Fighting Insurgencies: Soft Heads Make Soft State
Nitish Kumar is the latest leader to join the nonsensical brigade dealing with India’s burgeoning Maoist insurgency. In response to Home Minister Chidambaram’s invitation to the chief ministers of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to discuss joint strategy to counter the Maoists Nitish Kumar declined to attend. He said that he disagreed with the government’s approach to tackle Maoists who “are our own people”. What he meant of course was that the Maoists were his own voters waiting to be wooed on the eve of the impending Bihar state assembly elections. Presumably he considers Kashmiris, Assamese, Manipuris, Bodos, Sikhs and members of various other insurgencies to be not our own people.
While the West Bengal Chief Minister joined the parleys because the ruling CPI-M government is opposed by the Maoists, Union Minister Mamata Banerjee who seeks support of the Maoists in the forthcoming West Bengal assembly elections asked the government to restrain action against the Maoists. Can these minions motivated solely by petty electoral calculations ever fight insurgency effectively?
The rot goes even deeper. Some time back when the Union government suggested the establishment of a central federal agency that could effectively fight insurgencies the state governments shot down the proposal. The states stung by the bitter experience of the centrally controlled CBI acting as a tool of the Union government believed that a federal agency to fight terror would be misused likewise. Now four states have agreed to fight the Maoist menace jointly. Why? Because out dim witted politicians are incapable of reforming the system. They can rely only on ineffective ad hoc opportunism.
Experience shows that there is merit in the complaint that a centrally administered agency like CBI is misused by politicians ruling the centre. Right now the BJP is complaining about misuse of the CBI by the UPA government. It is of course conveniently overlooking its own record when in power at the centre. So how can centrally administered federal agencies get insulated from political partisanship? Legislators seeking votes will not rise above electoral calculations. There is an obvious solution which India’s political twits refuse to recognize.
Only the President has the electoral mandate to ensure legal governance in the centre and the states. The Inter State Council suggested in the Constitution as the instrument to deal with all centre-state relations remains a dead letter after more than six decades of independence. All this because our politicians, our judges and our jurists are besotted with the irrationally held idea that India’s elected President is akin to the titular British Sovereign. So skewed is their logic that the commonest objection to giving powers to the President as enshrined in our written Constitution is that the President could become a dictator. In fact the only time India experienced dictatorship was when an elected Prime Minister fraudulently imposed Emergency and an impotent President did not honour his oath of office.
Time is running out. India desperately needs a cohesive executive that can protect national security. Only by vesting the President with the responsibilities assigned to him by our Constitution can that be achieved. British politicians are willing to reappraise the unwritten Constitution of the Mother of Parliaments. Indian politicians remain frozen with a flawed interpretation of our own Constitution. They should recall what the so-called Father of our Constitution said in a parliamentary debate on September 2, 1953.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha on the issue of creating the Andhra Pradesh state BR Ambedkar said: “People always keep saying to me: 'Oh, you are the maker of the Constitution.' My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do, I did much against my will… We have inherited the idea that the Governor must have no power at all, that he must be a rubber stamp. If a minister, however (much a) scoundrel he may be, if he puts up a proposal before the Governor, he has to ditto it. That is the kind of conception about democracy which we have developed in this country."
Ambedkar then asked the Home Minister that if discretionary powers were given to Governors on the lines of the Canadian Constitution would that be undemocratic? The Home Minister pointed out that Ambedkar had drafted the Constitution. Ambedkar responded: "My friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody."
There is no need to burn the Constitution. It is more than adequate to give discretion to the President to act as a brake against misuse of power and subversion of law. Indeed, with minor amendments to the present procedure of electing the President, which in no way would alter the basic structure of the Constitution, the President could be given not only a national legislative mandate but also a popular mandate. BR Ambedkar unlike Nehru and a host of other Indian leaders did not study in Britain. He was an outstanding law student in America which is much more similar to India in size and ethnic diversity than Britain. It would have been a miracle if he had not seen the merits of a Presidential system for India.
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Dr. Rajinder Puri
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||Not just soft heads and a misplaced "Gandhian" ideology, I am convinced that there is a complete disconnect between ground realities, perceptions and strategies of the police/army and the nonsense concocted in the corridors of power. ||