Unruly democrats in democratic Polity-Need for action
Dr. VK Bahuguna
Indian democracy has taken deep roots in the past 60 years after independence with outstanding parliamentarians contributing in strengthening its edifice and making India a shining example of a vibrant modern democratic nation of more than 125 crore people. However, the nation’s politicians cannot and should not live on their laurels and must take a serious note of the rogue elements which have made their way in the electoral politics. The behaviour of one of our honourable Member of Lok Sabha on 23rd March with an officer of the Air India is a criminal act and unpardonable behaviour. The incidents of unruly behaviors of our elected representative who are responsible for making laws for the country are getting more and more frequent all over the country both inside the houses as well as outside.
The masses appears to have accepted it and the hue and cry raised soon after dies down and the culprits become more and more emboldened. Though such elements comprises of a very miniscule of our polity these fringe elements nevertheless, take their electorate for granted and believe that breaking laws is their right with the result that law abiding citizens are at the receiving end of their arrogance like the Mr Sukumar of Air India. That is where the country’s governance comes to zero point in the eyes of international communities. The political parties are waiting for the patience of the people to run out. The incident of brutal assault on one of the Air India staffby the Lok Sabha MP in Delhi has created an outrage of protest all over the country against such uncalled for uncivilized behavior by this gentleman law maker. This has also taken all the political parties by surprise including his own party has disowned his action. Now the time has come to take advantage of this unsavory situation and enforce the law of democratic games and prevent making mockery of the democratic values which in long term due to such actions can lead us to anarchy and fascism.
Now let us examine why it is happening. If we review the proceedings of two houses of parliament for the last 5 to 10 years and compare it with any other parliament of the world like UK USA and even Malaysia and Singapore it becomes very clear that a miniscule of our parliamentarian are violating the ethos of parliamentary debate which is the corner stone of parliamentary democracy. The competitive electoral politics is leading to abhorrence for respecting the opposite views. This is being tolerated by all political parties. The net result is it is increasing the unruly behavior by some of the parliamentarian. While most of our parliamentarians are dedicated seasoned politicians but are being taken over by the fringe electoral thinking of a few leading to disruptions of houses and huge wastage of tax payers’ money. Such behaviour then extends outside the parliament as this incident shows.
The constitution provides remedy for running the parliament smoothly but in the name of freedom of expression and democratic values it is never resorted. This liberal attitude is now proving counterproductive. It is high time that our law makers and the present Prime Minster who is leading a government with a comfortable majority decides to check this trend forthwith and set standard norm for the behaviour. It should start from ensuring smooth functioning of the parliament and state assemblies. In the instance case the parliament must take exemplary appropriate action against this member for assaulting a public servant who was performing his official duties. The crime is more severe since he was openly flaunting his action on TV cameras. First, he had violated the section 353 and 186 of the IPC and secondly his tantrum inside the aircraft tantamount to high jacking the aircraft as the aircraft was scheduled to fly another destination.
After getting elected the parliamentarians are expected to be more polite and erudite since large sections of the people they represent are poor and need to be contacted any time by their representatives. Over a period of time the culture of service has changed and is focused more on privileges. This culture is spreading fast and the distance between people and the law makers is increasing. The Election Commission had several times approached the government for electoral reforms. The money and muscle power has taken over the election process. This writer has the firsthand experience of money and liquor being freely distributed in Uttarakhand election and the gullible people lapping on it gleefully unaware that they are being corrupted and their vote is being stolen. In fact, the money sanctioned for MPs and MLA’s for work in their constituencies is the biggest source of corrupting the people and creating a coterie of contractors and it must be done away with. Instead of that a list of activities in a particular constituency should be collected annually and processed by the concerned department and work executed under the supervision of the Members of Parliament or State Assemblies. Further, the pension for public representatives needs to be reviewed. A minimum period of one term of five years should be fixed. Like other public servants who get pension after 20 years MPs and MLAs are also public servants. In the present case the MP became furious for not getting a Business class seat while travelling from Pune to Delhi. He travelled in the economy class and then created a raucous on arrival. It is a matter of consideration as to how many people of his constituency are travelling by air leave aside travelling by Business class. The public representatives should be rooted with the social profile of his constituency. The senior government servants of additional and joint secretary level after putting on 25 to 30 years of service travel by economy class within the country. Similarly new members of parliament should be entitled forBusiness class only for official functions and rest of the passes must be of economy class.
The country needs well groomed people in our assemblies and parliament. Fighting an election has become a business now and only moneyed people can fight the election and this promotes corruption as the candidate recovers the money after election. In order to get genuinely interested people with fewer resources in our electoral process we must drastically reduce the time for campaigning and expense limits needs to be curtailed drastically since now the social media is abundantly available and the literacy rate is very high. The Election Commission’s model codes of conduct are very bookish and impractical. Let us hope this incident will bring some change in our polity.
*The author is the former Principal Secretary Government of Tripura& Chairman Foundation of Integrated Resource Management a not for profit Trust and raises the voice of people. He can be contacted at email@example.com.