The sad Indian political circus: Unprecedented state of anarchy

The sooner the ruling UPA and opposition parties seek a vote from the people the better. But both sides may not be prepared to face the wrath of the aam aadmi yet

Over six and a half decades after attaining independence and later declaring ourselves a Sovereign, Democratic, Republic, we are living in a state of uncontrolled, dysfunctional anarchy today.

In our own amchi Mumbai, a veteran journalist is shot on a busy road in broad daylight, a woman is raped and the body dumped in a suburban train, kids are kidnapped with demands for ransom, newly-constructed flyovers are cracking up, the list of scamsters whether in the Adarsh or the 2G scandal is unending, now corporate bosses, even some Members of Parliament and a union minister are cooling their heels in jail for the first time, as some others still roam free.

The stark reality is that we citizens are mute witnesses to a circus, with clowns like the Digvijayas and Ramdevs raving and ranting, without an effective ringmaster. So who is calling the shots?

The last parliamentary election in 2009 which put UPA-II in the driver's seat was a fractured mandate, in the first-past-the-winning-post electoral system. The Congress and its allies netted less than a third of the popular vote. The combined opposition agrees to disagree, as is evident with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties.

In Mumbai, less than 42%-well below even half the city's eligible population-cared to exercise their franchise. Among those who did cast their vote, many were transported to the poll booth and even paid in cash or kind (liquor continues to be an effective bait). Many voted in place of the absentee middle and upper class people who chose to go out of town with the family for an outing on voting day.

No government can claim to speak for the entire people, even though the writ of a government applies also to those who have voted against it and to those that did not vote at all. It is only systemic convenience that allows a government, with a wafer-thin majority, to speak, act and arrogate unto itself the right to steamroll over the people.

The government's apathy, gross misgovernance, maladministration, non-responsiveness to serious matters, coupled with all-pervading corruption perpetrated by the babu-neta-goonda raj has resulted in  a massive confidence and trust deficit in the elected representatives, who have been found to be busy lining their pockets, by dipping their fingers into the MPLAD (Member of Parliament Local Area Development) funds, coming together to hike their own remuneration and allowances, and enjoying heavily subsidised sumptuous biryani without observing the Q in parliament or assembly canteens. All this raises a big question mark about the sincerity of the elected representatives to represent the people and requires civil society to step in to stop the rot being perpetrated by them.

At no time, since independence, have we witnessed an attempt to listen in to conversations in the offices of the union finance minister, the de facto number two in the government, by planting bugs, while the union home minister terms it as a "non-event".

It has been revealed in response to RTI queries that former ministers for railways and fertilizers attended only 15% of the cabinet meetings.

Article 370 of the Constitution on Kashmir has not been abrogated yet, although the then prime minister had promised that it was to be only a temporary provision.

The prime minister publicly pats the disgraced communications minister even after the CBI finds a prima facie case. The minister for human resources development (HRD) is saddled with the responsibility of the communications ministry, and immediately on taking over challenges the numbers in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

This minister, along with three senior cabinet colleagues goes to Delhi airport and then to a five-star hotel to negotiate with Ramdev Baba, nicknamed by some as sarkari sadhu, and then bad mouth the yoga guru.

In the middle of the night, Delhi police lathicharge and teargas men, women and children on a silent protest at Ramlila grounds, a la Jallianwalla Bagh.

The fine on the union rural development minister, enhanced by the Supreme Court, is paid by the state of Maharashtra and a judge of the Supreme Court wonders how the minister continues in office.

While the HRD minister also holds charge of the communications ministry; the finance minister presides over not less than 35 committees of groups of ministers. When do they get the time to discharge their duties?

A tainted secretary is appointed chief vigilance commissioner; a former chief justice of India under the scanner is appointed as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission; a corrupt Karnataka chief justice is transferred to Sikkim where the legal community launches a protest. There are scams and scams-the shame of the Commonwealth Games, the 2G licence scandal, Adarsh, and perhaps more that will pop up.

The government has yet to get the Direct Taxes Code and an amendment to the Companies Act passed in parliament, and it is not making much effort to fast-track the Satyam multi-crore fraud prosecution, even though the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States has heavily penalised the auditors.

Right to Information (RTI) activists along with the media, have played a key role in exposing the wrong-doings, with the CAG providing the numbers like in the 2G and Reliance K-G Basin matters, and the judiciary is monitoring the action being taken.

The so-called civil society will have to broaden its base, by getting many more non-political professionals and individuals on board, to propel action. The war of words (as the joke goes in Delhi) between 'Sibal Society' and Civil Society must stop. People have taken it on themselves by coming out, because the neta-babu-goonda nexus has virtually hijacked the legislative process; rushing through with some measures, but holding back on others, even getting some matters passed through the backdoor and planting cronies at sensitive positions. Their argument that only they, as the elected representatives, can decide on matters, does not pass the muster. And for the simple reason that they have not been elected by a sizeable majority.

We have seen our so-called netas on the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha channels misbehaving and throwing agenda papers and currency notes on the floor of the House, also abusing and assaulting their opponents in full public view. The Representation of People's Act needs to be amended to incorporate the "Right to Recall" those representatives who have failed in the performance of their elected duties.

The Lokpal Bill, drafted jointly, is the need of the hour. It should cover all, right from the top-be it the president, the prime minister, ministers at the Centre or in the states, the superior judiciary, the armed forces, all constitutional authorities including the CAG, CBI, CVC, CIC, CEC, civil society, heads of corporate India, the regulators and professionals, need to be brought under the purview of not a bulky 11-member group, but a manageable three-member Lokpal team, set up along the lines of the Election Commission.

The appointment and termination of these members must be decided by parliament, and not the executive or Cabinet. The other persons to be covered down the hierarchy must be left to local functionaries.

The earlier the Congress Party and the opposition parties seek a vote of confidence, the better. As a result of what is happening all around, both sides are unprepared to face the wrath of the aam Bharatiya aadmi yet!

(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai-based chartered accountant turned activist.)

1 decade ago
Registration department, RTO dept,
Sales Tax, Income Tax and Judiciary are the major departments proliferating corruption. If proper administrative reforms are brought in there is a possibility of lesser corruption. An independant fast court working atleast for 300 days in an year will see to the end of many a complaint redressed. CBI should be like CAG performing without fear or favour. All the committees of extra constitutional nature should be wound up immediately.
A Banerjee
1 decade ago
I am afraid, the writer has missed the point that the character of the ruling elite being the same-whether of the Right or of the Left or of the Centre variety-no party cann afford to seek the "vote of confidence" without giving birth to yet another series of scams which may well be brewing already. The Lokpal drama is a pointer. No political party can annoy a thoroghly corrupt bureaucracy, nor can they wholeheartedly support the creation of a Lokpal sort of machinery to be breathing over their shoulders. India's politics is centred round circles of certain "interest-groups". What is to be seen is which particular hegmony continues to rule.
Deepak Khemani
1 decade ago
Well written article but I think we are expecting too much from the party in power, to seek a vote of confidence when they have at least another 2 and a half years to remain in power. They tell Civil Society members to first get elected and then will they have a chance to be heard!
Supposed bugging in the Finance Ministry is passed of as a non event.
Adarsh Society files are disappearing by the day and nobody cares. "The Right to Recall" if your supposedly elected representative does not perform may be a good starting point, but as has been seen the Government after empowering the people with RTI is now selectively trying to remove Institutions out of its ambit so that it becomes totally unanswerable to anyone,
The LOKPAL or Jokepal Bill which will be presented in Parliament(hopefully) will give us an idea about how serious this Government is on tackling corruption and other issues facing this country.
Replied to Deepak Khemani comment 1 decade ago
i beg to disagree with the writer on many counts. corruption in india is because of structurak reasons and we need to give space to anyone who wants to slowly change the system a chance. union ministers and a host of high profile people being in jail is a positive sign . a first in independent india. the reason why you got to know attendence figures of cabinet ministers is because someone gave you RTI . that helps you write stories with facts. thats helped discover scams which was always there anyways. j dey killing is a symptom of a desperate under belly feeling the pressure to many. but such killings dont create fear. it only brings unreported crimes to forefront. imagine the amount of discussion and forced action such incidents lead to. who said nation building was easy . if our politicians are corrupt, so are people in various other stratas of society . people can cirticicse form ac rooms but not step out to file rti. people talk of gdp growth but havent ever interacted with say a dalit or an obc whose land is up for grabs. so discussion shoild not be on what went wrong. discussion should be on what we can do right. for starters , state funded elections, auctioning of natural resources , right to justice act, uid for better subsidy targeting and delivery, forest right act, new land acquisition act, these can go a long way. and every country goes thru this phase. india is a much more complex country, one of a kind . Isnt america ruled by bankers? hasnt bush unilaterally taken the whole country to war? isnt the world paying price for financial wrong doings of people in powerful positions and tax payer money being used to bail them out? so discussion can be unending. a lot of good things happened since 1947.focus on what is being done tp help change the system fir future well being 2g ke baad 3g ho chuka hai. mines bill is coming, land act will change soon, right to justice act is coming, you are lost in the past. i am looking forward to a much better future. proud to be an indian.
Replied to citizenindia comment 1 decade ago
The problem in India emanates from one family who somehow manage to be the power centre of Indian politics. Sycophants, power mongers and corrupt indistrialists are the prop for this family. Two regimes of 5 years of each under Narasimma Rao and Atulji proved that India progressed very well without the influence of this family. Hence every right thinking voter in the coming election to parliament should resolve to defeat any member of this family so that their influence in Parliament would be made null and void. Another five years' influence of this family would see to that we all become slaves of some super power.
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