Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
HVK Archives: Governance: It's time to go back to the people

Governance: It's time to go back to the people - The Times of India

Rajni Kothari ()
3 November 1997

Title: Governance: It's time to go back to the people
Author: Rajni Kothari
Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 3, 1997

Prime Minister I K Gujral has made a series of announcements of intent on
the part of his government by way of an "Agenda for India" in this
fifty-first year of Independence. What is not clear is the machinery of
government through which all of this is to put in practice. So often have
those in power referred to people's organisations and movements for doing
this, in a way underscoring the limitations of what can be achieved by the
government alone. When one looks for the real reason behind this expression
of powerlessness on the part of those in power it is to be found in the
fact that the very framework through which they are supposed to implement
their ideas is becoming inchoate and unpredictable.

The crux of the matter is that the Congress party has been in decline and
losing its historic role of presiding over a framework of democratic
nation-building and we have not been able to find a viable alternative to
it. This has left a major void in the country's power structure. The 1996
elections showed this very clearly. The BJP which at one time posed as an
alternative national formation has also, thanks to its depending so much on
the Hindutva ideology, been losing ground and is found looking hither and
thither for available allies which could help propel it to power at the
Centre. The rejection by the electorate of both these parties while
supporting a number of regional parties and leaders like Mulayam Singh
Yadav, Laloo Prasad Yadav, and breakaway Congress groups like the TMC has
produced a new situation.

And political analysts conclude that we have entered a period of coalition
governments and that they have come to stay. Unfortunately with the
exception of West Bengal (the Kerala experience being no so clearcut) our
experience with coalition governments has been both very thin and not too
satisfying. It is a widely prevalent misconception that all non-Congress
formations at the Centre have been coalition governments. The fact is that
the 1977 experiment of Janata Party was not a coalition, a government by a
single party in which all opposition parties other than the Communists were
persuaded by Jajprakash Narayan to dissolve their separate identities and
form a single party. The 1989 experiment under V P Singh was also of a
minority government supported from the outside by both the BJP on the right
and the CPI and CPM on the left. The "coalition governments" after the 1996
election following the failure of the BJP to form the government are also
more in the form of a mixed bag.

If this can be called a coalition government despite having gone through
changes at the top in the government as well as the party in such a short
time (from H D Deve Gowda to Mr Gujral and from the Laloo Prasad to Sharad
Yadav) and, despite having to continuously depend on support by the
Congress from the outside, we can say that this is the only experience in
coalition government that we have had.

Thus, following the collapse of the Congress system we face a situation in
which neither national parties nor coalition governments of the post-1996
type provide us with a stable framework of governance. The Congress will
continue to be a force to reckon with. Its real problem is that it has
lost the support of the lower strata of Indian society.

Ever since 1983 when it lost the elections in Karnataka and Andhra which
was also about the time when the Muslims and the Dalits began to move away
from it and Mrs Gandhi decided to play the communal card in Punjab and
Kashmir, followed by the Rajiv Gandhi period which ended in the Bofors
debacle. Under Narasimha Rao's period, it became increasingly identified
with high-level corruption. Sitaram Kesri is trying to wriggle out of both
the communal and the corrupt and criminalised image -as well as the
anti-poor image -of the Congress.

Failing this the Congress has little chance of making it electorally, which
is why, grudgingly, it continues to support Mr Gujral's government even
while censuring it in harshest terms. The BJP too is finding it difficult
to capture power at the Centre and it seems clear that both of these major
parties will also have to go in for coalition governments, the Congress
seeking adjustments with the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh and the RJD
of Laloo Prasad and the BJP (despite its bitter experience with the BSP in
UP) hoping to consolidate its alliance with the Shiv Sena, the Akali Dal
and the Haryana Vikas Party and also hoping to rope in some of the regional
parties in the south.

And then of course there will be the "secular" (anti-BJP) mix of the
present UF type. None of this is likely to provide us with a stable
framework of alternative coalitions. We need to move beyond the kinds of
coalitions that we have had so far. The only way of doing this is to go
back to the people, build on the upsurge of consciousness found among the
poor and the deprived sections, go for electoral reforms that provide for
people's participation and entitle them to reject all candidates it they
are found unworthy. Through a series of such reforms and adoption of an
economic package meant to benefit the poor, move towards a new kind of
coalition, more federal, decentralised, and based on the right to
information, clearly spelling out how much of the resources of the nation
will be available to the poor and deprived sections of society.

Let Mr I K Gujral seek a dissolution of the present Parliament, hold
another election and return to power with a clear mandate for restructuring
the present system in which the main role is assigned to the people at the
grassroots. Only thus we can we have a truly democratic order.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements