clearly, there is no solution that will fully satisfy either the Telangana supporters or those fighting for a united Andhra Pradesh. But the national leadership of the Congress and the Centre could have acted earlier to push through a compromise formula addressing the concerns of both sides to the extent possible. But the approach seems to have been reactive, and calculated to delay matters as much as possible.
In terms of number of bills passed, this Lok Sabha will fare the worst among those that have completed a full five-year term. Too many important bills have been left to the very end, and their fate hangs in the balance. Indeed, this situation sums up the performance of the UPA-II government confused, indecisive, and weak. Despite seeing through important pieces of legislation such as the Food Security Act and the Right to Education Act, the governments record on the legislative front is poor. It did precious little to push through the Womens Reservation Bill. If the current session ends the way it has begun, without transacting any substantive business, that would indeed mirror the functioning of UPA-II over the last five years
Another editorial, Democracy in peril in the same newspaper on February 24, after the last day of the 15th Lok Sabha on February 21 was even more scathing:
Indian democracy has over time shown a resilience that has been marvelled at the world over. Yet, 67 years after its birth, the worlds largest democracy is faced with a crisis of faith too scarily large to be ignored. As the 15th Lok Sabha comes to an ignominious end, it is no longer possible to put off the question: are we a democracy only in name? Without a proactive course correction, Indias robust record in conducting elections could end up being just that a ritualistic, five-yearly obeisance to democracy that hides the appalling state of the countrys institutions, in particular Parliament which today resembles a wrestling arena....
A dark chapter was added to this saga when the Lok Sabha passed The Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Bill amidst a TV blackout. There cannot be a worse commentary on the state of democracy than the blackout of the proceedings of the lower House of Parliament where the collective will of the people is deemed to reside. It would seem only natural then that the 15th Lok Sabha should have recorded the worst performance in more than 50 years; productivity, which was 107 per cent in the third Lok Sabha, scaled a peak of 120 per cent in the seventh, only to crash to 61 per cent in the 15th; the outgoing Lok Sabha passed 177 of the 326 Bills scheduled for passage.
By the time the 15th Lok Sabha completed its last day, the UPA government had virtually surrendered the nations sovereignty to the US through its instrumentalities like the World Bank (as evident from the essay The World Bank as Imperialist Instrument), and crony capitalists; and continued with its venality by playing its age-old caste, communal, and other cards of political opportunism, such as the surreptitious illegal hanging of Afzal Guru; putting its weight behind caste quota by its announcement on January 30 of approval to the amendment of the Central list of Other Backwards Classes to ensure reservation benefits to around 60 more castes/communities; UPAPresident Sonia Gandhis reiteration on February 5 that the caste quota, introduced and strengthened by her party, would continue to be championed by it;UPAs decision on March 2, to give reservation to Jats in nine northern states; andParliaments last minute passing of theAP Reorganisation Bill for the creation of the Telangana state, all apparently with an eye on the 16th Lok Sabha elections.
That apart, the UPA government repeatedly showed its fascist streak, which was the main reason for Parliaments repeated failure to function effectively. It subverted the Constitution on many occasions as in the functioning of the Parliamentary committees; misused constitutional bodies in its own interest. It showed utter disdain for the highest court of the land, as in the case of linking government subsidies to the dangerous and dubious Aadhaar card despite the court order to the contrary. Its misguided governance favouring crony capitalists and policy paralysis It wallowed in lie after lie putting at risk the integrity of the government and peoples faith in it, as evident from among other things the essay on 2G spectrum scam.
As The Economist of June 15, 2013 reported, at times Indian politics looks to be a choice between dynasty and disarray. The ruling Congress party has a crude, unmeritocratic but at least decisive method of picking its leader: if youre a Gandhi, then its you.
The disarray has not been by choice. It has been caused by the persistence of the Congress party as a Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, though Mahatma Gandhis advice was for dissolution of the Congress after independence. This is evident from the draft constitution of Congress as contained in the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi:
Though split into two, India having attained political independence through means devised by the Indian National Congress, the Congress in its present shape and form, i.e., as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine, has outlived its use. India has still to attain social, moral and economic independence in terms of its seven hundred thousand villages as distinguished from its cities and towns. The struggle for the ascendency of civil over military power is bound to take place in Indias progress towards its democratic goal. It must be kept out of unhealthy competition with political parties and communal bodies. For these and other similar reasons, the A. I. C. C. resolves to disband the existing Congress organization and flower into a Lok Sevak Sangh... with power to alter them as occasion may demand.
In an article, From Gandhis last testament, a lesson for the Congress in The Hindu of November 29, 2012, A. M. Mahmood Husain postulated the problem somewhat differently:
The job of winning political freedom was almost over. Even amidst the Partition conflagration raging on all sides, Gandhiji found time to respond to the first faint rumblings of corruption in the administration. A telling letter from a very old veteran from Andhra (reproduced in Pyarelals Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase, Vol.II) spotlighted the problem for him. With unerring prescience he could see that the corruptions of absolute power would one day overwhelm the state and went on whole hog in his uncompromising way to propose dissolution of the 63-year-old Congress and its rebirth as a non-political Lok Sevak Sangh. One needs to pause and try to figure out: was he advocating hara-kiri or was it a passing thought or was it a characteristic Gandhian stratagem of stooping to conquer dont we remember the occasion when he said he was not even a four anna member of the Congress and remained its most powerful voice?
Every successive decline of the dynasty since the 1970s brought with it as its concomitant and corollary disarray in Indian politics. That disarray has now reached its nationally disastrous nadir.
In any case, dynasty did not work in the Assembly election of 2012 and 2013. That the much mollycoddled Rahul Gandhi is not prime ministerial material is already clear. The Congress party does not have other persons of national stature as prime ministerial material. Its culture of sycophancy, flattery and flunkeyism, with a high command which is antithetical to democratic decision making, has already caused enough damage to the party and more damage to the nation. In the circumstances it is end of the road for the Congress and its confidence of coming to power again is wishful thinking.
As the Congress and its corrupt allies in the UPA are now virtually out, though the threat of Rahul likely to be foisted on the nation is still looming, as election campaigns by their very nature are insidious, another threat looming large is Hindutva straddling the nation in the form of Narendra Modi as BJPs prime ministerial candidate. The Economist of December 14, 2013 observed:
Modi as Prime Minister in waiting
If Mr Modi looks like the countrys leader-in-waiting, that is a measure of the state of the ruling party. Congress has been in power since 2004 and long ago lost its vim. Indias once-scintillating growth rate has fallen by half to 5%. With a need to find new jobs for 10m Indians joining the workforce each year, such sluggish growth brings a terrible human cost. It is this backdrop that makes Congresss drift and venality look so dangerous. The 81-year-old prime minister, Manmohan Singh, once a reformer, is serving out his days as a Gandhi family retainer...
The opportunistic third front
While Modis return to power cannot be ruled out, the hurriedly cobbled up third front of eleven parties is an opportunistic front as it is neither ideologically coherent or have the number. What is worse, many of them are notorious for corruption and shifting alliances in every election.
Jayalalithaas alterntive front
Jayalalithaas much tom-tomed alternative front, is neither an alternative nor a front and is equally a failed idea. That apart the AIADMKs manifesto is puerile particularly its promise of replicating the freebie syndrome of Tamil Nadu in the rest of the country.
AAPs alternative politics
Going by the trends the AAP leaders have reason for optimism that the party could contest 330 seats or more in the general election if they get the right candidates. As in the case of the Delhi election donations have been pouring in for the general election also; and in the election the AAP may turn out to be not only a giant killer, but more importantly, a giant game-changer as it has stunningly done in Delhi as a debutant; for it has a clear vision, clarity of thought, great ingenuity, uncanny ability to mobilize the masses, especially the commoners, and the techno-savvy youth solidly on its side. Its straight and sincere message to the electorate across the country of the importance of returning to power a clean, corruption-free, people-centric and youthful party is bound to make AAP the rallying point for the electorate, especially the youth. A new kind of political churning to that effect is already taking place. Even if the AAP does not make it to the seat of power at the Centre as a strong and well-meaning opposition it would ensure genuine secular democratic governance at the Centre.
All said youth have been the worst victims of the UPA misrule in their social deprivations such as lack of access to education, employment, health, and other necessities of life.
As mentioned earlier, if in the AAPs rise to power in Delhi there was much to rejoice in its exit on February 14, there is much more. For the AAP had reiterated that its work is not about winning elections and "substituting" the parties in power; it's about an "alternative politics"driven by a deep desire to bring about change at every level in our politics. Its exit from power in Delhi upholding its fight against corruption is the first thing to happen since Indias independence. If 90 years old Marxist veteran, V. S. Achuthanandan, who is still a tall, clean, no-nonsense mass leader did not hesitate to hail AAPs fight against corruption, there is indeed something great about the AAP's fight.
As a first step, the AAP has been announcing target lists of politicians with records of serious corruption charges against them. The AAPs foremost goal will be to defeat them in the Lok Sabha elections due by May, and drive home the message of zero-tolerance for corruption. In keeping with this spirit for the Lok Sabha elections the AAP released its first list of 20 candidates on February 16, second list of 30 candidates on February 27, and third list third list of 20 candidates on March 2. Many of the names in the three lists are of prominent persons with unimpeachable integrity. As the announcement of each list is after a thoroughgoing investigation of the persons antecedents its announcement of the remaining 260 candidates will be a gruelling task.
The real and historic significance of the new political space and new political culture the AAP has created, which it has to expand, sustain and strengthen in the general elections and the governance thence can be understood only against (a) the nationally disastrous governance of the UPA for ten years since 2004; (b) the communalist agenda of the Hindutva-centered BJP of hegemonic homogenization with nationally devastating effects as was clear during the governance of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister (1999-2004), when as part of the communal violence in different parts of the country the Hindutva hoodlums committed the heinous Gujarat pogrom or genocide of Muslims, whose long shadow is still chasing the BJP and the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi; and most importantly (c) the observations by three historical personalities. Of these (c) needs elaboration.
Before concluding his speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, Dr B. R. Ambedkar said (titles mine):
Will India lose her independence again?
Here I could have ended. But my mind is so full of the future of our country that I feel I ought to take this occasion to give expression to some of my reflections thereon. On 26th January of 1950, India will be an independent country What would happen to her independence? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again? This is the first thought that comes to my mind. It is not that India was never an independent country. The point is that she once lost the independence she had. Will she lose it a second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future. What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people
Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if they place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.
Will India lose her democratic Constitution again?
On the 26th of January 1950, India would be a democratic country in the sense that India from that day would have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The same thought comes to my mind. What would happen to her democratic Constitution? Will she be able to maintain it or will she lose it again. This is the second thought that comes to my mind and makes me as anxious as the first.
It is not that India did not know what Democracy is. There was a time when India was studded with republics, and even where there were monarchies, they were either elected or limited. They were never absolute. It is not that India did not know Parliaments or Parliamentary procedure. A study of the Buddhist Bhikshu Sanghas discloses that not only there were Parliaments for the Sanghas were nothing but Parliaments but the Sanghas knew and observed all the rules of Parliamentary Procedure known to modern times. They had rules regarding seating arrangements, rules regarding Motions, Resolutions, Quorum, Whip, Counting of Votes, Voting by Ballot, Censure motion, Regularization, Res Judicata, etc. Although these rules of Parliamentary Procedure were applied by the Buddha to the meetings of the Sanghas, he must have borrowed them from the political Assemblies functioning in the country in his time.
This democratic system India lost. Will she lose it a second time? I do not know, but it is quite possible in a country like India where democracy from its long disuse must be regarded as something quite new (Government of Maharashtra 1994: 1213-15).
The second set of observations is by Winston Churchill:
Is caste reconcilable with democracy?
I am a good deal more doubtful whether democracy believes in Parliamentary institutions. There was a very fine article, which greatly impressed me, written by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) reminding us of the utter failure of all the Parliaments that have ever been set up in the East. We have only to look across the Channel in Europe to see how democracy tends in its present manifestation to be injurious to the Parliamentary system and to the personal liberties, which are dear to the Liberal heart. I should like to ask the hon. Member, does he call this Bill democracy? Is the communal franchise democracy? Is caste reconcilable with democracy? Is the idea of 60,000,000 untouchables reconcilable with any sort of democratic system? The foundation of the democratic idea is that one man is as good as another, or better Is it democracy to have indirect election - four or five men in a room, we were told, choosing the delegates of a great Province? The hon. Member takes us to task as to whether we believe in it. I ask him the kind of democracy he is voting for. Is it democracy to spatchcock into the midst of your central elected chamber one-third of the representation of the stewards and bailiffs of the hereditary Princes, who are autocrats?
We may not agree with Churchill whom we condemned as racist and imperialist when he said that independence would plunge India into chaos and ruin because Indians were unfit to rule themselves. All the same, it is necessary to separate the person from his ideas, inasmuch as at least four of the issues Churchill raised are still relevant to the political situation in India.
These are (a) whether democracy believes in parliamentary institutions - for even at the best of times and even in the best of democratic nations, democracy survives only through the rhetoric of expectations; (b) whether caste is reconcilable with democracy; (c) whether the idea of 60,000,000 untouchables [now a much larger number] is reconcilable with any sort of democratic system; and (d) whether it is democracy to spatchcock into the midst of a central elected chamber one-third of the representation of the stewards and bailiffs of the hereditary Princes, who are autocrats, a phenomenon, which still prevails, though not exactly as Churchill said. Though (b) and (c) may appear overlapping, they are qualitatively different. The reference of (b) is to a rigidly caste-based hierarchical society. That of (c) is to the worst victims of this society whom Dr Ambedkar treated as a helpless minority placing them in the context of the tyranny of the majority Hindus.
The third observation is by Fali S. Nariman (Nariman 2013: 14) drawing upon Dr S. Radhakrishnan: When members of Indias Constituent Assembly first resolved to dedicate themselves, in all humility, to the service of the country and its people, Dr S. Radhakrishnan (later President of India) who had seconded the resolution warned that when power outstrips ability, we will fall on evil days.
As Nariman would have it, power has overtaken ability; we have fallen on evil days; there is a crisis of competence, along with a conspicuous lack of integrity, in almost all fields of activity more markedly in the political; and the entire country is submerged in a tidal wave of corruption; the public is fed up with politicians as a class.
Winston Churchills speech on the second reading of the Government of India Bill, 11 February 1935 (Excerpts). Source: Parliamentary Debates, Official Report, Fifth Series, Volume 297 (House of Commons), columns 1640-1663.