Thursday, October 12, 2006

Spirit of the Indian Constitution (and possibly of other democracies as well)

The Spirit of the Indian Constitution is in favour of a Partyless Governance.

The People of India have given to themselves a Constitution framed by the collective wisdom of India's great leaders of the past. The Constitution now declares India as a 'Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic' with the ultimate objective of securing to all its citizens:

Justice - social, economic and political
Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship
Equality of status and opportunity and to promote among them all -
Fraternity - assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.

This Preamble to the Constitution sets a goal with the widest possible vision. To make this goal achievable, universal adult franchise was adopted, which was not in practice even in advanced western countries. This significant step was indicative of the spiritual tradition of India, which believes in universal brotherhood of mankind.

The constitution speaks about fundamental rights, duties, the governance of the union and the states among other things, but does not speak about the political parties as such, as a requirement for achieving the above. Thus the existence of political parties is not a constitutional necessity not to speak of compulsion.

Article 29A of the Representation of People's Act 1951 says that, 'any association or body of individual citizens of India, calling itself a political party has to register itself as such with the election commission'. The interpretation of the term 'political party' (article 2f of the same act) also corresponds to this. There is no mention about political parties in the Constitution itself.
The Representation of People's Act does not speak of political parties to be representative of people; representation is to be by individuals at a personal level. Primacy was given to the representative of the people rather than to the political party to which he or she may belong, so that the aspirations of the people of the constituency may be brought out fully.

The elected members are supposed to elect their leader, who then forms the council of ministers and runs the Government as long as he or she enjoys the confidence of the house. The Constitution does not speak of the party with the majority forming the Government. It merely speaks of the leader with majority support forming the Government. Thus the Spirit of the Constitution recognizes the elected representative to be the true representative of the people and not any political party to be representative of the people. However by force of habit, usage and long practice, the present system of political parties playing the dominant role both at the time of elections and then in the process of forming the Government , has established itself. The framers of the Indian Constitution expected the political parties to play an intermediary role between the people and governance. However political parties have come to acquire the status of being the sole representatives of the people. Now the people are at the mercy of the political parties, which was not the intention of the Constitution.

There is still hope for good governance satisfactory to the electorate, provided the true status of the elected representative as envisaged by the Spirit of the Constitution is made into a reality. The representative should be able to discharge his (or her) obligation to the people who elected him by functioning in accordance with his conscience and by bringing out his full potential for the good of the people. This is possible only by independent representatives under a system of Partyless Governance.

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