I just had a word with my editor-in-chief. He seemed quite disgusted. And he had every right to be. An hour back, there was a newsbreak that Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav had held a press conference to announce to the world that his MPs were being lured to vote against the Manmohan Singh government on the floor of the House. And the price offered was between Rs 25 and Rs 30 crores. The previous day, two MPs alleged that they had been contacted, and a price tag was attached to their votes if they decide to oblige the Opposition.
A leader of the stature of CPI chief A B Bardhan has shocked every body with his announcement that MPs are being openly purchased to save the government. He also happened to know the price for each Member of Parliament, quoting Rs 25 crores as the price. These statements are sensational and shocking enough to numb our sensibilities.
But I am not sure if the common man is worried about it. Or if he is disgusted or ashamed of himself, his representatives, his leaders, the political parties and the government. I am sure s/he is not angry and is not thinking about what kind of a democracy is this which allows such perverted practices.
My editor-in-chief might be very angry with the state of affairs in the corridors of power, we as a member of the enlightened civil society might be disillusioned with our democracy, but an ordinary citizen is just not worried. And this is not happening for the first time. Infact, it has become one of the most essential features of Indian democracy.
Going back in time, let's not forget Narasimha Rao, the most under-rated prime minister. Probably we together are also guilty of not assessing him honestly. Rao's government was the classic example of how to run a minority government. And this government ran not because there was consensus not to topple the government but because every time it was tested on the floor of the House, briefcases changed places and money exchanged hands.
The JMM bribery case will go down in history for its most backward looking and retrogressive judicial actions. The Supreme Court exonerated all the players who were guilty on the ground that they cannot be punished for any act which was done in Parliament. This effectively meant that if they had taken money to vote for a particular political grouping, nothing could be done as it was in the domain of legislature, and, if the judiciary does anything, it would infringe upon the jurisdiction of Parliament.
Such an act would be against the basic framework of the Constitution, as it would affect the balance of power between the legislature, executive and judiciary. So nothing was done. Parliament was supposed to take cognisance of this. Since these MPs were instrumental in saving the government, the executive was in no mood to initiate any action. And this case became a precedent in the annals of parliamentary history.
At that time, the Opposition did make some hungama but not so much that could awaken the conscience of citizens at large to revolt against such an act. It became clear later why it did not bother the then Opposition party when their own party chief and one of their ministers were caught on camera taking money and saying "Paisa khuda to nahi, lekin khuda se kam bhi nahi."
Indian democracy had shown tremendous resilience in these cases. In place of taking stern actions against such gentlemen, penal actions were initiated against all those who were instrumental in exposing them and most surprisingly, the common man did not react as expected from him. He was more than busy to earn his livelihood; probably it did not even bother him as it did not affect him.
After the JMM case it was free for all and with the weakening of the Centre and none of the national parties acquiring the strength to dominate and form government in Delhi on their own, coalition politics became the new political mainstream. Small became more beautiful, Independents suddenly gained new muscle power. Now they can shake the government and their small utterances can force the most powerful to run after them. It was this new mainstream which saw the demise of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government by just one vote. Nobody knows how much money was exchanged then and who paid whom.
Whether it was UP or very recently in Karnataka, many minority governments suddenly gained majority status in legislature. Kalyan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav have mastered this art to perfection. And the Speaker of the House became a partner in this game of chess. Anti-defection law was rendered as a joke. And Kesari Nath Tripathi emerged as new icon for all the Speakers.
So as a conscience-keeper of the democracy let's not grieve or cry for some thing which has become the basic instinct for politicians of all colours. Let us also not blame these political animals. They are simply doing what they have learnt from the ambience in which they were born and brought up. I have no qualms in saying that we Indians as citizens and as a nation have no right to crib about this. Let's accept the fact with honesty that ye desh chirkuto ka hai, yaha har kadam par chirkut baithe hain, jinka koi deen aur iman nahi hai, (we are a country of petty people who do not have the depth of character).
Why do we blame our leaders? Do we have the guts to look at ourselves? How many of us are willing to pay a fine after flouting the rules on the road? We might be driving a Corolla, a BMW or may be a Merc, but our first reaction is to try and not pay a single rupee, and, if it does not work out, we will negotiate a bribe to our advantage. Frankly speaking, we don't need to do that but we will do it to save a few hundred rupees.
Let's cross our hearts and ask ourselves how many times have we resisted the temptation to not jump a traffic light on a busy road? You walk in to any government office, nothing will move without money changing hands even if every thing is according to the rule. We don't have the patience to stand in a queue, be a cinema hall or a bus stand or a railway platform. We don't mind opening the door of the car and spitting in the middle of the road. We will very proudly sit on the seats reserved for senior citizens and women. There is all possibility that if nudged by some one we might react "abe tere bap ki seat hai", or "mai nahi uthta jo karna hai kar le".
I can cite thousands of such instances. You and I are both aware of such things, so there's no point repeating. Unfortunately, we have all inherited a servile colonial mindset, a legacy of more than a thousand of years of foreign rule in which to survive was the most important civilisational need.
Despite living in our own motherland, we as a civilization forgot the art of governance and to rule. We were always ruled by some other civilisation. In fact, the Britishers and French were more candid in their utterances. For them, the Asian and African colonies were incapable of self-rule and their stay here was a part of bigger moral project to civilise backward societies, in other words to make us humans. Obviously such a system was to dehumanise our basic instincts, and to rob our self-esteem as a nation and to make us servile .
Fortunately we got our Independence in 1947 and for the first time in more than a thousand years, we became our own rulers in our own land. But it is not possible to get back your self-esteem overnight and behave like rulers. It is a very slow process and rigorous one.
Sixty years is too small a period to acquire new civilisational traits and to mould our DNA. When that will happen we will automatically realise the importance of the rule of law, the true meaning of freedom and democracy and then we will behave like citizens who will not allow anyone to sell their votes and MPs will not be on sold. Aur tab is desh me chirkut nahi honge and no editor-in-chief will be disgusted to see a price tag on the people's representative.