In our childhood, while being told the beautiful stories of Kings and Monarchs, we might have often heard the saying ‘YADHA RAJA TADHA PRAJA’. It means the people of a Kingdom are like their King. In other words, the King is a role model for his subjects and his values decide theirs too!
What about our democracy? We have no Kings now. We only have our elected representatives who are entrusted the responsibility of governing us, for a specified period. After that period, the ruler reverts to being a subject and another set of subjects become the rulers.
Though I used the term ‘subject’ for easy comparison with the monarchy system, use of that term is not correct or relevant in a democracy. In democracy, the sovereignty resides in the people or erstwhile subjects. The governing is carried out only by their representatives whom they have elected for that purpose and delegated their powers.
In these changed circumstances, would the saying ‘Yadha Raja Tadha Praja’ hold water? Definitely not! Firstly, there is no King anymore. Secondly, so called rulers are dependent on the people for their powers and existence as rulers. With the change in the system, the reverse has become the rule- Yadha Praja, Tadha Raja.
Let me explain this further. In our system not a single leader has assumed power without having elected by people (either directly or indirectly through their representatives as in the case of election to Rajyasabha, President, CM, PM etc). If people reject a person, there is no way he can remain in power. Single most powerful example for this fact was the defeat of all powerful Mrs Indira Gandhi, immediately after the Emergency period!
Look at the outrage when Mr Raghu Raj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya became a Minister in new Uttar Pradesh Government. I don’t deny the fact that there are enough allegations against him- some of them very serious. But can we deny the fact that he was elected by the people of a constituency just days before? Those people who elected him knew very well that they will be represented by a person who is charge sheeted for various offences. Why did they not reject him?
Now take the example of Mrs Bibi Jagir Kaur of Punjab. She was accused of abduction, forced abortion and subsequent death of her own daughter, as many as 12 years back! Any civilised society would abhor such a person. But our people from her constituency chose her as their representative!
Now, many are outraged that she, a newly appointed Minister, was given VIP treatment while being taken to the jail after a trial court sentenced her to five years of rigorous imprisonment in the above case! While it is not my intention to defend such acts of officials, how can we escape from the charge of electing such a person, in the first place?
Examples do not end here. Be it the Congress leaders accused in 1984 Sikh massacre or Mr Narendra Modi, accused of masterminding the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, our people have got enough chances to elect or reject them. People in their wisdom chose to elect them as their representatives, without any remorse whatsoever.
I keep reading about our so called intellectuals and activists blaming political parties for giving party tickets to more and more people accused of crimes. I do not agree with the contention that being merely accused should be a disqualification for contesting elections, because if we adopt such a position, it would (i) violate the principle of natural justice that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and (ii) result in frivolous and fraudulent complaints being filed against genuine leaders to prevent them from contesting elections.
But those considerations apart, let us see why political parties prefer to give tickets to such accused persons? If people were against such accused being given party tickets, wouldn’t they vote against them? Which party will undertake a risk that is sure to reduce their vote share in an election? Even otherwise, in spite of a Party giving ticket to an accused, what makes the voters to vote for such a person?
Answer is obvious to me. Our people have no problem with such accusations. Those accused of grave crimes are very much acceptable to the people, as their representatives. No other reason would compel them vote such a person.
When large parts of our society don’t see anything wrong in honour killings, foeticides, dowry, violence or bribing, how do we expect us to elect persons who are free from all these vices? If we introspect even a little, we would realise that the current lot of representatives across the country truly reflect their respective constituencies.
I can foresee certain counter arguments by readers. Firstly, it is about the absence of right to reject. Yes, I am a strong votary of right to reject provision in our elections. But, seriously, how many such situations actually arise where we are forced to select between two equally bad candidates that we have no choice but to elect someone whom we don’t approve of? We can easily cast our votes even in favour of one of the better independent candidates who are aplenty in our elections.
Secondly, one may argue that these are not true representatives of people as majority of the people do not cast their votes. Well, in a democracy, if you choose not to vote, you are entrusting your responsibility to others who vote and there is no escape from respecting their wisdom and their choice!
Look at the standard of our parliamentarians through our history. While I am not an expert in this, whatever little I know about it suggests that the erosion in standards can be directly correlated to the wider participation and political empowerment of the hitherto marginalised sections of the society. Representation is not limited to aristocrats any more. Mass and not Class is the origin of new members. So let us learn to live with it. It is true democracy. It is the result of our social churning.
I agree that we must do all possible to expedite this churning and reach the desired equilibrium at the earliest. But targeting and demeaning political institutions or the voters or their representatives will not serve any purpose. The tendency to discredit the people and the democracy is not serving any productive purpose. It only serves hidden agendas of those who indulge in it!
Let us see where is the disconnect. If people are electing certain type of persons as their representatives, who are we to question their choice? If at all we think we have a superior logic and reason, shouldn’t we go out and vote in elections? Shouldn’t we educate the voters on the need to elect the ‘right’ people? Even better, shouldn’t we educate the people on the need to improve their own morals, standards and social values? Shouldn’t we educate people that a lifestyle based on violence and oppression is not a quality worthy of adoration or respect? Shouldn’t we educated them on the values of honesty and honour that they stop approving those people who ‘succeeded’ through corrupt means?
Yes, these are tough tasks. Social reformation of an entire nation is a tough task indeed! But we are seeking to attain a process that usually takes centuries, immediately. So, we have no choice but to undertake the hard task! Like someone suggested to me during a recent conversation, we can’t merely control the neck of a bottle, through shortcuts. We may delay the outcome by doing so; yet we can’t forget that whenever the neck is freed, only what is inside the bottle will come out. If the bottle contains poison any change to the neck of the bottle will not change its character! Unless we convert the contents into non-poisonous substance, the bottle can only bring out poison!
Social values and norms will get reflected in us as well as our representatives. If we want better systems and better leaders, we have to reform the society and its people, for in democracy, it is... YADHA PRAJA TADHA RAJA!