There would be little dispute in acknowledging that Mr. Arun Jaitley is among the more sophisticated and well informed Indian political leaders today. Recently Mr. Jaitley justified shouting and disruption of proceedings by his party in parliament and scuttling a debate on the Coalgate issue. He justified it by pointing out that similar tactics deployed to get official action on the 2G scam had succeeded. He said that there was no other way to get results in this system.
The Maoists professedly to help the plight of the exploited and impoverished tribal population swear by Mao’s ideology. To bring about revolution they kill policemen and landlords. When criticized for the violence they say that there is no other way to get results in this system.
|Can a just and democratic system dependent on the rule of law emerge from a struggle that succeeds by breaking laws and due procedures?
Mr. Arvind Kejriwal inspired by Mahatma Gandhi has started a Satyagraha for cheap electric power. In an event, either spontaneous or artificially manufactured, he helped a victim whose electric connection had been cut for non-payment of dues. Mr. Kejriwal defied the law to personally restore the connection. He said he was prepared to meet the consequences and go to jail. He urged people to stop paying electricity bills.
Understandably he received wide publicity in the entire media with his photograph restoring the electric connection splashed on the front pages. If more such happening occur, and I anticipate they will, Mr. Kejriwal’s party could acquire significant success in the forthcoming assembly polls. His party might even win the election. But how far will that address the national crisis? Election victories do not guarantee political reform. Mr. Kejriwal argues that there is no other way to get results in this system. That is why he has adopted Gandhi’s approach.
In principle Mr. Jaitley, the Maoists and Mr. Kejriwal are presenting similar arguments. They claim that the only way to get results in this system is by breaking procedure, rule and law. To get laudable results is their end. To achieve it procedure and laws have to be broken. But should not then the system be reformed? Of course it should. Doubtless all three have their respective formula to reform it. But can they ever succeed even if they acquire unfettered power? It is doubtful because the road each has adopted for change is the wrong road.
Mr. Kejriwal swears by Gandhi and therefore has adopted his approach. But did not Gandhi discard his own approach after India became independent? He wrote on his last day that the Congress needed to be disbanded even though India had gained independence “through means devised by the Indian National Congress”. He therefore considered the means adopted by the Congress against alien rule inappropriate in a sovereign democratic India in which laws are enacted by elected representatives of the people. Yet the means that his admirers continue to adopt by invoking his name are those used by the Congress before India became independent.
At the heart of the controversy created by those who seek results by discarding procedure and laws is the relationship between means and ends. At what stage does a worthwhile end justify the discard of laws and due procedure? This is the question that protagonists and opponents of the various votaries of change have to grapple with. Well, they might reflect on what Gandhi thought of the problem. He was asked once what should take priority – means or ends. His classic answer said it all. He reportedly said: “Means are the end.”
One would urge all votaries of change committed to a democratic system to reflect. Can a just and democratic system dependent on the rule of law emerge from a struggle that succeeds by breaking laws and due procedures? The current system does not deliver satisfactory results. Have the so-called reformers studied it and analyzed the causes of its failure? But that would call for an attempt to genuinely reform the system, not just to win an election.