Rahul Gandhi during his speech in the Lok Sabha on August 26, 2011 said the following:
“…..A tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected Government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy.”
(I appreciate that this is only a small part of his speech but is not being deliberately taken out of context).
We hear similar sentiments expressed in different ways from a variety of people including politicians, judiciary, bureaucrats, intellectuals and others. Let us examine this concern in little more depth.
|Our Constitution envisioned the possibilities of its institutions going corrupt from time to time and provided the citizens the fundamental rights to apply pressure on them to align their actions in the best interests of the country.
We have a parliamentary democracy in India. We have a robust Constitution. It has given us three major institutions, the parliament, the judiciary and the executive government to run the country. I will not bring in the office of the President of India during this article to keep the analysis focused. We have the world’s largest democracy and it has sustained itself for the past 60 plus years. By any scrutiny, it could be easily concluded that we have three of the finest institutions that are well conceived and as good as any in the world. We must respect these institutions, cherish them and support them if we love our country and want to see it grow and prosper. It will be hard to find anybody who questions the architecture and integrity of these institutions.
Anna Hazare, by any measure, is a patriot. Why is he then being accused by the politicians, bureaucrats and certain elites of our country of undermining the supremacy of our democratic institutions?
I have tried to go on fast by taking water only for two days just to feel what Anna Hazare is going through. I did it in the comfortable surroundings of my home, not in the current humid and sweltering surroundings of the Ramlila Maidan. The first day was relatively easy, but starting in the afternoon of the second day onward the physiological impact on my body and mind started taking its toll. Anna Hazare is 6 years older than I am and to think that he is on the 11th day of his fast gives me some idea of the courage and integrity this individual has. The integrity in doing what he believes in and the courage in carrying it out regardless of the price he has to pay. To call him irrational and irresponsible would be a tragedy. Then, why is he confronting our venerable democratic institutions?
Let me start out by an example. In the physical plane we exist as body and intellect (I will keep the spirituality out of discussion in this context). The body is more tangible while the intellect is subtle. They are intertwined and inseparable. The body carries out the commands from the intellect and intellect is in turn nurtured by the body. One without the other is useless. To bring them in the existential plane and give them an identity both have to co-exist.
The same thing can be said about democratic institutions. The structure of the institutions – the body – is given by our Constitution. The intellect of these institutions is born by the elected representatives, the bureaucrats and the judges. So when we talk of these institutions, we are not only talking about their charter but also the people who carry out their functions. To identify one without the other is a fallacy.
These institutions exist for the country. The country is its people and is the ultimate sovereign. The institutions are there to serve the country and therefore its people. The country is a dynamic entity and goes through dynamic challenges that require commensurate response from these institutions. Implicit in all this is the basic assumption that the country and the institutions are a homogeneous entity with identical aspirations. What if this is no longer true? What if the institutions (not just the charter but the people who run it) have different aspirations than the country? What if they have their own agenda? What if this agenda is inherently selfish and comes at the cost of the country?
When this happens, the people who run the institutions hide behind the sanctity of the institutions. They remind us that the Constitution is supreme and therefore the institutions created by it are also supreme and cannot be questioned. They quickly recite to us the charter of the institutions. Here we see the classic case of the intellect using the body as the shield. All of a sudden the institutions are only identified by their charter and not by the people who run it and the consequences of their actions. This is deception at its best.
Take the case of the Government Lokpal Bill submitted to the Standing Committee in the parliament. I strongly urge everyone to read it carefully. It clearly displays the selfish attitude of the government’s drafting committee (if not the government) to shield themselves and their colleagues from the consequences of any ongoing and future corruptions that are rampant in the government. The bill was happily sailing through the parliament following all the due procedures of this venerable institution until Anna Hazare had the audacity to stand up and question it. Immediately he was accused of questioning the supremacy of the parliament (notwithstanding the actions of the parliamentarians).
Fortunately, the same Constitution that created the institution of the Parliament also gave the citizens of the country the fundamental rights to carry out peaceful protests against its government with wide latitude. What about this right? Where does it measure up on the ladder of supremacy versus the government institutions?
Our Constitution envisioned the possibilities of its institutions going corrupt from time to time and provided the citizens the fundamental rights to apply pressure on them to align their actions in the best interests of the country. The election process does not give them a blank mandate to carry out law making at their whim under the guise of supremacy of the institution.
In a strong and vibrant democracy, the citizens are actively involved in the process of governance not just by participating in the election process but also making sure that their democratic institutions remain fully transparent and represent the interest of the country.
The concept of “get out of way after the elections” and let “us” run the affairs of the country as “we see it fit” is detrimental to democracy and speaks volumes about the arrogant attitude of our politicians.
We are not questioning the charter of our democratic institutions but the motives and actions of the people who run them. We need to do it whenever the situation demands. This is our fundamental right and responsibility.