Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our Political System: A Few Observations

Dear Friends
Jassi Khangura (Congress MLA from Qila Raipur) wrote an extremely thought-provoking article in Indian Express (Op-ed, October 14, 2008) on the role and responsibility of the legislators. I recommend it to all my friends who, like me, are disillusioned with the present political system and are waiting desperately for it to change. In order to initiate debate on this issue, I'm reproducing my response to Mr. Khangura's article, which he was kind enough to acknowledge (something, let alone the Indian politicians, even the Indian editors are not known to do in our times of growing pompousness).
Here is the original text of the letter I wrote to him:
Dear Mr Khangura
I hope I can take the liberty to address you in this manner. There is something about the tone of your article in Indian Express today that inspires enough confidence in me to do so.
Let me start off by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece in the Indian Express (Oct 14). It's so refreshing to know that there are right-thinking and truth-seeking people among our legislators and politicians, too. Over the years, we have only got used to people who believe in double think and double speak.
You belong to a rare breed of 'politicians' who not only have an impeccable sense of what the legislators are supposed to be doing but also have the necessary courage and conviction, I believe, to do their duty without a blink. Your article has restored my faith in Indian politics and political system.
Let me confess that I belong to that growing species of intellectuals (I'm a university professor and teach English at PU) who have developed eternal distrust of and cynicism towards politics, politicians and the political system. We are not in any way to be blamed for this state of affairs. I think, it's the practice or rather several ill-practices of Indian democracy, over the past sixty years or so, that must be held responsible for this.
My prayer is that may your tribe grow in number and influence, so that we can effectively hope to bring about the much needed change and reform in our society and polity. I think it all begins with the kind of acute self-consciousness about what we are doing and the way we are supposed to be doing it. (Your article gives ample proof of the way you have brilliantly conceptualized and summed up the role of the legislators. Please make sure that all the legislators get to read it, at least, once). I wish, bureaucrats, academics and other sections of society, too, decide to follow the lead you have provided and do some soul-searching the way you have.
I also feel that time has now come when we should stop thinking in terms of the political parties (polarization along the political spectrum is turning out to be quite a sham, as all of them seem to be functioning in the same manner and also following the same politics of separateness and divisiveness. What else do you say for a country where the citizens are only perceived as the vote-banks?) and start thinking in terms of right-thinking, pro-people politicians and ill-disposed, anti-people politicians. And regardless of what their political affiliations are, the right-minded politicians must come together (I see Mr Manpreet Badal as your natural ally in this respect) and start working for the welfare of the people and society.
Mr Khangura, you are bang on target when you say that the legislators are doing everything except what they are supposed to be doing, that is, legislate effectively. That's a comment on our society where all the institutions such as executive, judiciary, bureaucracy and media are serving ends other than what they are originally meant to serve. This is why we get to see so much of direction-less-ness in our society and every institution is today threatening to usurp the role of the other, rather than perform its own.
I remember having visited Canada and learnt about the way legislators are chosen by the people at the grassroots and not imposed from above. Their sole criterion is the kind of social/community work an individual does at the local level. And the decision in this regard is not taken by someone in the federal government but by the local people themselves. Why shouldn't people have the right to choose their representatives? Why must they always be forced to choose lesser of the two evils, as is the case in our country right now?
I wish we are able to bring in some of these ideas into our polity and inject some healthy political practices into our system. Perhaps, people like you could take a lead in this respect and help cure our polity of, at least, some of the several ills it is afflicted with.
I would like to meet you sometime and learn more about your future plans.
I wish you good luck and success in all your future ventures.
With warm regards
Rana Nayar
Professor of English
Panjab University

1 comment:

  1. I have read Mr Khangura's piece as well as your commetnts. I think it is necessary for the effective functioning of democracy that each 'arm' of our polity confines itself to specific roles and responsibilities. When the legislature usurps the role of the executive, and the judiciary that of the executive or legislature, we get all power and no responsibility. To top it all the Fourth Estate is functioning more like a lap dog and less like a watchdog. It is only an aware public that cann seek accountability from its reps. More power to those like Khangura.