Friday, July 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Saving polity from mafia power

The EC & apex court give the right lead. Mr Hari Jaisingh in his article "Saving polity from mafia power"(July 12) has made a dispassionate assessment of the sickening state of affairs in Parliament and state legislatures. Sadly, a scary number of members have entered Parliament and state legislatures, criminal background notwithstanding, having a devastating effect on the political and financial health of the country. This is disquieting, to say the least. In a bid to retrieve the situation, the Supreme Court issued a landmark order. In pursuance thereof, the Election Commission directed all contestants to Parliament and state legislatures to reveal their assets, liabilities, criminal antecedents etc at the time of filing nomination papers.

This did not fit in the scheme of things of politicians. They ganged up, mindless of political affilfations, discussed and debated the directive and rejected it with one voice. It is here that the spirit of political “biradiri” has been domonstrated, but the public is uninspired. It was not entirely unexpected.

According to politicians, to legislate is their business. What is heartening is that a Bill is being introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament to stem the rot. Will this piece of legislation be without an escape route? This is debatable, for the the credibility of the political class is, by and large, woefully low. Let us wait and watch.


Politician-criminal nexus: A lot of ink is going to be spilled and acres of newsprint will be consumed in throwing brickbats at the confederation of Indian political parties for sidestepping the sagacious edict of the apex court and the consequential directive of the Election Commission requiring every candidate for legislative elections to declare his financial status and criminal record, if any. After sleeping over the issue like Kumbhkarna, they now smugly want to write their own rules. It would, therefore, be worthwhile to look at the issue from the other side of spectrum.


Before that it needs to be remembered that it is the BJP and some of its allies that have been wailing like witches of Macbeth for long for reforms in the electoral system and process. Insofar as the Congress is concerned, it has never seriously demanded any reforms except for tinkering with the law when Indira Gandhi had to be saved from the ire of the Allahabad High Court. Regarding the Akali Dal (Badal) endorsing the directive, the credit has been circumstantially thrust on it because many of their mandarins are already under investigation of their financial status and would like similar financial accounting by their opponents.

It has been mentioned in the article that there are about 700 legislators, including 40 MPs who have criminal antecedents. On a very conservative estimate about the same number who lost the elections are waiting to stage a comeback after updating their modus operandi from the schools for scounderels. An equal number of fresh faces can be estimated to be flexing their muscles to jostle their way into electoral success to enjoy the privileged democratic freedom to err, blunder and plunder.

To the simple question as to how such anthrax manages to get elected, there is a simple answer that there are people who vote them to success through ignorance or lack of political maturity or allurements or intimidation or coercion. The politician-criminal nexus with pliant and corrupt bureaucrats and the underworld mafiosi as cheer leaders is able to convert narrow religious, casteist and sectarian toxins into hardcore groups which are delivered as fixed deposits into dubious vote banks. It was in the context of this deformity of the body politic that Justice Hidayatullah referred to the tendency of democracy to commit suicide.

As a corollary to electoral reforms applicable to the legislature, there should be a serious and meaningful debate about improving the quality of voting.

R.C. KHANNA, Amritsar

Hopes from judiciary: Kudos to journalists like Hari Jaisingh, who dare to stand with the truth. His brave action of raising his voice against the suppressive attitude of some judicial men has made the whole judiciary sit up and rethink. Well-timed remedial measures taken subsequently have let the cat out of the bag.

Dismayed by the polity of India, the people are looking to the judiciary for reforms. If the judiciary also gets bullied by the unprincipled polity and selfishness then where is the hope?

The rare show of unity by all political parties in joining the chorus against the decision of the apex court for electoral reforms only highlights their deep-rooted fear of being exposed for taking politics as a profession and patronising corruption and crime. Assets of any MLA or MP, if investigated, will surely come out as beyond their sources of income. We are a nation of self-centred, indifferent people. I think we need Hari Jaisingh in every town and village of India. He has the courage and will power to awaken the people from the deep slumber of indifference before the glorious ship of Indian democracy gets sunk.


Just & simple: Not even one leader of national status has come out openly in defence of the directions given by the apex court to the Election Commission. There is nothing wrong in disclosing the qualifications, criminal cases pending, if any, and the details of assets and liability by a candidate unless he wants to hide them, fearing disqualification. It is a matter of pain and sorrow that all political parties have ganged up against the directions which are just and simple.


Pseudo claim: The political leadership of the country has only exposed its pseudo claim to morality and principles by its unilateral and almost unanimous rejection of the apex court’s ruling and the Election Commissioner’s directive regarding the antecedents of candidates for making the elections and polity crime free. Every political party condemns the criminalisation of politics and sheds crocodile tears at the growing influence of money and muscle power in the corridors of political power. But no one has ever worked for an effective and comprehensive measure to root out the evil.



Criminalisation of politics

It was a sad reading that all national and regional political parties with the lone exception of the Akali Dal has shown rare unanimity in rejecting the guidelines of the Election Commission given in pursuance of the judgement of the apex court to stop criminalisation of politics. You are absolutely right that people have the right to information as professed by the legendary JP.

We come to the same old conclusion that transparency and accountability (which are elusive right from bottom to the top) are the answer without which everything is rendered meaningless. There is no point in harping over the debate if the hen came first or the egg came first but the fact is that both are a reality now. Similar is the case whether criminals and corruption have entrapped the politicians or the politicians have developed dependence on these for their partisan interests, but the reality is that corruption has creped into every level and the politician-criminal nexus is there to win elections.

What should be done to control these monsters? Who will bell the cat, the public or the politicians? To solve this I think everyone from top to bottom has to recognise his duty towards building the nation only then something meaningful can emerge.

DR TIRATH GARG, Ferozepore


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