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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 20, May 10, 2014

Democratic Norms and Formation of New Government

Monday 12 May 2014, by Bharat Dogra

The great Indian elections are in the last phase. Soon the election results will be announced and a new government will be formed on this basis in the world’s largest democracy. People have voted with high hopes and it is now for the elected representatives to live up to their high hopes. Whether they are on the side of the new government or in the Opposition, they should strive to strengthen democracy.

These elections have taken place in difficult conditions and it must be stated frankly that there have been widespread and serious concerns about the days ahead. All political parties and the newly elected representatives therefore have an extra responsibility this time to ensure that their conduct is in keeping with their constitu-tional obligations and role.

In this context it may be very useful for newly elected representative to take another very carefull look at the Preamble of the Constitution, not because they are not aware of what the Preamble says, but to realise why a re-affirmation of the basic principles stated here is necessary. The reality should be faced and it should be admitted that these basic principles have been widely violated, both before and during the election campaign.

The Preamble of our Constitution states very clearly the basic precepts which should guide the conduct of our nation. The Preamble states:

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.”

A crucial question before the new government as well as all political parties will be whether the country can live up to these basic precepts of ‘justice, liberty, equality and fraternity’ and the essential requirements of a ‘sovereign socialist secular democratic republic’.

These constitutional responsibilities should be constantly remembered and accepted by the new government as well as the Opposition. To start with, democratic precepts should be followed very carefully in the formation of the new government. When there is a possibility of various kinds of alliances being formed to get the required majority, emphasis on the following democratic norms is very important. The respect which India’s democracy receives in the entire world will be affected by the conduct of various political parties during these critical days. Any violation of proper norms can cause a lot of stress and disturbance, and so should be strictly avoided.

There were a lot of heated exchanges when allegations and counter-allegations were headed during the election campaign among the various political parties. A stage has been reached where some leading political leaders are not even on speaking terms, while the democratic system requires them to work together on various issues of public interest. Therefore, special efforts should be initiated after the elections to improve relationships among various political parties and, more specifically, among some of their leaders. In fact even the option of forming a national government including the representatives of all political parties represented in Parliament should be kept open.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.