Following the official announcement of the elections, the “leading” and every other political party within the two major alliances negotiated, lobbied, bribed, blackmailed to make sure that (a) they were able to contest from the maximum number of seats, (b) that these seats were “winnable” for them, (c) that prominent politicians could ensure that they or their protégés (“chelas”)  could get constituencies of their choice etc. In all of this, the people of every constituency, the electorate, were thoroughly ignored. If parliamentary democracy is supposed to represent the will of the people, could it not be expected that the people of every constituency would have some say in determining which set of candidates could be selected to contest from their constituency to ‘represent’ them?

Then followed a prolonged and acrimonious and divisive campaign led by the topmost functionaries of the government, which left no stone unturned to malign Muslims, to spew communal venom, to pit one section of the people against another, to promise reservations and jobs based on caste, religion, community, region etc. People were literally waiting eagerly for the end of this hostile, divisive, and deeply disturbing phase of the great election drama in the so-called largest democracy of the world. Voters were also freely enticed; not merely with promises that politicians had no intention of keeping,

Anyway, let’s cut to polling day. Despite all assurances that it would be a peaceful poll, an easy exercise, free and fair etc; the ground realities were quite different. Violence to prevent people from casting votes the way they wanted was prevalent in many places. People were made to wait in long lines in the scorching sun for hours on end. Many found that their names were not on the rolls, despite having lived in the same constituency for years and even having voted in previous hustings. There were far too many reports of people being forced to press the buttons as instructed by musclemen – or else! Reports of impersonation and repeated pressing of the EVM buttons by individuals despite the dictum of one person – one vote, were far too many.

Let’s skip the rumours that EVMs could be manipulated – and the sham of the ‘exit polls’ – these are whole topics by themselves – and go to the declaration of the results. After the results were declared by the night of the 4th of June 2024, both the major groupings – the NDA and the INDIA alliance – were happy. The former because they got the ‘mandate’ to rule for a third term, the latter because they got many more seats than the so-called ‘mainstream media’ and sham ‘exit polls’ said they would. Both camps hailed the result as a “victory for democracy”.

But was this really a “victory” for democracy? Have the elections ensured that democracy – the will of the majority of the people will prevail?

As if all the hurdles of the electoral process that we’ve enumerated thus far – including campaigns of slander, frenzied lobbying and negotiations, dirty tricks to ensure that the polity is thoroughly divided, complete disregard for even common decency, innumerable difficulties in casting votes as desired by the individual citizen, and much more – were not enough! The system, which is designed to uphold the interests of the superrich come what may, has unfortunately got more dirty tricks up its sleeve.

Once elected, the ‘representatives’ of the people have no further obligation to render account to those who actually elected them. They do not need to work for the interests of the people at large. Instead, the so-called representatives of the people are obliged to follow the dictates of the party which gave them the ticket, not to the people who elected them! This, even if the dictates, obviously conditioned by the interests of the superrich which bankroll all the important political parties are totally against the interests of the people. How else are obviously anti-people laws like the notorious Farm Laws of 2020 enacted?

There’s yet another ‘dirty trick’ to ensure that the dispensation that’s most favourable to the interests of the superrich who bankroll the political parties comes to power – horse trading.  It refers to the supposed “unethical practice” of buying and selling legislators’ loyalties for personal or political gain. Thus, even if the elections at the state or central level have led to a particular party or set of parties “winning” or “leading” – elected legislators from one or more of these parties are induced to switch sides for monetary or other gain, making a mockery of the “will of the people

Horse trading has occurred far too many times in the recent past, despite the enactment of legislation like the “Anti-defection” law or the ‘tenth schedule’ introduced in 1985. (By one estimate, almost 50 percent of the 4,000 legislators elected to central and federal parliaments in the 1967 and 1971 general elections subsequently defected!) This is because  the law allowed mergers and splits of political parties, allowing splits in the party by one-third of its members and merger (joining another party) by two-thirds of other party members. So now, it was not good enough to ‘buy’ individual legislators. It became necessary to ‘buy’ them en masse in any case more than one-third of their strength in the legislative assembly or parliament!

  • When the votes were still being counted on 4th June 2024, social media had many reports as to how, either the NDA or the ‘INDIA’ alliance would form the government in the event of a hung parliament, by horse trading.
  • In 2022 in Maharashtra, a political crisis began on 21 June 2022 when Eknath Shinde, along with several other MLAsof the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition split from the ‘original’ or UBT Shiv Sena. Subsequently, Mr Shinde became the Chief Minister and Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP became the deputy Chief minister on 30 June 2022.
  • In Goa in 2022, a sting operation revealed that four political leaders were planning to ‘jump ship’ and join the BJP after the results were announced!
  • In Karnataka in 2018, the BJP won 104 seats and fell short of a majority. The Congress had won 80 and the JS(S), 37 seats. The latter two decided to join hands and form a government. However, the BJP stridently claimed that the government would not last beyond Jan 2019. Sure enough, the government collapsed when 15 MLAs from the coalition refused to support the government during the trust vote! The rebel MLAs joined the BJP, which then formed the government!

These are only a few recent examples of ‘”horse trading” which subverts even the formal result of an election. Elections to be held in future may unfortunately throw up more such disgraceful instances.

What all the above show is that people are utterly powerless once they press the EVM button! Thus, in conclusion, it can be said that the present multi-party parliamentary system has several shortcomings, two of which we have discussed herein. These ensure that instead of the will of the people, it is the will of the superrich which bankrolls the political parties that prevails. Hence, all those interested in ensuring that real democracy prevails, need to come together, discuss and devise ways by which the will of the people, in other words, real democracy, can prevail. This task has become all the more urgent in the light of recent developments.

By BA and Venkatesh Sundaram

By admin