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Deterioration of democratic values

No in-depth analysis is required to assess the current state of our democracy, which stands more on grounds of sentiments rather than the basic principles of responsibility and accountability enshrined in the Constitution. To elucidate this further, a few recent incidents would suffice.

Today, batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar will take oath as a Rajya Sabha member. Much has been written and spoken about his elevation to the august House, except the manner in which he was nominated. And, it’s not just about him. The way appointments to certain constitutional posts such as the President of India and governors are done has become worrisome.

We need to reassess the developments that took place before the nomination of Tendulkar to Rajya Sabha was announced. The cricketer met the Congress chief and as reported in the media she gave consent to his nomination. Rarely has this happened in the past. Instead, the names were announced by Rashtrapati Bhavan, because, the Constitution says it’s the president’s prerogative to nominate renowned people from specific fields to the Upper House, though, he/she does it after seeking advice of the union cabinet, albeit discreetly.

What Congress tried to demonstrate through Sachin’s nomination was that he had accepted its ideology and may endorse the party views in future. Besides, his appointment was also a major deviation from the constitutional norms — there’s no mention of the sports category.

Today, we have governors who can barely walk, and it seems they will be better off resting at their homes rather than occupying Raj Bhavan. People holding the posts of governor are emissaries of the central government, who should report deterioration of democratic values and violation of the Constitution to the Centre, and also impress on the state government to carry out better governance. Sycophancy and partisan predilection seem to have largely put paid to that.

It’s also distressing when presiding officers of state legislature openly participate in respective party affairs, when the norms, followed scrupulously by their predecessors, say otherwise. On Saturday, state assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil and deputy chairman of state council Vasant Davkhare were seen on the dais of NCP’s state office bearers meeting. Davkhare was appointed as the party observer by NCP during the civic polls in Nagpur recently.

Even chairman of state council Shivajirao Deshmukh is often seen at Congress party meetings and was appointed as a Congress Working Committee member last year. It’s a well-established convention that the presiding officer, once elected to the post, becomes apolitical and stops eschewing party ideology because of his job as a custodian of democratic values. He has to be a non-partisan figure to maintain a balance between the ruling and the Opposition parties to protect interests of the people of the state.

More importantly, these days, contractors who undertake government projects have begun joining politics. Recent examples are election of three big-time contractors to the state council — two on NCP ticket and one fielded by BJP. Who is going to assure us that they will not protect their own interests when the state’s poor record in irrigation and pitiable power availability scenario, where their services are usually availed, has affected the overall growth rate?

On Saturday, BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte candidly stated that he would create a firewall to keep away the virus of suppliers, contractors and builders. What Kunte has dared to say is praiseworthy because these days most of the affairs at BMC and Mantralaya are influenced by the trio dear to the elected class. It is not an exaggeration to say that they literally run the system. For proof, just have a look at the Shiv Sena-BJP’s fight with MNS over supply of school bags, shoes, uniforms, flavoured milk and works of roads.

We have proof that at the state level, these people are grabbing contracts in the name of Maharashtra State Co-operative Marketing Federation, Maharashtra State Co-operative Consumers Federation, State Textiles and Handloom Corporation, National Co-operative Consumers Federation etc to operate projects such as midday meal scheme in schools, supply of school material under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, government-run Aashram schools and hostels for students from scheduled caste and scheduled tribes. This needs to end.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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