Call of Lok Raj Sangathan, 9 Jan 2014
What do the recent elections show?
The results of the recent elections held in five states convey this unambiguous message that the people are extremely discontented with the present order of things. The Congress Party, the party running the affairs at the centre and in three ofthese five states, managed to retain its power only in Mizoram.
People expressed their dissatisfaction to the political domination of the Congress and BJP in other ways. Lakhs of voters in these 5 states voted for “None of the Above” (NOTA), expressing their rejection of all the candidates in the fray.
The voters in Delhi rejected the incumbent Congress government in no uncertain terms. With great expectations the people have expressed the sentiment that the AamAdmi Party should be given an opportunity to administer the state.
These elections took place in the background of soaring consumer prices, increasing unemployment, growing criminalisation of politics, corruption scandals, state terrorism and frequent organising of communal violence. The rise of the Aam Admi Party in electoral politics reflect the expectations of the people that there will be some change to look forward to amidst these stark realities. However, elections havenot changed the basic features of the system which is the real source of all these problems.
The existing economic system continues to enrich a minority of big business houses and monopolies while depriving people of security and prosperity.
In this system, workers and peasants, who produce the material wealth of society are not sure about their next meal. Millions of toiling people have neither a secure roof over their head nor safe drinking water and sanitation. Women are not treated as equal citizens and the existing system does not provide security for women; in fact it is the police and security forces and other agencies of the State which perpetrates violence against women. Dalits face caste discrimination and oppression on a daily basis and are even killed if they dare to violate existing social norms. Religious minorities face persecution and are repeatedly victims of communalviolence. Tribal and other collectives in different parts of the country are being forcibly deprived of their traditional resources and threatened with destruction of their livelihood.People of the north-east, Kashmir and other parts suffer from national oppression. All these are made possible by the existing State apparatus – the Executive, the Legislature, Judiciary, bureaucracy, security forces, prisons, and other institutionsof the State.
The present political system and process
If the exploitative economic system described above is the base, then the present system of democracy, which is promoted as the “world’s largest democracy”, is the superstructure. This superstructure preserves and perpetuates the present economic system, where a minority own the means of production and exploits the vast majority.Itexcludes the majority of people from the exercise of political power. The supreme decision-making power, sovereignty, is not vested in the people inspite of the preamble insisting that “We, the people of India, have given to ourselves this Constitution”. It is not the people who are sovereign in the current political system. It is not they who make the decisions that affect the fate of society.
Real power lies in the hands of the Executive power – the Cabinet of the ruling party or coalition of parties. The Legislative power – the Parliament and the State Assemblies – legitimize what the Executive does. The executive power is not subordinate to the legislative power where the elected representatives of people sit. In the same way, those elected to the legislatures are not subordinate to the people. They render accounts to the respective parties which gave them the ticket. They follow their party directives when voting in the legislatures, not their conscience. The Judiciary and other Constitutional bodies such as the Central Election Commission (CEC) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) are appointed by the Executive and are not accountable or answerable to the people. It is an irony that the CEC, which is supposed to enable the conduct of free and fair elections, is itself not an elected but a nominated body!
The existing political party system also serves to keep the people marginalized from political power. That party or coalition which commands the support of a majority of MPs or MLAs forms the government and has the mandate to rule as it sees fit until the next elections. The provisions of the Constitution, the CEC, the Representation of People Act and various electoral laws guarantee the domination of the electoral process by the parties of the status quo. As a rule only the parties representing the most powerful economic interest gets elected to power in the system. This became amply clear through the Radia tapes which established conclusively that governments are formed and ministers nominated at the behest of the most powerful business houses who finance them.
If however, even by chance, a party which voices the aspirations the people gets elected, it either has to tow the agenda set by the ruling class or meet the wrath of the Indian State. This is what happened in Kerala in 1959 when an elected government of the Communist Party of India was dismissed because it took certain measures on land reforms and education policies in the state.
The present system of parliamentary representative democracy, the Westminster model of governance, the rule of law, the administrative machinery, the armed forces, prisons and courts, and black laws are a part of the colonial legacy when power was transferred from the British Crown to the tried and trusted representatives of the Indian ruling class and colonial and imperialist interests. It was this political system, established by an alien power to rule over their Indian subjects, that was adopted as the political system of independent India in 1950, by the adoption of the Indian Constitution and the promulgation of the Indian republic. The Indian ruling class willingly adopted this colonial legacy because it dovetailed into their plans to become an imperialist power in their own right in due course. More than a hundred amendments were made or proposed to make the Constitution more effective in preserving and strengthening the rule of a powerful minority over the majority of Indian people.
The system of democracy existing today, just as in colonial times, is based on the fundamental premise that the Indian people are not capable of governing themselves and hence they need a force, a trustee, standing over them and ruling on their behalf. The notion of State as a trustee is alien to Indian political theory. The Indian State, acting as a “trustee”, justifies all its activities, its constitution, its institutions, its superstructure in the name of the people, while actually working for the benefit of a handful of monopolies and big capitalists.
It has been proved again and again, right from the first general elections in 1951-52, that periodic elections and the coming to power of new parties and coalitions cannot change the basic power structure which has been sanctified by the Indian Constitution. The existing Constitution does not ensure human rights or democratic rights; neither does it recognize national rights, women’s rights, minority rights or the rights of labour. The “fundamental rights” enumerated in the Constitution can all be negated through the convenient provision of a “reasonable limits” clause under each Article. The right to health, nutrition, employment and other rights are not even recognized as fundamental by the Constitution and relegated to the section on “Directive Principles” which are just noble objectives without any enabling laws and mechanisms to guarantee their enforcement. On the basis of the provisions of preventive detention, or by declaring an area “disturbed,” draconian laws such as AFSPA are enacted and military and paramilitary forces used against its own people in Kashmir, Northeast and other areas.
Inspite of the “right to equality” clause in the Constitution, citizens of Indian continue to be identified on the basis of caste or religion, and provided privileges — hypocritically propagated as affirmative action. This system of reservation has at the best served to accommodate a small elite from the ranks of the underprivileged, who in general continue to face discrimination and oppression. This system has provided a convenient handle for power-seeking political parties to expand their vote banks, and divide and disrupt the struggle against caste oppression.
The “secularism” that has been defined in the Indian Constitution neither separates the state from religion or religion from schools. The Indian State targets people on the basis of their religion, inflicts deep communal divisions and creates animosities among people.
The Indian Constitution does not recognize the existence, let alone the inviolable rights, of various nations, nationalities and tribal communities. The existing Indian Union is based on a territorial definition of states, and an arrangement where the central state reserves the right to draw and redraw boundaries, as is happening in Telengana today, to divide the polity and preserve the rule of elite.
The conclusion that we can draw from all this is that elections by themselves do not make any difference to the fundamental features of the existing economic system and political process, which is the source of all problems faced by the people. We cannot have illusions that a fundamental change in our lives is possible without creating a people-centred political process and a new political power that reorients the Indian economy to satisfy the claims of the vast majority of the working peopleand guarantees fundamental rights and the safety and security of the people through appropriate legislation and enabling mechanisms.
The ruling establishment wants to promote a stable alliance to take its interests forward in the coming elections. A majority BJP government headed by NarendraModi may be the preferred arrangement for powerful interests for the 2014 general elections, so that they can push forward their anti-worker, anti-peasant and anti-national program of globalisation through liberalisation and privatization in order to achieve their imperialist aims. At the same time, they are open to other alliances as well,who will pursue the same program, as reflected in the coverage of the monopoly media.
Those who are interested in the fundamental transformation of the political process, cannot be satisfied with speculating over which alliance will come to power. The new situation, where people are looking at recent developments with great expectations, offers opportunities to take the movement for people’s empowerment forward. With the aim of vesting sovereignty in the hands of the people, Lok Raj Sangathan, along with several other organizations, has been agitating around a People’s Agenda for political reforms based on the following immediate measures:
1) No election without people’s selection of candidates!
Parties backed by economically powerful interests presently enjoy the right to field as many candidates as they please, imposing their choice on the people. The right to select candidates must be taken out of their hands and placed in the hands of the people. The electorate must have the final say in selecting, from those nominated, the final shortlist of candidates from whom one will be elected. An elected Constituency Committee must be established in each constituency, mandated with powers to enable the people to exercise their political rights, including their right to select candidates before any election is held. Such constituency committees must become the foundation of a reconstituted Election Commission in each State and at the Union level.
If this is done, then the discrimination between candidates nominated by registered political parties and all other candidates, by calling the latter as “independent” candidates and denying them an organizational identity or symbol, will no longer exist. Furthermore, thediscrimination between a few “recognized” parties and all others will also end. Only such measures can ensure the universal and equal right to elect and be elected.
2) State must fund the electoral process but must not fund any political party!
All those candidates who have gone through the process of selection and approval by the people must be given equal opportunity to put their proposals and manifestos before the electorate. No individual candidate or party must be permitted to spend monies on election campaigns. The entire cost of the selection and election process must be borne by the government. However, not a single paisa of public funds or subsidies in-kind should be given to any political party. All political parties must finance their activities from the voluntary contributions of their respective members and supporters. A political party is, after all, an organisation formed by a group of people who share a common ideology and political aim, who are free to persuade others to join them. There is no reason why any party should receive official “recognition” or public financial support, thereby giving it a privileged status over others.
3) People must have the right to initiate legislation, to approve major public decisions through referendums, and the right to recall at any time the one they elected!
The Constituency Committees must be empowered to enable the people to exercise these rights to initiate legislation, to play a central role in approving major public decisions and the right to recall. Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure the realizationof these rights. Those elected must be required to regularly render accounts to those who elected them.
4) Election of a Constituent Assembly to formulate a draft Constitution fit for India in the 21st century!
The Constitution of the Indian Republic, adopted in 1950, does not reflect the reality of multi-national India. It does not guarantee human rights or democratic rights, or protect national rights. It permits the continuation and escalation of all-sided plunder of our land and labour. Therefore, there is a need to set up a Constituent Assembly to formulate a new Constitution for India, which will guarantee fundamental rights, ensure prosperity and security for the people, and enable people to play a central role in the affairs of the country.
Moreover, a new Constitution is required to enable the people-centred political process as enunciated in the first three demands.
Lok Raj Sangathan calls upon its members and fraternal organizations to take the People’s Agenda forward this year. We have to continue to build and strengthen people’s samitis everywhere so that they are able to defend the rights of people. The challenge before us is to take forward the struggle for a new political system and process that will result in the empowerment of our people.
Desh ki samasyaon ka ek Ilaaj! Lok Raj, Lok Raj!