of Plunder Vs Politics of Service
week the Indian Parliament completed 50 years of its existence.
While we had central legislature during British times, the
bulk of membership was nominated. In 1946, elections were
conducted to the central legislature, but franchise was limited,
and only a fraction of the adult population could vote. The
first Lok Sabha election of the Indian republic under the
new Constitution was held in 1952.
any democratic society, the legislatures represent the will
of the people. Membership of a legislature is an opportunity
to serve the people and an honour. But the people are the
ultimate sovereigns, and legislators are our servants. Legislators
do not enjoy high salaries or perks. In certain states in
the US, the legislature meets only once in two years. People
hardly know who their state legislator is. There is no fanfare
the US, most people are reluctant to accept public office
because of low salaries and high sacrifice involved. Highly
talented and successful people are cajoled to join the cabinet,
and often leave office after a few years to resume their normal
careers and jobs. In Sweden, some years ago a cabinet minister
resigned because he could not withstand the financial rigours
imposed by high public office. He had no home in Stockholm,
the national capital, and had to either commute several hours
a day from home to work by public transport, or drive his
own car. He could not afford a chauffer and the government
did not provide one. So, he quit to resume his career! In
the UK, the idea of public service is deeply ingrained in
society. It is an honour to join the civil service or armed
forces or politics, and many individuals cheerfully give up
bright careers to join them.
1952, we have had regular elections to Lok Sabha (with a brief
and shameful delay during emergency, when the election due
in 1976 was postponed). State legislatures too had regular
elections except when president's rule was imposed under Article
356. Despite these external appearances of a democratic polity,
the spirit of public service is dwindling. Legislative office
is seen as a source of pelf, privilege, patronage, petty tyranny
and plain nuisance value. Most legislators have no independent
careers or identifiable sources of income. Politics has become
big business. Once a person is elected as a legislator even
at the state level, money is no longer the problem. Miraculously,
in most cases a middle class family becomes fabulously rich
over the next five years!
citizens and bright people with successful careers are repelled
by politics. Only those with family connections make it a
hereditary business. Many rich people take to politics either
as an ego trip or to safeguard and multiply their riches.
Musclemen enter legislatures to protect themselves against
police investigation, and indeed to control the police.
golden jubilee of Parliament will soon be followed by that
of the State Assemblies. This is the time for honest introspection.
Decent and concerned citizens should be attracted to legislatures
and crooks and incompetent persons should be discouraged.
This needs major political reforms, particularly in the way
elections are held. Politicians who benefit from status quo
will never change things on their own. We, the people, have
a stake in the process. We need to wake up and take notice
of what is happening, and get together to change the nature
of politics. Only then will politics of plunder will yield
place to politics of service.