Wither democracy?

Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

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Even the world where we proclaim to be largest thriving democracy, would like to see how our democratic institutions function.

WE INDIANS ARE very proud to claim that we are the world’s largest democracy and that democracy is in the DNA of the country.

We also take pride in conducting a massive and complex exercise periodically by holding independent elections and giving all citizens who have attained the age of 18 to exercise their power of voting.

Yet when it comes to the implementation of the people’s will, one can’t be very sure if that’s reflected in action.

To give a few examples: Maharashtra politics is in a doldrums with frequent shifting of loyalties of legislators, overturning of electoral verdict to forge opportunistic alliances, Tamil Nadu governor taking the extraordinary and patently illegal step of dismissing a minister and later holding his order in abeyance.

Likewise, Punjab Governor engaging in an unseemly verbal dual with the state chief minister and former West Bengal Governor sitting over bills passed by the state legislature for months together.

The latest, and undoubtedly one of the most serious, transgression is currently underway in the national capital. The central government led by Bharatiya Janata Party and the Delhi government headed by Aam Aadmi Party have been perennially at daggers drawn.

Also Read – Democracy: Walk the Talk

Yet the latest slugfest has broken all records and might open floodgates for undue interference by the centre in the affairs of state governments.

Just take one instance of the mockery of democracy. The centre declared that the chief minister was not authorised to transfer or suspend any IAS officer delegated to the Delhi government. This meant that even if the chief minister thought that a particular officer was inefficient or unsuitable for a particular post, he had no authority to transfer him to another post.

The union government, no doubt, appointed a three member committee for such actions and with chief minister as its chairman. However the other two members of the committee were two IAS officers and only a majority decision of the committee was acceptable.

Wasn’t it a mockery of democracy. The two officers were authorised to overrule the democratically elected chief minister of the state!

The current imbroglio between the Centre and the State started two years ago when the Centre brought in Government of NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021.

The AAP government has challenged about a dozen decisions by the Centre and the Lieutenant Governor in Delhi High Court and Supreme Court. Delhi government has got relief in some cases while others are pending.

The Act had given primacy to the LG in governance matters who was given powers to overrule the decisions of the duly elected AAP government.

democracyAAP moved the Supreme Court that very year and on May 11 this year the apex court gave a ruling in its favour placing several services under the state government’s jurisdiction.

To counter the decision, the Centre promulgated an ordinance on May 19 taking away powers from Delhi government and effectively making the LG the ruler of the state.

Thus the Centre through the LG would be making all the appointments or chairmen of statutory boards while the Delhi government, which would pay them salaries, cannot make them accountable.

The ordinance has made the Delhi government a lame duck government which has virtually no administrative control.

The government proposes to convert the ordinance to an Act through the Parliament. While it enjoys a comfortable majority in Lok Sabha and can easily pass it the Lower House, it runs short of majority in Rajya Sabha.

If all the opposition parties join hands, they can stall the bill in the upper house. However the largest single opposition party, the Congress, has not come out clearly against the ordinance. It might be because of its opposition to AAP but it shall surely commit a blunder by not opposing it as the state governments run by the party might also face similar situations in future.

The provisions of the ordinance are blatantly undemocratic and can lead to serious consequences for our democracy. Elected governments reflect the will of the people and the will should not be trampled upon by vested interests or political considerations.

Also Read: Is democracy working for India?

The issue is again back in Supreme Court which would hear arguments in favour of and against the ordinance. The entire country would watch with keen interest the stand taken by the highest court of the country.

Not just that, even the world where we proclaim to be largest thriving democracy, would like to see how our democratic institutions function. punjab


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Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.

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