Photograph of Anil Chawla

THE NEW ANIMAL FARMS
Author - Anil Chawla



If the bosses at Indian political parties had their way, they would have ordered the bright scientists of India to create a new species by a cross-breeding of sheep, dog and human beings. Such a creature would have the body of a human being, mind of a sheep and loyalty of a dog. It would neither think nor understand nor question, but would dutifully raise it's hand on cue from the master and would, if ordered by the master, start barking and would stop only when ordered to do so. From the viewpoint of the bosses of the political parties, such a creature would be ideally suited for the membership of the Parliament and Legislative assemblies of India. Unfortunately, genetic engineering has not yet reached such heights. So, the Indian political bosses have to take recourse to statutory and other ways to convert duly elected intelligent human beings into mindless robotic animals.

Debate and open exchange of ideas is the basis of democracy. Fascism and ochlocracy (mob rule) are based on the concept that the will of the majority must rule and the minority deserves to be crushed. Democracy, on the other hand, guarantees the protection of the minority. In India, minority has been understood as religious minority only and the true concept of minority-protection has not even been understood. If Five Hundred persons are in favour of a particular idea and there is only one man opposing the idea, it is the duty of each of the Five Hundred persons to listen to the lone crusader in a democratic setup. Democracy can be said to be alive if and only if there exists a possibility that Five Hundred persons will change their minds and accept the ideas of the lone crusader. Thinking with an open mind is an essential pre-requisite of democracy. On the other hand, fascism, communism, ochlocracy, dictatorship etc. require a closed mind.

India is possibly the only country in the world where members of parliament and state legislatures have to necessarily obey the party whip and violation of whip can lead to statutory punishment. When US President Bill Clinton faced impeachment proceedings, his party did not issue a whip to save him. Some Democrats voted against Clinton, a Democrat himself. This caused no uproar and the said Democrats neither faced any disciplinary action in the party nor risked losing their membership of the house. In any developed democracy, it is a well accepted principle that any Parliamentarian or Legislator must freely exercise his mind and discretion based on his own conscience. Forcing a legislator to act against his own conscience amounts to negating the essence of democracy.

Political parties in India issue whips to their members who are duly elected representatives of the people on every small matter. There is hardly a bill that gets passed without the help of some whips. This slave-driving is seen in every field that falls within the domain of the Parliament or the state Legislatures. Even issues like amendment of Constitution, election of President and no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister are settled by whip-lashing rather than by debate and discussion.

The internal processes of the political parties for issuing whips are most undemocratic and lack transparency. Though the whip has been granted statutory sanctity, there is no prescribed internal procedure that must be followed by political parties for issuing a whip. Even if it is assumed that the whip reflects the will of the majority of the legislator members of the party, it would be undemocratic to force the minority to suppress its opinion and act otherwise. In India, however, the opposite is seen. A bunch of party bosses dictate and the majority of Legislators and Members of Parliament accept in a sheeplike manner all that is dictated without applying their mind.

Women's Reservation Bill was tabled a few days back in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of India's Parliament) amid noisy scenes. More than three fourths of the Members of Lok Sabha are opposed to the bill. If the political parties do not issue whips, it is unlikely that the bill can ever be passed. Yet it seems most likely that the bill will be passed by a thumping majority - thanks to whipping of the slaves that are respectfully called Members of Parliament.

There cannot be a more tragic comedy being played in the name of democracy anywhere else in the world. If Members of Parliament have no right to think or to express their opinion or to even understand a point of view, debate in the Parliament is bound to become mindless chatter. A debate is meaningful only when the participants have full right to form and change their opinions. If Members of Parliament have no right to form opinions, there can be no justification for keeping alive the institution of Parliament. Instead of about Five Hundred Forty persons indulging in chatter at the taxpayers' expense, it will be better for the presidents of all parties to sit down and have a meaningful exchange of ideas. For the purpose of voting, each party president can be assigned a weightage in proportion to the number of constituencies where the party has emerged victorious in elections.

Women's Reservation Bill aims to reserve one third of the seats in Parliament and State Legislatures for women. Though it is proclaimed as a great empowerment of the women of the country, the fact is that it is nothing more than a clever scheme designed to distract people's, in particular women's, attention from real issues facing the country. Getting one third of the seats in Parliament and Legislative bodies filled by women will surely lead to about two thousand women receiving nice pay cheques and a host of other perks. But that cannot be called empowerment of the country's women by any stretch of imagination. In a country where more than two third members of Parliament and state legislatures do not speak a single word throughout their term; where more than three fourth of the elected representatives do not read even a single Bill completely throughout their term, all talk of empowerment by getting women elected to this house or that house is hollow sloganeering.

Marx never rejected democracy but he talked of "Dictatorship of Proletariate" which was used by Stalin to become a cruel dictator. Indian political leaders who keep singing paeans for democracy, have developed a system of "Dictatorship of Party". The system has no respect for the individual who is treated as a faceless, mindless disposable puppet. It really makes no difference whether the puppet is male or female. Yet, given the traditional Indian mindset, women often make better puppets and men have a latent tendency to straighten up their spine once in a while. Hence, all political parties want that the percentage of women in the Parliament and legislatures should be increased.

If the political parties were really serious and honest about empowering women, they would have argued in favour of statutorily providing for a certain percentage of party functionaries to be women. Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi made an announcement that thirty three per cent of party posts will be given to women, but she could not implement it. Bharatiya Janata Party (ruling party) did not even make any such announcement. It is clear that Women's Reservation Bill is just an attempt to replace one set of puppets by another set of more docile puppets.

Giving opium to a child crying for milk does temporarily solve the problem. In a similar manner, Indian political leaders move from one temporary 'quick-fix' to another - in the process doing immense damage to Indian polity. It is these 'quick-fixes' that are slowly but steadily moving the country's democracy to a mix of fascism, ochlocracy, mediocracy, gerontocracy and 'puppet-cracy'.

In a country where the law-makers have the body of a human being, mind of a sheep and loyalty of a dog, democracy becomes a ridiculous tragic farce. The gender or caste of a law-maker is of no importance. What is important is the ability to think and analyze. As a new millennium unfolds, the challenges before India are likely to increase manifold. India will need to be extremely efficient as a country in all spheres. Quality of governance will be the most important factor influencing the future of the country. Indian political parties must understand the new realities and desist from converting key institutions of governance into animal farms.


ANIL CHAWLA

31 December, 1999

Please write to me your comments about the above article.
anil@samarthbharat.com
hindustanstudies@rediffmail.com



ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.


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