Rediff Navigator News


Capital Buzz

The Rediff Poll

Crystal Ball

Click Here

The Rediff Special


The Rediff Special/C Subramaniam

People who occupy positions of power should be like sanyasis

We are in a very unfortunate situation where there is a good deal of instability and people are losing confidence in the system itself. What we have got to do now is not treat the symptoms, but the disease. What is the cause which has brought about the situation? We have experienced the working of our Constitution for fifty years, therefore now the time has come to review the functioning of the Constitution in these five decades.

What has led to this situation? I would identify two main causes which are inter-related. Firstly, the party system. In a democracy, particularly a parliamentary democracy, the party system is the basic structure. If that party system is not healthy, it will get reflected in the functioning of the democracy. That means in the functioning of Parliament and the assemblies at the state level. Therefore in my view, first of all, we should have some regulation with regard to the formation and functioning of the parties.

Today, parties are not regulated by any law or convention. The time has come to have a parliamentary legislation to see that parties are formed on a firm basis of ideology and conviction. And every party should have internal democracy. It should not become an autocratic structure which it has become in almost all parties, except a few.

Secondly, while they have ordinary members, those who happen to occupy position of responsibility in the party should observe certain discipline, which is very important. And the discipline should be specified. Those who want to contest elections should have stricter discipline. And when they get elected, it should be tightened further. When they become ministers, their discipline should be very, very tight so that the power given to them for the purpose of serving the community is not utilised for their private ends.

I have always said that people who occupy positions of power should be like sanyasis. They should give up personal interests, and have only the interests of the nation, particularly the interests of the poorer sections of the people etc.

So the party system itself should get disciplined. This was observed during the freedom struggle. If you look at the functioning of the Congress party, the Indian National Congress, at that time, you will see discipline was imposed and observed at various levels. Now, there should be a body outside the party which should be entrusted with the task of looking at these things. Within the party also they can have a machinery.

Most important is an outside machinery, perhaps a cell within the Election Commission to look after the management of the various political parties, what they are doing, how they are functioning, etc. Just like the Election Commission, we should have eminent people, perhaps from the retired judiciary, or even civil service. We can always get such people.

After all, for occupying any post in government, you require training, you require rules of discipline. If those who are going to control the entire country adopt any attitude and any selfish purposes for which they can use power, certainly it cannot be sustained. Not only in our country, in other countries too charges of corruption have become a part of the system.

We should look into what our ancestors have said: dharma. A ruler has to observe strict dharma. If you look into our ancient scriptures, there was Rama rajya and Ravana rajya existing at the same time. In Rama rajya, the rajya was for the people, a king had to live and serve the people, look after the welfare of the people. But in Ravana rajya, the people had to look after the desires, fulfil the desires of the ruler. This is what is happening here today. When Gandhiji said, we should have Rama rajya here, what he meant was, those who are in power should not use it for their own self interest, but for the interests of the people.

We have to look into the electoral system also. In my view, it is the electoral system which has led to the many small parties, regional parties, caste-based parties, etc. In the present system, anybody who comes on top in the election process is elected. But he might have received just 10 or 15 per cent of the votes because votes get distributed. Therefore, a caste group is able to get his caste representative elected.

In the same way, small parties get their representatives elected in certain places and think their parties can have all privileges. We have to create a method where this could be avoided. And, there are precedents for that too. One, when a person does not gain absolute majority in the votes polled, the first and second persons can be asked to fight a second election. This way, one of them will get a majority. This may be a little bit costly. But it is much better than going through the process of small parties coming into existence because this will automatically cut down the number of political parties.

Of course, there is this other system also where people vote for parties and not for individuals. Each has got its own virtues and defects. For example, in Germany there is a combination of both. Half the members are elected on an individual basis by voting for the candidate. The other fifty per cent is for the parties. So, in an election, a person has votes, one for the candidate of the constituency and one for the party. The votes polled by the parties throughout the country is taken into account and proportionately the number of representatives are allotted. The urgent need is to rectify the defect in the functioning of our system.

We always say there is a good deal of violence, indiscipline, etc. But this is a reflection of what is happening in Parliament and the assemblies. There should be stricter observance of the rules of the game in Parliament and the assemblies. You saw the functioning of Parliament. Now it is exposed through television. What respect will people have for the those representatives who are shouting and rushing into the well of the House?

The Speaker should have greater power to regulate. In our days, when the Speaker said, 'Order! Order!', there was complete silence. Only one person can address the House at a time. If another person wants to say something, he should stand up and take permission. He can't just get up and begin shouting. Once a person is on his legs, nobody can be standing or speaking. This was the sort of discipline we observed in Parliament. We have to look into this. Perhaps then real democracy representing for the people, by the people and of the people will be there.

It is true that there are always periods of ebb and tide in human society itself. For example, count the number of leaders who could be called world leaders by the end of the Second World War. There was Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Marshall Tito, Stalin, Chiang Kaishek. In our own country, apart from Mahatma Gandhi, who stands on a different footing altogether, we had Pandit Nehru, C Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad, Vallabhbhai Patel and Abul Kalam Azad. Now can you name one person from the whole world who can be called a world leader, who would be accepted as the world leader? It is because of the ebb and tide in the affairs of men.

My only hope is, we have reached the bottom of the ebb and we can't go further down. So, we should start going up. There are signs that things have changed. That is mainly because of the awakening that has come in the electorate. They are now not prepared to tolerate corruption. You can't just appeal to their emotion and say you work for them.

Former Union finance minister C Subramaniam spoke to Shobha Warrier.

C Subramaniam, continued

Tell us what you think of C Subramaniam's opinion

The Rediff Special

Home | News | Business | Cricket | Movies | Chat
Travel | Life/Style | Freedom | Infotech

Copyright 1997 Rediff On The Net
All rights reserved