The partyless wonders: where Shekhar Gupta loses the plot
The partyless wonders.: The Indian Express, 2nd May
Shekhar Gupta has argued the case against Independents in our political system. For the full article, published in the Indian Express, follow the link above.
To start with, I am a little perplexed why Shekhar is so excercised by the sight of independents like Sanyal and Gopinath. Hasn’t he seen independents contest before? I remember ballot papers bigger than newspapers and even now, most constituencies have more than 10 to 20 candidates contesting. So, what gets Shekhar’s goat, this time? Could it be that some of these independents could queer the pitch, while not winning themselves, for some of Shekhar’s friends?
Let us look at the arguments made by Mr. Gupta. The basis of parliamentary democracy is the party system. To quote: “…fundamentally, the notion that you can invent a new politics where independents displace parties is not only fanciful, it is also undemocratic. The essence of parliamentary democracy is the party system. All democracies are built around competing parties, ideologies, mass leaders, manifestos. Imagine a Parliament of 543 individuals, or where even 10 per cent of the members have no party affiliation. Imagine the incoherence, the sheer anarchy.”
At least Shekhar does not call this unconstitutional. Because it certainly is not. The constitution gives us the right to contest elections upon reaching the age of 25. So, Shekhar’s point is that our constitution is permitting undemocratic things. Good lord!
Why bother imagining a parliament where 10% or more members have no party affiiliations, Shekhar? Are you saying that the current Lok Sabha, split as it was along party lines (in how many parts, Shekhar?) was orderly, conducted itself with decorum and above all, was a model of behaviour that the incoming Lok Sabha should aspire to follow? A certain Mr. Somnath Chatterjee would certainly disagree!
In this Lok Sabha, we have parties with fewer than 5 MPs; quite a few have less than ten seats. We have parties with 1 member. Not so long ago, Mr Chidambaram was one such MP. How different is a “single MP-party” from an independent?
Shekhar goes on to say: “The other fallacious notion is that the world of politics is filled with stupid, uneducated, lazy and corrupt people, usually of a criminal bent. That comes from an unquestioning acceptance of the Bollywood caricature of the neta.”
No Shekhar, Bollywood has not even scratched the surface. Here is a slightly old story, datelined 13th Feb, 2006 in TOI headlined 115 MPs have criminal backgrounds. This was not the fertile imagination of some “bollywood type”. This was the then CEC, Mr. BB Tandon speaking. In his opinion, published in the newspaper, “the existing laws were inadequate to stop criminalization of politics”.
More vitriol from Shekhar: “This argument won’t go much further than Malabar Hill living rooms, and not merely because most of these angry “we the people” were most likely not seen among the 40-odd per cent who turned out to vote in South Bombay, preferring to escape to Alibaug, Madh Island or Goa: who wastes a four-day weekend for a mere vote?”
Read your own newspaper, Shekhar. In today’s Indian Express, in a story headlined : Day After, how low and why , the area-wise voting percentages in all Mumbai constituencies are published. In Mumbai-South, the highest voting percentage of 43.28 was recorded from Malabar Hills. In Mumbai South Central, it is Dharavi which records the lowest percentage. Who is guilty of generalizing/ caricature now?
Drawing a parallel with the corporate world, ranting against the entry of independents into politics seems like arguing against startups and saying the only people qualified to do business are Tata, Birla, Singhania, Mafatlal and Modi. We are glad, 40 years ago, one Dhirubhai Ambani said, “to hell with status quo”. Also, is there just place and space for the professional politicians in the system? All those so called highly educated MPs: Sachin Pilot, Deora, Rahul Gandhi, Jitin Prasada, Hooda.. would they have managed to get anywhere in the Congress hierarchy unless their fathers were well connected? Let us say Meera Sanyal wanted to join the Congress. What would you have her do? Fight the elections in her apartment blocks first, as a means of gaining experience?
BJP does not, unlike the Congress, treat entry to politics as a birthright. However, what if Sanyal or Gopinath did not wish to join BJP for whatever reason?
Meera Sanyal and Gopinath, like many others could have sat at home or gone out to light candles. That they chose to do something which I did not have the courage to do, has my admiration. Whether you should vote for them or not (I unfortunately vote in East Delhi), is your call based on whether you think they can deliver for you, dear voter.