Team Anna announced a discussion titled “Save the Republic” to be held on Republic Day. I can almost imagine Team Anna’s critics going, “They first wanted their own version of a bill passed. Now they have problems with our democracy and want to Save the Republic.” Let’s start by setting aside the emotion and the ideological differences and objectively evaluate the state of the Republic after 65 years.
Today, India is run by a coalition government at the center and several regional parties at the state-level. This has been the norm for the last couple of decades and seems likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Parties come together to form governments driven by opportunism and political expediency rather than shared ideology. Almost every party is dominated and run by rich, affluent, families like a true fiefdom. The concept of intra-party democracy is non-existent and sycophancy is the order of the day. Control over parties is handed down from fathers and mothers to sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. To add another level of control, all parties are run by their respective party high commands. The party whip decides the party’s stance on every issue and all members of the party fall in line at the time of voting on these issues. This is a result of the anti-defection bill introduced by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the 1980s. The intent at that point was to prevent MPs from cross-voting in return for money and other favors. But now, after a couple decades the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Instead of preventing MPs from cross-voting, the MPs today are crippled by the party whip and the high command. The elected representative is now a pawn of the party. Once elected, he or she can’t pay any heed to the wishes of the electorate in their respective constituencies even if they want to.