Strange are the ways of life. I was expecting brickbats from Bhakts for saying Chandrababu Naidu was more intelligent than the BJP leadership. Somehow instead of this, I was accused of having a soft corner for BJP that is apparently ravaging all democratic institutions of our country for their political benefits. Keeping aside my soft corner for BJP, it is indeed a significant point to ponder on – about damaging democratic institutions of India.
First, the fundamentals. Only democratic institutions in India are those whose members are elected by people – from Panchayats to Parliament, and finally the office of the President. Even the offices of Governors do not fall in this category as they are nominated. All others are merely administrative institutions that serve as executive instruments, except few constitutional authorities. Even CEC that is responsible for the democratic mechanism of Elections that would elect members of democratic institutions is simply one such constitutional authority.
Though Modi government was at loggerheads with RBI for long and then had a tussle with the judiciary, the open street fight of CBI director and special director in the Supreme Court finally made everyone to declare that BJP is systematically destructing our institutions. As serious this accusation may sound, it is equally hollow and sounds more of a political commentary just intending to hurt BJP. Is it possible to destruct something that is already damaged and not functioning? No. Most of our institutions operate only in bits and pieces depending on the person who was controlling that particular institution at that point of time and depending on his preferences.
For the first time in independent India, it was TN Seshan, who proved how power could be used within the bounds of the constitution and make politicians to run for cover. When Arjun Singh declared dates of elections, he openly opposed it by clarifying that it is only EC who can decide dates of elections. And, he supported his claim by quoting various laws and clauses. The rest is history, and now we believe only EC can declare dates for any elections. But, what happened to Seshan? Congress along with all other parties that are accusing BJP now of destroying institutions tried to impeach Seshan. Ironically, it was BJP that supported him albeit for their own political reasons.
But, was being CEC the first job of Seshan? No. He was a bureaucrat for more than three decades when the country was ruled mostly by Congress, except for the two years just after Emergency was lifted. So, why the man with such great integrity did not try to teach a few lessons to the politicians? Because like every other bureaucrat, he too was loyal to his political masters. It was only after the death of Rajiv Gandhi, and he let the real Seshan to come out in the open. Then, of course, he compensated for the lost thirty-five years in the final innings of his career. So, what was the learning from this episode? That our institutions were already dead but can become alive if a genuine person is at the helm of affairs.
However tragic it may sound, it is a truth that Indian institutions were long dead and ceased to function the way they are supposed to function as mandated by the constitution.
Before Seshan, there was a crucial period in Indian history when every institution was overruled. But, it is an extreme event that lasted for two years during Indira’s rule. The beauty is while all institutions were compromised during Emergency, all these institutions started functioning and delivering prompt services to the people. Only during Emergency, someone would probe into and take action against the guilty, and even one train ran late. When we talk of institutions, is this not supposed to be a regular part of their function? Yes. But, ironically the services provided by all our institutions to the people were poorer than the Indian poor.
The delay in our judicial process is so notorious that a London court had observed the inordinate delay. Yet, we are proud of our judiciary. And, we are not even talking about the corruption in the judiciary. Take the sample case of Dhinakaran, who became a renegade and was subsequently hounded by the high and mighty of our judiciary. It all started with Dhinakaran alleging corruption of fellow judges when he was part of Madras High Court. No action was taken on his complaints, but he was transferred to Calcutta High Court. Frustrated over non-cognisance of his complaints, he abused the senior judges of Supreme Court and finally became a fugitive in the eyes of the judiciary and fellow countrymen. But, did anyone try to act on his complaints and precipitate matters before they became murky? No. Our so-called judicial system ensured the whistleblower, in this case, Dhinakaran became the accused.
Despite its attempts to thwart NJAC, which Justice Chelameswar supported before he trained his guns on the CJI, still, there is no transparency in how judges are selected to the highest courts. If it was Congress that pushed for the NJAC so forcefully, it would have been hailed as an attempt in ‘democratizing’ our judiciary. If BJP did the same, it is damaging our judiciary. It is another matter Modi got subdued by all developments and left the NJAC in cold storage. Even the internal fight between Supreme Court was attributed to the highhandedness of the government. All the while, BJP supporters were merely waiting for the courts to deliver judgments that may help their party politically.
How much effective was Raghuram Rajan’s term during the UPA rule? Is it not true that he started functioning only after the government has changed? And, till the last leg of his term, there was bonhomie between him and Modi. Once it was clear that his term may not be extended, there was much criticism about how Modi would be cutting short of an expert. So, everyone expects the democratically elected government to honor one individual expert but not have its own choices? Even if one considers that it was only RRR’s opposition to Demonetisation, BJP considered another man to head RBI, irrespective of the effectiveness of Demonetisation or the lack of it, was it not legally the right of the government to choose RBI’s head? If Gurumurthy’s induction into RBI’s board is not correct yet legal, it was the same when the CEC was transformed from a one-man entity to accommodate two more guys whom the then government could nominate, and there were many precedents for this sort of intervention.
If all the investigations are only to be used as settlement instruments failing to recover any money, the purpose is lost. But, to be precise, this is what is happening.
Notwithstanding the bribe accusations in Rafale deal, was this not a proof that our institutions have failed to procure fighter jets? Despite completing two terms, in UPA government couldn’t place a purchase order, was it showing that our institutions were alive and kicked? However tragic it may sound, it is a truth that Indian institutions were long dead and ceased to function the way they are supposed to function as mandated by the constitution.
Now, come to BJP’s handling of these institutions. As BJP failed to provide the required strength of good people to run the administration this government suffered a lot. In fact, this government failed to follow-up even the 2G case and Maxis case which finally resulted in a verdict that acquitted all the accused. These incidents have dented the image of BJP as a party that is intolerant of corruption. One reason for the lack of proper human resources may be they were looking inward to recruit people who have RSS background or worked earlier with any of the BJP administrations. Whatever the reason, it is a fact that BJP suffers from lack of quality workforce to run the government.
Not only the corruption cases, even the promise of acting on those who deposited unaccounted large sums of cash post demonetization is still to see any light. Two years have passed already, and nobody knows how much money was recovered from these accounts and credited to the treasury. If the government could recover even two Lac Crores of money out of the total 15 Lac Crore or so demonetized notes that would make demonetization a success. Whatever the opposition may claim, notwithstanding the suffering, it was the poor that appreciated the move. As they supported the movement, they have a right to know how much money the government could earn from their suffering. Sadly, the government is silent on this except statements that many people are under investigation. If all the investigations are only to be used as settlement instruments failing to recover any money, the purpose is lost. But, to be precise, this is what is happening.
So, what should one call the failure of BJP government even to act on demonetization that has higher stakes for the Prime Minister personally? That he is not supported by his own party enough. In other terms, it is the gross inefficiency of the government and the party that is running the government. If BJP is capable of damaging institutions, they would have used that energy to support Modi’s pet projects instead of wasting time on something that is not politically rewarding.
I recall the fictional work ‘Seven Minutes’ by Irving Wallace. The rape and murder accused boy remains silent till the last moment to admit he was, in fact, impotent and could never commit the crime.
Sometimes people prefer to become accused rather than letting people consider them to be incapable of doing the wrong thing. This stems out from the false notions of considering oneself superior, contrary to the truth. So none in the government would accept that they are inefficient. It is politically suicidal to accept inefficiency. Chidambaram would get inspired by such acknowledgment he would go to every town in India repeating how inefficient BJP is. That would damage the party more than any accusations of it hurting the institutions. So, they happily pretend that they are capable of destructing the institutions.
I rest my case.
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