Anna Hazare and General (Retd) V.K. Singh have called for Parliament to be dissolved immediately. They point out that the (Union) government is “looting” the people and “bending to the corporates”, and people have lost faith in it. There is also little doubt that the people are disillusioned with Parliament because of its general non-functioning and the fact that a good proportion of its Members are charged with serious crimes and offences. People are also thoroughly fed up with the Union Government which is strongly pro-corporate and thus effectively anti-people. Briefly the objection is that the constitutional legislative and the executive, represented by public servants, are essentially unaccountable to the people, and even act against the people’s best interests.
Excepting people from the thin upper economic crust, there would be hardly any Indian who would disagree with the opinions of Anna Hazare and V.K. Singh concerning Parliament or the Union Government. These opinions, silent on the functioning of the judiciary, indict the legislative and executive pillars of our Constitution.
However, the question at hand is whether immediate dissolution of Parliament and the consequent change of Union Government will improve things or lead to circumstances that could in fact be worse than the present. Immediate dissolution of Parliament can only be ordered by the President of India. This can confidently be ruled out since he was elevated to the post from the present UPA-2 Cabinet.
Nevertheless, if by some magic, President Mukherjee sees fit to do so, dissolution as demanded by Anna Hazare and V.K. Singh raises some troubling points: One, since the existing political parties cannot be trusted to field honest candidates for the general elections and the present incumbents are unsuitable, who will propose new candidates? If the nomination of, say, around 3000 candidates countrywide to contest 525 seats is to be done at the discretion of Anna Hazare or a group (arbitrarily) selected by him, there is little guarantee that the selected individuals will be models of integrity and propriety during elec-tions and remain immune to blandishments offered by the corporate world after getting elected. Thus, general elections cannot throw up 525 new Members of Parliament who are sub-stantially different from the current set. Two, which group of newly elected MPs will form the government, and who will lead as the Prime Minister? Three, howsoever improbable, even if dissolution and re-election succeeds in creating a “new” people-oriented Parliament and a viable, people-friendly Union Government, the existing 4610 elected legislators in the 29 State Legislative Assemblies are not qualitatively different from the present set of MPs. Thus there can be no positive change in governance in general, and corruption levels are unlikely to change, leave alone be eliminated. Four, corporate houses will leave no stone unturned to influence the “new” MPs to swing things in their favour as hitherto. This is likely to succeed especially when their constituencies are controlled by State Legislators who remain under corporate influence.
Regarding the Union Government being pro-corporate, it is clear that the earlier NDA Union Government did not have economic reform policies or a development model that were different from those of UPA-1 or UPA-2. These economic reform policies and the development model were adopted based on India’s New Economic Policy formulated in 1991 by Dr Manmohan Singh when he was the Finance Minister in P.V. Narasimha Rao’s Congress Government.
General V.K. Singh’s admirably factual statement that “People have completely lost faith in the govern-ment on the issues of land, water, forest and mineral wealth due to rivers being privatised, forests being sold to private companies and tribal people being displaced from their traditional habitat” [emphasis added], should be seen not as directed against a parti-cular government but against the neo-liberal model of development adopted by the Central and State governments. It is precisely the governments’ eminent domain over land, water, forest and mineral wealth exercised to favour corporate interests and resulting in forced displacement of people, that is the cause for the hundreds of ongoing small and large move-ments and protests all over the country. These movements and protests are demanding people’s constitutionally guaranteed rights, and are mostly peaceful and non-violent.
It is clear that successive Union governments since at least 1991, and the main Opposition in Parliament have been two-faced—encouraging and being encouraged by corporate houses, while making pious pro-people statements whether in or out of power. The situation in the States has been essentially the same.
Anna Hazare and V.K. Singh, who are focussing on corruption and its “removal”, speak of the Union Government under thrall of corporate houses using all means, fair or foul, to remain in power. Their demand for immediate dissolution of Parliament may create anarchy since the State Legislatures and governments within the Union will not have changed. Sustainable change for the better cannot be had by changing governments, since governments of all ideological persuasions have been adopting neo-liberal economics while suppressing democratic values. It is the neo-liberal economic model of develop-ment that needs to be challenged and changed to be people-oriented rather than corporate-centred.
S.G. Vombatkere served in the Indian Army and retired in 1996 with the rank of Major General from the post of Additional DG in charge of Discipline and Vigilance in Army HQ, New Delhi.