Satyamev Jayate - Jinhe Desh Ki Fikr Hai

Power to you

Know a little more about the criminalization of Indian politics. Here is some information that can help you get a better perspective.


Power to you


Let democracy work its magic Back

We are on the eve of a very fractious Lok Sabha election. Perhaps now more than ever it is important to step back and reflect on the momentous decision taken by our founding fathers when they inscribed in the Constitution the right to vote for every adult Indian.  The Constituent Assembly which drew up the Constitution was itself not a product of universal adult suffrage. And here it was declaring universal adult suffrage as the cornerstone of Indian democracy!

Today, we tend to take our democracy so much for granted that we miss the significance of what our founding fathers did. In 1947, when India became free, we were possibly the most socially unequal society. An entire section of Indians at the bottom of the social ladder were treated as untouchables. The Dalits and the OBCs were denied the fruits of education and barely represented in government. Women could only be called second-class citizens. What we today call social discrimination was then normalized cultural behavior. In such a hierarchical and unequal society, our founding fathers took the most radical decision of giving every adult Indian the right to vote. You may be unequal socially but in front of the law, all Indians hitherto will be equal. You may not have the social right to choose your life partner, but you have the right to choose whom to send to the Parliament or the Assemblies.

It was an act of faith and hope by our founding fathers. It was like they were telling every Indian, even those from generations to come: “Here’s a power you have been given, it's your birthright. Fashion a society out of this that will take us out of the morass in which we have sunk, lead us from darkness to light.”

Today, more than six decades later, when we see that in the last Lok Sabha, 30% of our MPs had criminal cases against them; that even today our political parties continue to give tickets to candidates charged with crimes; that elections have become just a game which only the money bags can play; we wonder whether the dream of our founding fathers has gone sour. Have we sunk deeper into the morass?

There are some questions in life where the Yes has as much power of the truth as its opposite, the No. This is such a question.

Yes, we have sunk deeper into the morass as the media bombards us, both reflecting and creating the public mood. Yes, corruption and nepotism has seeped into the very soul of our republic. Yes, there is widespread cynicism and a search for some messianic, larger-than-life leader who will fix our problems.

Lest we give way to despair, the opposite is as true. Compare the position of Dalits, the position of the OBCs, the position of women today to what it was in 1947. There has been a widespread assertion not just of rights but of an assertion of power. Uttar Pradesh, one of the most caste-ridden societies, has seen a Dalit chief minister thrice. The OBCs too have tasted the fruits of power all over. Women are reclaiming their place in the sun. Through a torturous process, the right to vote has ensured a certain semblance of political equality for all castes, for every section, even the most suppressed which never existed before. Indian democracy has become more inclusive.

Of course, a caste-ridden, communally-divided society has not created this political equality in an ideal and enlightened way. It would be sheer idealism to expect it do so. It has thrown up the most venal, the most corrupt, the most criminal social elements into political life. This is obviously very disturbing for every concerned Indian.

But again, there is a reason for all this. For the educated and those well-placed in life, voting can be dispensed with and that is why many do not even vote. For the masses, voting is critical—every vote is a barometer of one’s caste’s or community’s political clout. Having an MP or MLA whom you can access is important in the struggle for existence. Again, the educated and well-placed may viee the masses and their voting patterns with contempt. Before one shifts the blame to them, let us not forget that when the government machinery is unresponsive to the poor and powerless, they will seek the help of every upstart, even the most criminal and corrupt politician from their caste and community to redress their problems. When in everyday life, caste relations based on high and low continue, is it surprising that fertile ground is created for caste identity politics to get perpetuated?

We may be repulsed by the physiognomy of the political class today, but this is a mere reflection of our society with its deep fissures. This is who we are as a people, and if we do not like it, we have to change who we are as a people. We have to refashion our social relations such that what every child reads in school—‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’—becomes a reality and does not remain merely empty words. We have to change the nature of the government machinery, make it transparent, accountable and imbued with the spirit of service. Of course, this is no easy task. But we are not powerless. In the past, the right to vote has humbled the most powerful and arrogant, the most corrupt and criminal. It has thrown up public spirited leaders. Democracy can keep working its magic, if only we have even a little of the faith and hope that our founding fathers had.



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