- Politics and Social Issues»
- India & South Asia Political & Social Issues
The Indian Voter has not Matured:They still Vote for Criminals and Convicted Felons
Democracy in India
In 1947 when the British left India, after their pyrrhic victory over Hitler the Indian political establishment led by Nehru decided to copy the English system of governance. They set up a constituent assembly which copied the English political system word for word. They failed to realise that this system of governance was in reality not suited to the Indian genius. One reason for this was that the mass of people were illiterate and a bigger reason was that India never had any tradition of democracy.
A look at Indian history from the time of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, shows that India was always an autocrat state where the king was equated with the divine. Democracy like in the Greek states and Rome was unheard off. The king was expected to rule keeping in mind the principle of "dharma". This was an amorphous concept and depended on what the King thought was good for the people and also what his interpretation was of the scriptures.
The situation changed for the worse from the 9/10 century with the invasion of India by the Muslims. The Hindus were defeated and became subjects in their own land. They began to pay Jizzia tax and were reduced to second class citizens. The question of democracy did not arise as they were a subject people.
In the 18th century, India was occupied by the English who defeated the Muslims. But again there was no democracy and the concept of the Burra Sahib and supremacy of the white Englishman became paramount.
Thus in 1947 when the framers of the Indian constitution opted for the British model of first past the vote and a parliamentary form of government with an executive Prime Minister, it was an anomaly and in real terms unsuited to the Indian genius,
Dr Ambedekar and the Constitution
The architect of the Constitution was Dr Ambedekar. He was a Mahrashtrian, but born in Madhya Pradesh and was a scheduled caste (lower caste). He faced a lot of discrimination in life from the higher caste, but in his wisdom he and his committee of experts opted for what is known as the Westminster model: the English style of democracy. One wonders how a learned man as him, did not opt for the Presidential system with checks and balances in place of the West minister model.
The parliamentary form of government was in away thrust on India. This was in effect a retrograde step as India was steeped and caste and backward castes were discriminated against. To be fair to Dr Ambedekar he incorporated some basic rights in the constitution for the scheduled castes and tribes and reserved seats for them in the Indian parliament.
But for a country steeped in the caste system and illiteracy all around the voters were unable to exercise their mind as required. They tended to vote on the basis of caste, hence parties began to put up candidates in a constituency depending on the demographics of caste.This defeated the very concept of parliamentary form of government. There were also no checks and balances and criminals stood for election and appealed to their caste brethren and the worse part was that such men won.
In addition in some states the era of the strong man emerged who led the voters in the constituency? He sometimes ' bought' the voters, who voted in many places for money and other inducements.
Do you feeel present form of democracy is suited to India ?
The Bihar Election
India has come a long way after 1947. In fact 65 years have passed since the constitution was adopted by the Indian parliament. Unfortunately there has been no change and almost 40 % of all Members of Parliament have some criminal antecedents. In the state legislatures it is even worse and many men charged with murder and other crimes including convicted criminals are elected to the legislature.
The recent Bihar election is worth a study. It was a fight led by (Mahgandbathan) or Grand alliance against the BJP. The result is that Narendra Modi the Prime Minister who led the BJP has been defeated by the Grand alliance. The biggest partner of the Grand alliance is Lulu Prasad Yadav who heads the RJD. He is a man who is convicted by court and sentenced to 3 years in jail for corruption in what is known as the "fodder scam". He has minted millions and yet surprisingly the voters have gone by caste combination and handed him a handsome victory. Lulu Prasad Yadav is on bail pending his appeal in the higher court.
Thus the voters were not swayed by the criminal past of Lalu Prasad Yadav, but more in tune with his caste and thus voted a criminal led party to power. One can’t think of this happening in England.
Bihar is not an exception, but the rule. The checks and balances in the Indian constitution are minimal and as such when the Congress government was in power cabinet ministers looted the exchequer and nothing happened. In some cases people charged with murder and in jail have been elected. This shows that as such the Indian voter has not attained maturity and it will take decades for the system to really reflect Indian genius.