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
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
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
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