Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan, 4 May 2021
Image Caption: A mass cremation of people who died due to COVID-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi, April 22, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Image Source: https://science.thewire.in/health/mass-cremations-begin-as-indias-capital-faces-deluge-of-covid-19-deaths/
On May 2, 2021, the results of the elections to several State Assemblies as well as other local elections were announced. While the TMC retained Bengal, the BJP retained Assam and the Left Front retained Kerala; the DMK alliance wrested Tamil Nadu from the AIADMK after a gap of ten years and the NDA wrested Puducherry from the Congress. Based on these results Governments will be formed, Chief Ministers will be sworn in, in ponderous ceremonies with Governors administering Oaths of Office to such Chief Ministers and Cabinet Colleagues who will swear on the Constitution of India to uphold their duties. Have these elections solved any of the pressing problems of the people at large – or have they merely allowed parties of the ruling establishment to decide which of them is to rule in which state for the next five years or so?
The election results come at a time when the country has been overwhelmed with a huge second wave of Covid – 19 cases and deaths. By January or so of this year, several experts had predicted that there would be a second wave, based also on the experience of other countries. Rather than being cautious, the Prime Minister and other colleagues gleefully declared that India had won the battle against Covid – 19.
It has been acknowledged world over that a second and other waves could be contained and would be made relatively less disastrous only if there was a robust vaccination programme, which along with the spread of the infection would have led to herd immunity. Rather than invest in such a vaccination programme, along with all the precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance, the elections have been allowed to proceed exactly as in previous normal years.
The BJP and other parties organised mass rallies with the Prime Minister even exulting in one such rally as late as 17th April 2021 that “he had never seen such a huge rally in his life”. This has led to an explosive growth in the number of infected. As the elections were taking place, large parts of the country had literally gone up in flames with the huge numbers of dead needing to be cremated in makeshift open air crematoria and to be buried in overcrowded burial grounds.
Workers in many towns and cities across India filled up overcrowded buses and trains to get back to their native villages as they were unsure of surviving in the very places that they worked for want of social security. Patients and their relatives thronged overcrowded hospitals hoping for a bed to save themselves – and many died in the parking lots and streets outside waiting for their turn. Many more died inside the hospitals for want of medical oxygen and life-saving medicines and care.
The Madras High Court itself has censured the Election Commission of India for conducting the elections all the while knowing that it could lead to such disastrous situations. There are heart-breaking stories of over hundred deaths of public servants and even primary school teachers drafted against their will for serving as election officers, with threats of FIRs and dismissal if they did not show up for duty. It is clear that the conduct of these elections under these conditions was totally heartless, and service to the people is the last reason for which such an election took place.
It is often argued that nothing changes for the people when election results are announced. Indian elections merely lead to the swapping of ruling and opposition benches, or the continuation of an incumbent government. When the results of the elections throw up “hung houses”, they are followed by open and unfettered horse trading with thousands of crores being paid to MLAs to make them switch sides and support a particular government or coalition. The thirst for state power is so great that nothing seems to stop parties from indulging in huge election related violence, destruction of property, murders, and all kinds of unspeakable mayhem.
All this has nothing to do with “serving the people”, but is an opportunity for those in power to make vast amounts of money by loyally serving the super-rich who lord it over our country and through the corruption that lubricates the Indian State and the entire economic system. As is the case with the Assembly and Parliament elections conducted in earlier years, it may be concluded that the condition of the people of India has not improved an iota due to the 2021 May Assembly elections. Indeed, as we have seen above, if anything it has worsened considerably by the 2021 elections compared to the earlier years due to the conditions in which they were conducted.
We need to ask what purpose elections as they are now conducted serve, and what their role is. Do we as citizens and voters have any say in the candidates which political parties thrust upon us – be it with respect to their criminal records, record of service to the constituency or otherwise, or any other aspect? Are those who get elected really obliged to serve us – and what can we do if they do not? Indeed, there is zero accountability of elected “representatives” to those who elected them in the present system.
We need a political system that does not worship the mere conduct of elections as being a touchstone of democracy. Instead, we must have a political system where the needs and concerns of the people are addressed in the first place; in which people and not the self-serving political parties are truly supreme. A system in which elected representatives of the legislature and their activities are accountable to the people. A system in which all branches of government, including the executive and the judiciary, are ultimately and in real terms responsible to the people. A system in which sovereignty truly vests in the people rather than in the Cabinet of Ministers as at present. A system in which the role of a political party is not to keep the people out of decision-making power but to ensure that power remains in people’s hands.