A Few More of my Basic Doubts
Why should we have political parties?
The earlier days of democracy would have been great, the vast treasure of ancient literature pointing to unparalleled intellectual wealth, to note one thing we can deduce from the signs left by bygone eras. It is possible that there was a miniscule group of disgruntled elements who wanted to do something to harm the flourishing society, like we find these days in all our endeavors. It looks like a few of them joined together and formed themselves into a group, calling themselves a ‘party’. And since that day democracy has never been the same.
I think, democracy as we follow leaves a lot to be desired, is a well known fact. There is no one who hasn’t felt the incongruities of ‘party democracy’, I suppose, since, improvements are being contemplated for the existing political system of governance in all democratic countries. Otherwise, what is the need to devote a lion’s share of governmental efforts, not towards the activities of governance, but in bettering governance?
But it has been so since the earliest days I can remember. I have attended scores of political meetings, where, allocating resources for improving the existing system governance was cited as the most urgent need facing the nation, to justify additional taxes and other expenses. Nowadays also, this remains as a priority area for all governments. It seems we have not been able to improve our system of governance or we failed in identifying the right cause for ‘democracies not being able deliver the goods’.
In fact it is the party or party politics that has destroyed the fundamental character of democracy, one that makes it self governance. By unceremoniously negating the primary condition which would have ensured rational decision making at all levels, that all who participate will do so according to their free will, the party system has converted democracy to a maker of ‘qualified’ decisions. Not only that, it has reduced the function of opposition to one of always opposing the ruling side, a rather meaningless task. As a result of this, in cases where such decisions do not produce the desired effect or lead to a failure, rather than re-examining the decisions, the ruling side can always find an easy excuse, the ‘opposition’.
The advantage of party politics is that no failure gets attributed to one party who can gloat in case of success, other party can shoulder all failures with impunity while sharing the glory of success.
What is happening to Politicians?
Politician bashing is a common sight of these days. Whether in west or east, irrespective of presidential, military or democratic dispensation, no country is free of this entertainment. Nowhere else can this be seen more clearly than in the violent and widespread objections to the continuation of a few privileges, the politicians used to enjoy.
May be as a result of this, politicians in general find the citizens not cooperating enough or disinterested with such an important task as governance. Consequently, they may also find the populace undeserving of a good, trouble free life. A proposal to make voting an essential duty of all citizens, and more or less mandatory, seems to be in the offing.
There are signs that a significant number of citizens do not feel that their concerns are being addressed by the mainstream parties or the political system. There are two main reasons for this. One, from the citizen’s side; they confuse government with politicians, which is because they are more easily identifiable with governance. And two, from the politicians’ side, they take the rather lighter responsibility of delivering governance, rather than thinking about governance in the abstract, their rightful job. This is because, unlike the past, the best of the generation do not opt for politics as a natural destination.
This is giving rise to a layer of political dissatisfaction amongst members of the majority of people, 'the white working classes’ in some countries and, the middle class in some other. An immediate reaction to this, disengagement of a considerable part of the populace from playing their role as citizens, further accentuates it. We need to recognize the role that the well to do, educated and empowered working majority, mostly white collared, should be expected to play. Lower participation in formal democratic processes may not mean disengagement from all forms of politics. On the contrary, it should be seen as warning to alter the political processes appropriately to enable participation of the majority. There could be many methods to see that such a thing happens, rather than forcing a huge populace to tune themselves to certain archaic systems and procedures. This of course, might entail a shift in our basic approach to governance.
For example, many new opportunities exist to collate wants, opinions or desires from a large population if the capability of information technology is put to use. Also, appropriation of resources or other forms of wealth becomes a child’s play, that too, with hardly any possibilities of dissatisfaction or mistake, in the face of the computing power made available by the digital revolution. Even the introduction of a new type of governance, 'real time democracy', is possible if all citizens are connected to a central server directing the various elements of government, which is programmed to act on the input from citizens thus connected, appropriately. Computer programs, in this case, shall be usurping the role of politicians who in turn, can be making a graceful exit!
Just as we saw earlier, how the growth of communication made the profession of ‘commission agents’ redundant, the strides in IT have the potential to make whatever is left of politicians, fade away. In the interim, quite sharp and rather unexpected reactions can be expected from all politicians, even to events that are not very noteworthy. And some of these, mostly from those who presently are in positions of power, would be of grave consequences. These are but the gasps of a dying profession.
Is it advisable to whip Members of Legislature?
‘Whip’ in this context, is nothing but a survival tool for the democracy that is severely doped with party politics, a nonlinearity introduced into the heart of the democratic processes of debates and discussions.
In fact in the absence of whip, there is nothing to prevent a legislature house from thinking rationally. Healthy debates and enlightening discussions can always lead to the best scenario or option. This being the approach on all matters of great significance to the countries’ welfare, it is unfathomable why a democratic government should fail to meet expectations. Practice of democracy in the ancient world had been spotless, the vast treasure of Greek classics and the clean description of ancient governments, show.
‘Whip’ brings in, rather a substantial change. By severely constricting expressions of spontaneity of the participants and their involvement, it relegates the heart of democracy, the debates, to a dull affair.
(Problems of democracy do not end there. We are quick to realize that our democratic institutions are not doing their job. Without second thoughts we proclaim, the below par performance of our institutions is an honest reflection of the low quality of our representatives, the ones who constitute such institutions. That puts the ‘ball’ in the people’s court, the blame of course, transferred to the ones who elected the representatives in the first place. People, it should be remembered, can only elect the best of the candidates, and therefore, we need to make whatever changes necessary to make people of caliber choose politics as a natural option. This part need to be analyzed further)
Should we continue with whip? Discontinuing it will, also, as an icing on the cake, put an end to party politics. Of course, another way too exists, to escape from ‘whip’. If we make necessary changes to the rules of governance to stipulate that a government, once elected, will serve its full term of office, unless, a) resigns or b) gets defeated by an explicit motion of no confidence, the ‘whip’ shall become largely unnecessary. That such an act will make the parliamentary discussions and debates more lively as well as scholarly, and also will be attracting naturally, the cream of intelligentsia, are only the immediate benefits.