Chief Justice of India J S Khehar on Saturday criticised the electoral politics in the country, saying poll promises are “routinely unfulfilled”, caste issues projected differently to get a majority and party manifestos do not have any linkage to socio-economic justice.
The CJI said that electoral politics in India centres around “mobilisation and politicisation” of the social groups which were poor or disadvantaged and have long remained politically dominant.
Justice Khehar, who was speaking at a seminar on ‘Electoral Issues and Economic Reforms’, said, “Caste issues are projected in different ways to ensure a majority in each constituency.”
He said that ever since these marginalised sections have begun turning up in larger numbers to vote, it has led to an unprecedented volatility in the electoral outcome.
This has forced political parties to seek new forms of political alignment, social engineering and support, he said.
Despite these changes in the electoral process, the non-fulfilment of poll promises never becomes an electoral issue, the CJI observed.
“No consequence occurs whether promises are fulfilled or not. Every political party brazenly finds an excuse of not reaching consensus amongst like partners.
“Even our legal system provides for no consequences to be suffered by political parties if promises made in the manifesto are not fulfilled,” he said.
“Uninformed citizenry, with a short term memory forgets and the election manifesto becomes a mere piece of paper. For this political parties have to be made accountable,” the CJI said at the seminar.
Justice Dipak Misra, the next senior-most judge of the apex court, who spoke before the CJI, also stressed on the need for electoral and economic reforms by categorically stating that “purchasing power has no room in an election” and “a candidate must bear in mind that contesting elections is not an investment”.
“It is because in an elevated constitutional democracy, purity of election and credibility of the process of election have their signification,” he said.
He further said that elections have to be “bereft of criminalisation” and “must be perceived as an activity involving norms of fiscal morality”.
He said that the apex court had in 1996 said the best available men should be chosen as people’s representatives.
“This can be best achieved through men of high moral and ethical values who win elections on a positive vote obtained on their own merit and not by negative vote process of elimination from comparative demerits of the candidates,” Justice Misra said.
He also said that candidates and the voters are to remember the old saying that ‘out of debt out of danger’.
Justice Khehar said pursuant to Supreme Court’s directions to the Election Commission of India to formulate guidelines with regard to manifestos and freebies, the poll panel has introduced these in the model code of conduct and has been taking action against parties for its violation.
Speaking on the topic of economic reforms, the CJI said economic reforms are “confined only to economic growth and not linked to social and political justice”.
“Unconstitutional economics for economic growth produces serious socio-economic ills. Economic reforms take centre stage while democracy in terms of the priorities in the directive principles is overlooked, whereas the Constitution requires just the opposite.
“Consequently, electoral politics does not tell the citizens as to what kind of reforms they are entitled to under the Constitution,” he said.
The CJI said the real problem of economic reforms arises in their implementation.
“This problem arises because the Constitution treats the distribution and use of national wealth generated by the economic system as an integral part of generation of such wealth.
“Interestingly, political parties and their manifestos compartmentalise the generation of wealth separately from its end use,” it said.
Without mentioning the names of the political parties, the CJI referred to the slogans-- ‘Your Voice Our Pledge’ and ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’-- adopted by Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party respectively, in the 2014 general assembly polls, and said, their manifestos showed “no linkage between economic reforms and the Constitutional goal of socio-economic justice”.
The CJI, however, said the land reforms and the Industrial Disputes Act put in place by the government after Independence has resulted in people from the enormous below poverty line being brought into the equally enormous middle class.
“This is the economic reform that deals with and caters to the Directive Principles” and “it is this economic reform which has made all the difference between India and Pakistan”, where, the CJI said, individual families own hundreds of villages with the peasants living in mud huts and carrying out farming for the land owners.
Image: President Pranab Mukherjee with Chief Justice of India JS Khehar during the inauguration of All India Seminar. Photograph: PTI Photo