Why India's politics is making the country flounder

All governments, irrespective of the party in power, are the same.

 |  4-minute read |   18-05-2015
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Today, the personal is the political.

– “Foreign Hand Again”, Indian Express, May 4, 2015

India’s sports establishment has failed its talented teens.

– From “A Cruel Race”, Indian Express, May 9, 2015

On the face of it, it may seem that there is nothing in common between the two sentences quoted above. But the relationship should be clear the moment a question is asked: Who or what is “India’s sports establishment”? This is because it is no secret that the governing bodies of most of the sports in the country are headed by politicians.

Is sports the only activity in the country affected by politics? Far from it. Let us take another example, a current one. Salman Khan.

The 13 years that his conviction took and the three days that gave him bail have been among the top news stories for the last few days. Mixed views have come forth about investigations by the police and the meting out of justice by the courts. One set of views claims that the police has been inefficient in investigations or has deliberately left loopholes to be exploited by the defence, and the courts, particularly, the High Court, have been extra considerate or lenient to him. Assuming, just for the sake of argument, that this set of views is correct, who is responsible for the sorry state of policing and of the judiciary?

Let us take the police first. Delivering its judgment in a PIL filed by a retired director general of police, the Supreme Court ordered setting up of state security commissions, fixed tenure for police chiefs and other police officers, separation of investigation from law and order and establishment of police complaints authorities and police establishment boards, as far back as September 22, 2006. Commenting on the state of affairs in November 2013, Prakash Singh said, “The Supreme Court's order was to remain in force till states passed their own laws for police reforms. Fifteen states have passed their own laws after the verdict. But instead of implementing the court's order, these acts (laws) circumvent the court's directives. All these 15 acts have been challenged before the SC."

A few months before that, in April 2013, the Supreme Court had itself reviewed the implementation and had said, “Instead of improving the police functioning and approach, what we have seen is a journey from bad to worse in these seven years." Why and how did this happen? None of the state governments had taken the Supreme Court order seriously and since law and order is a state subject, nothing got done. The situation remains pretty much the same even now.

We often tend to blame the “government” but the reality is somewhat different. All governments, irrespective of the party in power, are the same. The most classic and latest example is of the decision of the Central Information Commission on May 03, 2013 declaring six national political parties (BJP, Congress, BSP, NCP, CPM, and CPI) as public authorities under the RTI Act. None of the six parties has complied with the decision nor challenged it anywhere. They have decided to simply ignore it, including several notices issued to them by the CIC asking them to come and explain why they have not acted on the decision.

Sadly, the CIC in another decision on March 16, 2015 declared that “the Commission is bereft of the tools to get its orders complied with.” It is rumoured that the reluctance of the CIC to take action against political parties may have something to do with the post of the Chief Information Commissioner being vacant for almost a year, since August 2014.

This is a classic example because it shows how the entire political establishment can cock a snook at one of the highest statutory bodies and get away with it.

This is what brings us to the question: What is politics? Is it only about the dynamics of power? Who gets how much power? And does the one with the maximum power gets to decide what to do? In a society that has decided to follow representative democracy as a way to govern itself, politics is, or should be, the way to decide who or what political grouping has the people’s mandate to govern the society for a given period.

Regardless of whoever has the mandate, the end objective is governance, and governance in the larger public or national interest. Both, the ruling party and those in the opposition, are expected to work in the national interest. When both of them start working in their individual, partisan interests, that is when politics becomes dysfunctional. It would be funny if it were not so tragic to see both BJP and Congress to oppose proposals when they are in the opposition which they themselves introduced and worked for when they were in the government, and vice versa. The Right to Information is one such measure that was approved unanimously but which now all parties are trying to get rid of just because it is not in their perceived private interest though it is overwhelmingly in the national interest. 

This is what brings us to the personal being the political. Unless the entire political establishment learns to transcend the personal, the country will continue to flounder.


Jagdeep S Chhokar Jagdeep S Chhokar

The writer is a former Professor, Dean, and Director In-charge of IIM, Ahmedabad.

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