Indian democracy’s hidden flaws

What dismay­s me is that caste, religi­on and money play crucia­l roles at the polls.

Kuldip Nayar March 11, 2012

As the dust settles, I wonder if elections in five states — UP, Punjab, Uttrakhand, Goa and Manipur — have further nurtured democracy, the system which we have faithfully followed since the first election in. When I see that most countries from Europe to Asia pay only a lip service to the democratic election, I feel proud that India stands practically alone with a civil authority at the top.

Yet, what dismays me is that caste, religion and the money play crucial roles at the polls. Each constituency has hundreds of hands employed by political parties in the name of bandobast. But then they are driven by the mania of power.

What has stood in good stead is the model conduct code, agreed upon by all political parties some 20 years ago. The ruling Congress is the only party to join issue with the Commission on this point and has threatened to make the code statutory so that the allegation of malpractice is dragged to law courts instead of the Election Commission where the action is immediate and the complaint is attended to forthwith.

I am not surprised when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) uses the issue of building a temple at the site where the Babri masjid once stood. But I am disappointed when the Congress communalizes elections. The party introduced the proposal of a sub-quota for Muslims from the quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC). First, it is wrong to take away part of reservations from the OBC. Secondly, reservations on the basis of religion are not allowed by the constitution.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid who promoted the idea should know that this is how the theory of two nations, Hindus and Muslims, came to be propounded before partition. We should in fact be discussing why secularism has not been taking roots in our country when the constitution guarantees equality before law and when secularism is the basic structure of the constitution. Why can’t a Muslim get a house in certain localities in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai and why is the caste system still oppressively prevailing among Hindus, including those who are liberals?

I wish the BJP would change in its outlook. It should be clear to the party that an average Indian is not communal and is happy to coexist with members of other communities. The party especially inducted Uma Bharti who was seen jumping with joy into the lap of BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi after the demolition of the Babri masjid.

I have failed to understand the strategy of the Congress regarding Rahul Gandhi. The argument makes little sense when Rahul himself says that he can be the prime minister tomorrow if he wants the office. Therefore, it was amusing to see the Congress leaders sheltering him from the blame of the fiasco in UP till he took the responsibility for the debacle. That the structure of the Congress organization in UP has to be blamed, not Rahul Gandhi, has been the endless and irritating defence. Who is at fault? The blame for the weakness of the organsiation also lies on Rahul’s shoulders because he is the party’s secretary-general who has shown interest in UP since day one.

I have no doubt that Rahul Gandhi worked very hard in UP. Indeed, the Congress leaders could say on the basis of his work that the party could improve its position. Still, its tally is a mere 37 in the house of 403. The Congress should seriously ponder over the appeal of Rahul Gandhi because he did not sell in Bihar and has not done well in UP now.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2012.


Vinayak | 9 years ago | Reply

@Deb: It is a lot easier to fake economic status, than to fake the caste/ community you belong to. By linking reservations to economic status, you are actually giving incentive to people to show their income lower. Then you will have funny things like people staying deliberately poor, so as to qualify for government jobs.

Deb | 9 years ago | Reply


Having gone through all your comments on this board I have to commend your line of arguement and more so the humane touch you brought with it.But I have an issue with this business of reservation on the basis of caste,religion or any other that the most cynical of politicians peddle to secure their vote banks. Why not a reservation policy based on economic status regardless of which god one worships or which caste he/she belongs to. There are people from higher castes who are very very poor too.Is it a crime to be born in a high caste family?Unless it is argued that they have to pay a price for the sin committed by their ancestors.

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