Save Samvidhan (Constitution) and Save Democracy – Myth or Mirage?

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(Brig (rtd) GB Reddi)

Indian democracy is 74-year old and its progression continues to be outrageous. Many western commentators drub it as ‘functional anarchy’ – more aptly chaos ad infinitum. Intellectuals, political leaders, think tanks and media are committing fraud on “We the Gullible People” of India by oft repeatedly sensationalizing “Save Samvidhan and Save Democracy” slogans.  Quite often one hears clichés as “Nation in Siege from within”, “Institutional entropy” and “multiple crises situation” to describe India’s current strategic realities. They also often use “Jungle Raj – survival of the fittest”.

An attempt, sans bias and prejudice, has been made to provide a “perspective” to the current and emerging scenario in the country. In reality, the decadence of political culture is truly bizarre.  Greed, fraud and backstabbing are scaling dizzy heights – scams galore. Criminalization of politics is consolidating politicization of criminals. Poll violence is bizarre. Intrigue, inherited  “Hastinapur” ancient heritage, is on display.  Caucus or Mafia governs.  Blackmailing, kidnapping and hijacking of MPs/MLAs are common. Unambiguously Indian democracy is outrageous. – Functional-anarchy with self-styled Anarchist Arvind Kejriwal on the prowl and Mamata Banerjee rebellion against the Central Government.

Most disheartening is the content of the ADR report on the results of 2019 Lok Sabha elections that exposes the fraud.  There are 233 (43%) winners with criminal cases and 159 (29%) winners with serious criminal cases. Furthermore, 475 (88%) are Crorepathi winners.

Similarly, as per ADR report on the results of recently held 5 State Assembly elections, the number of winners with serious criminal cases include: West Bengal –  142 or 49%; Assam- 24 or 27%; Kerala – 96 or 71%; Tamil Nadu – 124 or 60%; and Puducherry – 12 or 43%.  Add to them, the number of crorepathis elected – West Bengal – 158 or 54%; Assam- 85 or 67%; Kerala – 75 or 53%; Tamil Nadu – 192 or 86%; and Puducherry – 25 or 83%.

How can any sensible person expect that a gang of criminals ever deliver service to the society and safeguard national interests? In particular, the Judiciary allows them free passage to float around with gunmen escorting them and lives in fortress type palaces and enjoying Ministerial posts.

The origin of the Constitution - The Hindu

“We the People of India” continue to remain in “Ostrich” position.  Legislators will never allow passing any laws contrary to their self or progeny interests. Mahatma Gandhi’s message to the nation on 26 January 1948: “This day, Jan 26, is Independence Day.  This observance was quite appropriate when we were fighting for Independence we had not seen or handled.  Now, we have handled it and we seem to be disillusioned.  At least, I am, even if you are not.  What are we celebrating today?  Surely, it is not our disillusionment.” Was Gandhi prophetic or pragmatic or cynic?

“Politics, with focus on power and the polls, can never solve a problem embroiled on acrimony and soaked in blood.  Parliament, currently a functioning anarchy, and the Cabinet, a fragmented collectivity, are instrumentalities whose credibility and competence are at low ebb and the country is itself disintegrating.  In this grave hour, if there is some hope, not that there is much hope, it is from the Court”, wrote V R Krishna Iyer (The Hindu, 21 January 1993), former justice of the Supreme Court.  Today, the Judiciary too is in crisis.

In the ultimate, the blame squarely falls on “We the People”. For they albeit mostly educated, still behave with illiterate mob mentality at the time of voting. How relevant is Will Durant who stated that “democracy without education means hypocrisy without limitation; …. .  It means the expensive maintenance, in addition to real ruling class, of a large parasite class of politicians, whose function is to serve the rulers and deceive the ruled.”

Let me in broad outline highlight what the Committee and Dr. BR Ambedkar – self-sacrificing leaders of freedom struggle – formulated and defined as the “Constitution” for 34 crores “We the People” mostly illiterate. It is no more the same having undergone many amendments – January 2020, there have been 104 amendments of the Constitution of India since it was voted and signed by all 284 Members of the Assembly on 26 November 1949 that came into effect on 26 January 1950.

Undeniably in retrospect, Dr. Ambedkar and all the 284 members are to be faulted for not taking into consideration Montesquieu conclusion that “republics were best suited to the small countries, limited monarchies to the middle sized and more prosperous, and enlightened despotism’s to the large nations.”  More importantly, they failed dismally to prescribe laws barring criminals with F.I.Rs from staking leadership claims and the neo-dynasts to hijack democracy.

Ipso facto, the Preamble contained only one national value – Democracy. Most important, the 42nd Amendment amended the Preamble from a “sovereign democratic republic” to a “sovereign, socialist secular democratic republic”, and also changed the words “unity of the nation” to “unity and integrity of the nation”.

Dr B. R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution, was opposed to declaring India’s social and economic structure in the Constitution. In his opposition to the amendment, Ambedkar stated, “My objections, stated briefly are two. In the first place the Constitution… is merely a mechanism for the purpose of regulating the work of the various organs of the State. It is not a mechanism whereby particular members or particular parties are installed in office……… “   Ambedkar’s second objection was that the amendment was “purely superfluous” and “unnecessary”, as “socialist principles are already embodied in our Constitution” through Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy.”

To start with the edifice of “Samvidhan” was based on three pillars only – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The words “Freedom of Press” is not expressly mentioned, but it is implicit in Article 19(1) (a), i.e. every citizen’s fundamental right to free speech and expression and media also exercise the same right. Media too claimed the “fourth pillar” status based on Edmund Burke, who described the freedom of press as the Fourth Estate of Democracy.

Let none suffer from any illusions that all the “Four Pillars” are in deep crisis.  And, the reason is simple – lack of understanding of the nature and character of politics in practice by “We the People”. Intellectual bankruptcy of “We the People (vote Banks)”, who get carried by emotions and sentiments due to jingoistic rhetoric by criminals masquerading as leaders using all malpractices – money and muscle power. Will Durant lamented on the decay of democracy in his book “Pleasures of Philosophy” published in 1929. People are too emotional and too parochial to govern in India’s context.

Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar: A true fighter against caste discrimination in India,  India News News | wionews.com

How true and appropriate are the prophetic remarks of Joseph Story that prefaced the American Constitution: “The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skills and fidelity; the foundations are solid its compartments are beautiful as well as useful; ……; and its defenses are impregnable from without.  It has been reared for immortality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title.  It may nevertheless perish in an hour by the negligence, folly or corruption of its only keepers – the People.  Republics are created by the virtue, intelligence and public spirit of its citizens.  They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, and the profligate rewarded, because they dare to be honest; and …….”. When the criminals enter from the front door, naturally others will flee from whoever opening is available to them.

A brief review of the quotes of many political sciences emeritus sages are considered vital to understand what ails democracy in India. The list of names of sages include: Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, Montesquieu, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, De Tracy, James Mill, James Madison, Schumpeter, George Bernard Shah, Winston Churchill, Mao Zedong, Nikita Khruschev, Will Rogers, Oscar Ameringer, Ernest Benn, James Freeman Clarke, Sermon, George Jean Nathan, Dunn, Drucker, Huntington, Nassibat, Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard, Texas Guinan, among many others.

First, Winston Churchill stated “Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous.  In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times.”  And, Mao Zedong reinforced “Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed. How apt is Texas Guinan’s rumination “a politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country?” In sum, “We the People” must remember that there are no “golden rules” in the game of politics – no ethics, morals and values.

Second, Walter Lippmann stated “Before you can begin to think about politics at all, you have to abandon the notion that there is a war between good men and bad men.” Thomas Jefferson stated “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, rottenness begins in his conduct.”  Samuel Johnson stated “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”  So, it is unfair to expect scoundrels to play the game of politics based on rules, when the stakes are “winner taking all the power, wealth, perks and privileges that goes with the elected office” for life including pensions. The ADR report exposes the realities of the number of criminals/scoundrels masquerading as leaders.

Third, how appropriate is Oscar Ameringer postulation in today’s murky world of democracy: “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.”  George Bernard Shaw stated “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

Fourth, how appropriate also is Aesop view that “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” “We’d all like to vote for the best man, but he’s never a candidate”, stated Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard.   George Jean Nathan stated “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.~ P.J. O’Rourke is truly relevant today in India: “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators – Aye Rams, Gaye Rams.”

Fifth, Winston Churchill stated “Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.”   Charles de Gaulle also stated “In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.  How apt is Nikita Khrushchev who stated “Politicians are the same all over.  They promise to build a bridge even where they are no river.”

Finally, around the world, political leaders have amassed power by weakening their parties by deceit, deception, deflection, and disruption. Once in power these self centered, power hungry maniacs – authoritarian and autocratic – corrupt democracy and entrench themselves completely.

Democracy recognizes dissent or disagreement and peaceful protests.   Democracy, its systems, structures and processes, are intended to promote reconciliation based on mediation, negotiation, compromise and consensus. In today’s vicious politics on grand display in most democracies, it is a myth and mirage with India being no exception.

Next, “How to Save Samvidhan and Democracy” from big tech’s information explosion and monopoly 24×365 most potent threat faced by many nations traversing on the so called path of “Democracy” with India being no exception, is grim horror threat. Add to the proliferation of visual media channels, the onslaught of social media – Amazon, Apple, Face book, Google, and Twitter, most powerful to stir up people’s emotions and sentiments and alter opinions dramatically everyday like shifting sand dunes caught in violent storms in deserts. They are posing unique threats to Western democracies like U.S., UK and France. And, threat to “MESSY” democracy in paralytic state in the ICU?Social media law: Knowing the rights of privacyDe Tracy (1811, James Mill (1820) and James Madison predicted revolutionary transformation of democracy with far reaching consequences.  As per ‘Duns Dilemma’, democracy is the name for what we cannot have – yet cannot cease to want it. So also, freedom and order cannot co-exist. For freedom, which is the main tenet of democracy promotes anarchy, whereas order breeds tyranny.

In his grave, Abraham Lincoln must be ruminating by his prescription: “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people“. George Bernard Shaw ruminated “Democracy is a system ensuring that the people are governed no better than they deserve.” Winston Churchill succinctly summed up “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”

Schumpeter (1883 …) stated that ‘democracy is nothing more than a political method……..  Even in democracy people do not rule; they merely elect those who rule.  Those who rule are the politicians – they raise issues and determine people’s lives.”

In Notes on Democracy, H.L. Mencken (1956) stated “Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.”  He added “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Eminent intellectuals of 1990s unanimously highlighted the need for redesigning political structures for the Third Wave or Technocratic Age. Peter Drucker (1909…) prescribed ‘Organised Abandonment’ as imperative and wants enforcement of ‘call for action’.  Alvin Toffler’s (1928…..) stated, “A Third Wave civilisation cannot operate with a Second Wave political structure.”  Paul Kennedy (1945…) also stated that “…nation-states themselves are becoming anachronistic would be disturbing”.

Bhabani Sen Gupta stated, “A visible gap has appeared between democracies as defined in the Constitution and as practised in the political process… When the poor are too many and the rich are relatively too few, democracy tends to be for the few rather than for many”.

Admittedly, the State is a pathological paradox – an institution that has to tackle problems, it is congenitally incapable of solving. For example, elimination of poverty is the worst fraud. . John Hoffman (1944….) opined that the concept of State is a contentious one.  As per Mann (1944), “the State has been ‘withering away’ in the face of ‘political authority’, the ‘political system’, ‘administration’ and ‘society”.  Also, they feel that the State is not just the product of divisions, but also the producer of divisions.

Stating the obvious India is a pluralist society. Unity is essential to our national strength. Fault lines and fractures in society—racial injustice, political polarization, economic inequality— are exploited by leaders to damage us from within, leaving us vulnerable to a toxic stew of hatred and fear.

What followed during the past 74-years is murder and mayhem of democracy with feudalists, more aptly neo feudalists and neo dynasts, reclaiming their status, power and wealth. Booth capturing and poll rigging is common in rural areas.  For majority of “We the People”, who vote to elect leaders, get lured by money and liquor or afraid of muscle power or polarized by narrow sectarian and parochial views on caste and communal lines. To expect leaders elected by fraudulent means to champion the cause of “Real Democracy” is foolhardiness.

In sum, those invoking slogans like “Save Samvidhan and Save Democracy” must go to lunatic asylum or get checked for mental and moral bankruptcy.  Ipso facto, the Constitution is mutilated beyond recognition.  Lack of understanding of Otto von Bismarck’s intellectual postulations is real that includes: “These powers are travelling on ‘the stream of time upon which they can ‘neither create nor direct’, but upon which they can ‘steer with more of less skill and experience”; and “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” In retrospect, Indian democracy can be compared to a “Ship without rudder caught in violent anti democracy tempest about to sink, but somehow remains afloat”.

India’s pluralist society dictates the course of politics of democracy; or, its curse. How India may emerge as a nation – unified or dismembered – depends on how effectively leadership steers its course by overcoming strategic challenges arising out of vicious social churning and seizes opportunities.

My guess is good as your guess as to how Indian democracy will transit through its turbulence. All one can do is hope for the best.

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