The elevation of Modi as field marshal of the BJP for leading them into electoral battle was undemocratically decided. But is it against the spirit of parliamentary democracy? And the Congress’s crown prince has spurned his crown thrice even when it was offered on a platter. Clearly, cabalism has replaced party democracy—despite former CEC T.N. Seshan’s order in the George Fernandes case that party constitutions must be followed. Anticipating Modi’s elevation, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) has already pre-emptively broken free of the bjp’s embrace.
Should such exaltations be allowed to convert India’s election into an American-style presidential polls? We know the US election is a wasteful democratic exercise: it starts half-way through a presidential term; each state follows its own counting procedure (winner-takes-all, proportionate votes); a decision of the US Supreme Court allows money power to dominate the process.
India’s Constitution does not envisage American-style campaigns. Nothing prevents a party or a coalition from nominating a possible leader. But that is not how it should work constitutionally. Except in the Xth Anti-Defection Schedule and, limitedly, the Representation of the People Act, political parties are not mentioned. Individual MPs are elected from constituencies. After the results, the MPs constitute parties (Xth Schedule). Supposedly, they elect their leader. Whether a coalition or single party, a PM’s cabinet has to command a sufficient majority and is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha (Article 75). It follows that the process of declaring a PM candidate begins after the election. In a coalition, this is even more fundamental.
Modi’s enthronement, amidst dissent and without reference to the NDA, is pre-emptive. Ultimately, it is for the parliamentary party to select a PM. L.K. Advani was right in saying that these matters have to be decided by the party. But he overlooked the fact that it’s a post-poll decision of the party or group. Of course, after the election but before Parliament is constituted, the anti-defection law doesn’t apply to a party or coalition selecting a PM. The pre-poll party should not decide what is squarely the constitutional responsibility of the post-election party.
No doubt, every party has the right to declare its ‘prime’ candidate. No one can stop it. But such selection requires a democratic participation by the rank and file, not by a bickering clique of elders. But what the declaration of future king-emperor PMs does is that it exchanges personality for issues, national or local. Parliamentary polls work on the premise that democracy is built by the people from the constituency level. To eclipse this process is to undermine the very basis on which our democracy rests.
Is all this illegal? The answer is no! But a constitution is not merely words—it represents inner working principles which some jurists (eg. Professor Baxi) have called the real constitution. The real constitution places people (rather than cabals) at the centre of the electoral process.
Political thinkers tend to agree with the Crossman thesis that, in its actual operation, the parliamentary system is becoming presidential in approach. The collective responsibility of the cabinet has been eclipsed by the rise of prime ministerial power. Of this, perhaps, the most odious example was Mrs Thatcher, but she has Indian parallels. Oddly, Manmohan Singh seems much more a collegial PM, despite what people say of his domination by the party leader. However, the Crossman thesis operates once the party or coalition actually governs.
It might not be wrong to give a glimpse of who the top boss could be. But Modi’s anointment shows a moral and political bankruptcy that has devalued the local democratic process through money and muscle, all fired by a mindless media feeding mass politics. Literature on the ‘crowd’ suggests that mass participation in politics isn’t democracy. Such histrionic politics is reflected in Gustav Le Bon’s The Crowd. Mass politics based on a personality is precisely what happened in the inter-war period in Germany and Italy. The electoral equation becomes ‘leader = crowd’, rather than the democratic process.
In India, parties pursue victory at all costs, using methods fair or foul to get mass endorsement at the expense of local democracy. The answer to Modi (who is not the first, but the most manipulative example) is to urge the average citizen to ignore ‘Modistic’ glitter and use his vote to further the democratic process.
Indian democracy has been strengthened by the panchayat amendments, which gave power to the people. The people are not a ‘crowd’, but entitled to make choices. If they don’t choose good sense over the populist charms of Modi, they would be preparing the grounds for fascism.
(Dhavan is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court)
Why has Rajeev Dhavan (Napoleonic Democracy, Sept 30) devised all his arguments upon an anti-Modi, anti-BJP foundation? Does he think everything is kosher with other political parties?
Uday Sharma, Bangalore
Advocate Dhavan says the panchayati raj system gave power to the people. He does not seem to know how panchayat elections are contested—with money, muscle and cheap liquor. And does he forget that in the Congress, dynastic control has killed intra-party democracy?
Sanjeev Pandey, Delhi
Dhavan is a legal eagle with a high IQ, but he seems to lack common sense: he doesn’t have a clue to how the common man makes his choice and how leadership works.
Rakhal Chandra Ghosh, Tomball, US
I find it strange that the projection of Narendra Modi as the BJP’s PM candidate is being seen as a catastrophe befalling democracy. One ruling dynasty has looted the country for over five decades, in the process trashing every democratic institution. The intelligence agencies, the governor’s office, even the defence forces have been compromised. No one seems to be worried about that catastrophe, one to which India already seems to have succumbed.
I thought I should remind Mr Dhavan that the position of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is like that of a PM in an absolute monarchy.
M.K. Saini, Delhi
>>(Dhavan is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court)
This esteemed Supreme Court lawyer was sitting in NDTV studio before the Ayodhya ruling and lecturing everyone on how we should accept the verdict. But the moment the judgment was announced and it became evident that it was not to his liking, he proclaims " it is panchayati justice!"
Whats new in Modi's elevation - Nehru was PM in 47 before any election, and was PM candidate both in 57 and 62, so was Indira and Rajeev. The real UnDemocratic Act was Manmohan Singh who has never been elected to Lok Sabha and still is the PM. Also in UPA 1 how was democracy served when Congress and Left came together, spite of them contesting against each other head on in polls.
Modi has been elevated as BJP's candidate not NDA's and who is to say who and what constitutes NDA.
How can we claim we are voting for an MP and nothis party when he has no power to vote against Party whip on any matter of importance. The whole process seems the best for of democracy with the voter clearly knowing what he is voting for and who is with whom.
Panchayath amendments have not brought power to the people and money (needed to do anything) is still with Center and State.
I find it quite strange that Modi's elevation is seen as some kind of catastrophe befalling democracy. While the country has been looted by the ruling dynasty for almost five and a half decades, and in the process every institution has been denigrated with the sole purpose of weakening it. Look at the intelligence agencies, the CBI, the governor's office, and now even the Army is being dragged into this mess.
I wonder why no one questions it or is worried about it. That, in my opinion, is a bigger catastrophe that Indian democracy needs to brace for (if it has not already succumbed to it).
"introducing personality cult"...my foot!
Indira Gandhi and her descendents, Karunanidhi, YSR, yADAV ----- never heard anybody complaining about personality cult...
I am old enough to remember when the whole Congress party from AICC President Baruah onwads declared ' India is Indira, Indira is India'
Sri Modi is not going to pass the PMship to his son or wife...That is a great break..
In that sense he will be following another great son of Gujrat - Mahatmaji - he could have put himself or any of his 3 or 4 children who were alive then to positions of power..he just walked away.... Sri Modi will walk away after fixing India, talking it out of the depths Congress has left her
is this article for real... can some body be so dumb to write such an article... can a SC lawyer be such a shame....almost half the sentences dont make any sense...its journalistic terrorism by a pseudointelectual trying to be hyper intellectual....such useless, baseless, nonsense article by a SC lawyer is hitting the the court and nations' credibility. the author should be banned from holding a pen as its a matter of great shame for the pen
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