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  Goa: Murder of democracy  


By: Shachi Rairikar
February 12, 2005
(The author is a Chartered Accountant working in a software company in Indore, MP, India and manage

Panjim 2nd Feb, 2005. At 5.40 p.m. vote of confidence was won by the BJP government which had apparently been rendered into minority after the resignation of four MLAs. Yet, in a more than prompt response, the Congress governor dismissed the BJP government at 6.10 p.m. without even hearing out both the sides and a new Congress government was hastily sworn in at 11.30 in the night. Under the Indian Constitution and also as per the established norms of democracy, the Governor has no powers to annul the ruling of the Speaker and judiciary is the sole forum before which an appeal can be made against the Speaker’s ruling. But an outrageous assault on the Constitution was committed and democracy was murdered.

Murder of democracy is nothing new to the Indian polity. It has been happening time and again in the Congress party and, through it, in India. It is an irony that India, which boasts of being the largest democracy in the world, in the most part of its fifty plus years of Independence has been ruled by a party which has never had much respect or understanding of democracy.

In the year 1938 Subhas Chandra Bose was unanimously elected President of the Congress and re-elected the following year. But owing to his differences with Mahatma Gandhi he was made to resign his Presidency in April 1939. The democratically elected leadership of the party budged under the pressure of a powerful lobby within the party and democracy was murdered.

In the year 1946 when Independence was around the corner the choice of Congress president became crucial since it was certain that the Viceroy would invite him or her to head the interim government. Twelve of the fifteen Pradesh Congress Committees proposed the name of Sardar Patel; not one of them sent up the name of Jawaharlal Nehru, not even his native United Provinces. It was at this point that Mahatma Gandhi made his last decisive intervention in the affairs of the nation. He asked Acharya Kripalani, who was the choice of the United Provinces Pradesh Congress Committee, to circulate a note to the Congress Working Committee asking that body to nominate Nehru. Gandhi gave more weight to the name proposed by the Congress Working Committee and Sardar Patel, the choice of the people, failed to become prime minister. Democratic ideals quietly bowed out to make place for one man’s fancy and democracy was murdered.

In the year 1975 the Congress party was in power. Justice Jag Mohan Lal Sinha`s (Allahabad High Court) verdict on June 12, 1975, declared the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi`s election to the Lok Sabha as void. Justice V R Krishna Iyer, then a vacation judge in the Supreme Court, decided on Indira Gandhi`s appeal. On June 24, Justice Krishna Iyer gave a conditional stay allowing her to remain a member of Parliament, but disallowing her to take part in the proceedings of the Lok Sabha. Indira Gandhi, acting fast, declared Emergency on June 26, 1975 and democracy was murdered.
In the year 1984 when Indira Gandhi was killed by her body guards, her son Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime minister within 24 hours. In sharp contrast to democratic norms which require the party to elect experienced and capable Prime Ministerial candidate in case of such crisis, just like a son of a king who automatically succeeds his father in a monarchy, the less experienced son of the Prime Minister was chosen over the more experienced and capable veteran members of the Congress party and democracy was murdered.

Even today the most senior and experienced members of the Congress party lie prostate at the feet of the “bahu” of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and are busy impressing Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent and, going by the Congress party tradition, their next Prime Ministerial candidate.

Democracy is an age old Indian institution. Centuries before the west rose to civilized life, the principalities in the Indian nation were ruled by democratically elected sabhas and samitis. But a servile party which falls to knees and cringes in front of its master - a foreigner alien to Indian culture, history and traditions, cannot be expected to respect and keep up the noble Indian traditions. A party which has been ruled by one anglicized, westernized dynasty for more than fifty years in the fashion of a monarchy cannot be expected to uphold democratic values.

It is sad that the Indian public, used to slavery for thousand years, has been electing such a party to power time and again. More shocking is the fact that the Indian intelligentsia and the media which claim to be modern, broad-minded and balanced, instead of exposing the serious short-comings of the leading political party, have been misleading the common public by glorifying the royal family and its heirs.

In 1996, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the General Elections and was asked by the President of India to form a government. But most of the other political parties, with the avowed objective of preventing BJP from coming to power, combined together so that the BJP could not muster even a bare majority on the floor of the Lok Sabha, and subsequently a coalition of 13 parties, with diametrically opposing ideologies, under the banner of United Front, formed the Government. In other words, neither the largest nor the second-largest party could form a government. Such mockery of democracy has since then been repeated in some state assembly elections as well.

The breakdown of democracy in Goa is more serious than any of the instances sighted above as it was executed by the government itself. Except for the declaration of emergency by the Prime Minister in 1975, all the incidents of murder and mockery of democracy since Independence were either executed within the Congress Party or were technically not unconstitutional. The emergency and the Goa case are two instances of breakdown of the constitutional machinery which were officially given shape by the government. In this regard the Goa episode stands at par with the declaration of emergency. It is a matter of grave concern and should sound alarm amongst all classes of society in all the states of the Indian Union. It is not a problem or a crisis faced by one political party or one particular state. It is a crisis of democracy as an institution in the political history of the Indian nation.

It is indeed alarming that such a crucial breakdown of democratic system within the country failed to invoke a critical response from the Indian intelligentsia and media. Overshadowed by the assembly elections in three states, the Goa episode passed off as yet another political upheaval. The Goa episode could not secure adequate coverage on the television and print media or invite severe criticism and condemnation. Eager to see the BJP – the so-called “communal” party - defeated, the “secular” intellectuals and media persons missed the larger picture, the real issue – the defeat of democracy. The undemocratic Congress party, of course, celebrated their victory, also seen as the heralding of a series of similar dismissals, constitutional or unconstitutional, of other state governments where the main opposition party BJP is in power. Apart from the BJP, which was the aggrieved party, no political party, social or political activists, non-government organizations, intellectuals or elite raised their voice against the unconstitutional act of the governor of Goa. It seems as if the Goa episode concerned only the interests of one political party or state. We have failed to view it in the larger perspective. We have failed to see it as what it truly is – the murder of democracy.

Jaundiced by sham secularism, we are conditioned to perceive every event in the light of the ongoing secularism versus communalism battle. We invariably tend to give the same treatment to issues of national interest which are beyond divisive, communal, party politics. Our prejudice and bias against particular ideology or party prevents us from acting in favour of the nation in the hour of need. We, as a nation, cannot afford to make such a costly mistake. We cannot allow conflicting ideologies to divide us when democracy is endangered. We must learn to differentiate national issues from political issues. It is time we rise up to the occasion, rise above political and ideological differences and take all possible measures to protect our democracy. The stakes are high and if we falter, there is a heavy price to be paid.

Shachi Rairikar

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