State funding of elections, that is funding of elections from public exchequer and holding simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha (Parliament) and the state assemblies are the two latest proposals, the union government is recently toying with. In the name of bringing electoral reforms to make electioneering process smoother, different proposals including the two mentioned above have been repeatedly raised and revamped in recent years. Election today has become a miserable combination of vulgar display of money, shameless corruption, deceitful tactics, vicious campaign on casteist- communalist lines, virulent mutual bickering and slandering and such others. All through from preparation of the list of voters to campaigning , polling and finally counting, the condition has reached such a low that despite all attempts to put up a brave face by the administration- major media-government and parties, a large section of people all over the country have started to feel cheated and frustrated with such a system. Vocal or silent, they are desiring, even demanding a free and fair election. The parliamentary parties involved in the process and their master-mentor, ruling capitalists- monopolists too can feel it very well that the resentment crystallizing may burst out any moment. So they have taken recourse to repeatedly harping on the tune of adopting measures, they call reforms, only to divert people and hoodwink them. These so-called reforms they are bringing no doubt, but all those so-called reforms are proving hollow and deceitful. In the end those are only increasing the filth and mire of the corrupt, bogus system. Over and above, those are making it more and more difficult for any really pro-people force, leave aside the revolutionaries, to take part in this process, which the bourgeoisie themselves once described as sacrosanct. In fact, the ruling class is trying to ensure that only the parties and forces subservient to it, can rise to the seat of power and help continue the prevalent rule of exploitative capitalism as it is. The present cry for state funding and simultaneous polls is only a part of this design. People rightly resentful of the electioneering process need to recognize this truth at the outset.
Debates notwithstanding, proponents stood for freedom and fairness
It is true that those people must also have known that historically parliamentary democracy at the time of its emergence was not like it is now. It was founded upon the proclamation that ‘The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government’, meaning people were the last word. Democracy was the product in the fight of the bourgeoisie against the absolute autocratic rule of monarchs, kings, aristocrats. It demanded there be a republican government through election of representatives of the people, with the sovereign power to rule for themselves.
The will of the majority, rightful and reasonable, was held to prevail. Yet as an essential part of democracy, the minorities were given representation, they were given unfettered equal rights to express their views and assert their legal and legitimate rights, with equal laws to protect them. At the same time, provisions were suggested to thwart the tyranny of majority. So, while the stress was put on granting equal opportunity to all, to thwart that tyranny, stress was also put on raising of “political intelligence”, that is consciousness of people, consciousness of their duties and rights. Discussions and debates in parliament and outside helped raise this consciousness.
The early proponents of democracy were not just opposed to the absolute monarchical rule, they were also against corruption. They insisted on virtue of people and their representatives in the legislative body. It was conceived that people’s representatives would enjoy confidence and respect of people for their service. To be a member of parliament was no profession where pecuniary gains were involvd. Rather it was to be driven and guided by the sense of offering service to the country, by the sense of serving people with honesty and sincerity. The members debated and discussed on well being of the country and its people. At best and later, there appeared the custom of offering some amount of money as honorarium. The parliament, formed of such morally sound, responsible, pro-people representatives, was given the sovereign power of legislation, that is law making, including the power of deciding on spending money for people, even a farthing or paisa. Further, for the sake of smooth governance, there were checks and balances of power. The legislative, the parliament, created laws to ensure fundamental rights of people, including freedom of expression and holding opinion, and for freedom of choice to form government, and so on. The executive, the bureaucracy was entrusted with the task of executing these laws enacted. The judiciary stood as the defender of the rule of law to assure people of freedom and justice, to guard the rights of the government, the parliament and the people, protecting them from any excess in execution. The bourgeoisie once created the concept of the powerful fourth estate, the media, for pro-people functioning of the state. It was allowed a free courageous role to delve deep into any malady of the society to make people aware and to criticize governments on valid grounds and create pressure of people’s opinion on them to keep them on right track.
In sum and substance, when the parliamentary democracy was being introduced as the viable political system, though evolving within the cradle of exploitative capitalist order at the stage of its emergence, its proponents made honest attempts to introduce an election process free and fair, as far as practicable within the basic framework of their bourgeois system. And this was embodied in the thunderous pronouncement of Abraham Lincoln : Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. But as Mill, an early proponent had apprehended, ‘When the victory …. was so complete as to put an end to the strife, ….., first stagnation followed, and then decay’.
With decadence of capitalism, skeleton of bourgeois parliamentary democracy was left bare
As free competition of early capitalist economy graded into monopoly and ultimately into imperialism, capitalism entered its decadent phase. Power , economic as well as political, were concentrated in the hands of a few monopolists. All the pious wishes, all the pledges vanished into thin air in no time. Free will, freedom of expression, free choice and free opposition gradually became a far cry. In consequence, these days of parliamentary democracy, including elections, also have slid down fast into decadence. The façade of parliamentary democracy, though faded and torn, are retained for display and as a cover . From behind this façade, the entire election process from preparing the electoral list, choosing candidates, campaigning, alluring voters, actual polling and counting in the end, all these are put in the tightest grip of the combination of money power, muscle power and media power along with administrative power, acting under the design-supervision-beckoning of the ruling monopolists from behind the curtain. Campaigning calls for huge expenses; security deposit is increased manifold; freebies are distributed liberally to keep voters tagged. Wherefrom the stream of immeasurable crores of rupees money comes: one may wonder. The answer becomes known after the election when the monopolists, businessmen, corporates investing this huge money in electioneering, get it reimbursed it through thousand and one means from people themselves. On the other hand, in the name of causing public inconvenience, restrictions are imposed on traditional ways and means like postering, writing graffiti, holding small numerous meetings, etc., that require lesser costs, and so on. In place of genuinely respected persons, those who would only generate disrespect by virtue of their deeds and misdeeds are made candidates; nowadays even branded criminals boastfully enter the house of law-making. A major, powerful section of media sponsored by none other than monopoly houses, cater to people with guided propaganda of high pitch and flair for a few packages of information and views pertaining to this or that candidate or party. Obnoxious ‘paid news’ are propagated at high cost to make even untrue, concocted news gullible for people, perhaps making even Goebbles turn in his grave.
This all-powerful election machinery takes advantage of unawareness of people at large, their lack of consciousness. People are left dazzled by the show of the powers to prevent them from coming out of the illusion that this parliamentary democracy would bring them good. Days in and days out, they line-up behind this or that party , virtually enslaved, like paid agents to perform what they are asked to. The voters, that is the people at large, go after this or that package of campaigning like a mesmerized flock, unquestioning, uncritical and even unknowing. They remain unaware that even the high-tech EVM may be used to manipulate the result in favour of some candidate or other, simply with a change in the programming controlling the machine. What it requires, is only the blessings of the master, the ruling monopolists and a pliant administration to manage an all-out rigging with the help of this election machinery using high tech contrivances for example, electronic media, or electronic voting machine.
Scums galore in legislative bodies nowadays: genuinely pro-people representatives left out with care
The situation has reached such depth and dangerous portent that only the parties and their candidates come out as winners which the ruling class find the best suited for serving their purpose at any particular situation. The legislative bodies are adorned with business and industrial tycoons even known for laundering people’s money, branded criminals, misogynists and such others with worst parochial, even fundamentalist- racist outlook. Real honest responsible pro-people representatives, leave aside the revolutionaries, are not being able to take part in the process, leave alone the question of entering the legislative bodies.
Recall the shape of parliamentary democracy as found today in the USA and India, particularly during the recently concluded presidential election in the USA or the five assembly elections in India to realize the picture of present day election campaigns.
As in other capitalist countries, in India or in the USA, the parliamentary bodies formed through such elections, have become sort of money-making centre, by any means, fair or crooked. They work like stock exchanges, with money changing hands in ugly shameless fashion. In countries like our own, India, members of legislative bodies, be it at the union or the state levels, cry hoarse at frequent intervals, if not in every session of the legislative bodies, for stepping up their salaries and perks. Already drawing fabulous amounts from people’s exchequer, they do not hesitate to demand more, while they firmly stand for and promulgate laws to prohibit subsidies for people’s welfare like for essential services of education, health, shelter , drinking water, conveyance and such others. And this they do in a country which stands in the world among the countries with the largest population of the poor, the malnourished , children with stunted growth or dying early and so on.
In the USA, multi-billionaire tycoons studded the recently held presidential election. What was it that could not be found in the campaign! All the malicious traits mentioned above were rampant throughout. The whole world witnessed these on media in full glare. And these could take place only with liberal surge of money, election and deluge of money becoming synonymous. In the end, the new president elect right from the days of assuming the power spared no time to bring in branded tycoons, war mongers into his administration, as well as his kin, including family members to enviable posts and pillars of power and pelf.
Then again in parliaments of capitalist countries, not excluding India and the USA, political discussions and debates problems pertaining to people’s life and livelihood have become rare nowadays, if not totally absent, during any electoral campaign or later within the four walls of the legislative bodies. They are substituted with sheer gimmicks, shameless false pledges and announcement for freebies, vicious racist-fundamentalist propaganda, parochial slogans, personal slandering and such others. In India, in the recent past, the parliament has been converted into dens of mutual slurring and slandering without any rightful debate on people’s issues and very often adjourned for indefinite time from stage-managed hullabaloos the members create. They however, sing the same song when it comes to enhancing their emoluments or other privileges as well as to promulgating means and methods to thwart people’s voice of resentment and protest.
The design for reforms
Lest this real shape of parliamentary democracy is exposed to people, the monopolists, the master-mentor- custodian of the decadent capitalist order of the time, are busy in keeping the outer cover, even if it is dry and wrinkled. Lest the thinking people get to see through the whole scheme of deceit and betrayal, the ruling class and their subservient political managers, the bourgeois parliamentary parties, adopt various means now and then to generate confusion. To dissipate their resentment and wrath against such a horribly corrupt electioneering process and the legislative bodies formed thereupon, they are taking recourse to treacherous means of extreme falsehood. Side by side, they create the impression how honestly and sincerely they are trying to make the electioneering process free and fair, freeing it from impurities. Whenever any move is exposed to people, they find out another trick as a damage controlling prescription. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the power does not slip out of hand of their own desired political parties or forces and people do not unite organized under any revolutionary force.
So long as capitalism will continue with its rule, there will be no real respite from this situation. Yet people are left with a single choice. And it is of developing powerful democratic movement to bring about as much or whatever little restraint is possible, keeping in mind that all such movements must be developed with anti-capitalist orientation.
The two latest diversionary moves about which the BJP in power and along with it all other partis are talking about, are one of state funding of elections and the other simultaneous polls.They need to be judged on the above outline of design underlying them. They simply make a design for deceiving people in the name of reforms.
State funding of elections: a deception at most
Long back, explaining the characteristics of the capitalist system, Karl Marx, the great leader of the Proletariat, indicated clearly that money is made supreme in capitalism. Shunning all questions of morality, values and ethics, capitalism determines everything, every action, even human relations. As briefly shown above, now when the world capitalist system has become moribund people of capitalist states unambiguously feel the truth of this observation, even with a cursory look at how elections are being held and how the so-called people’s representatives are making their way into legislative bodies riding on money power, among others.
In the days of decadent capitalism, in all capitalist-imperialist countries of all the six continents, beginning from the very powerful USA down to all others, no election can be held or even conceived without the unseen or visible ugly hand of this money flooding the process. It is not only that money has become virtually the sole factor. The forces concerned are vying with each other to prove how much more money one can invest than others do and how best they can carry out horse trading of parliament members using heaps of money. Obviously with such a shackle on its legs, election can by no means be free and fair. Money flows merrily with trickeries, even threats, at every stage at all levels. And it is not always hidden too. Side by side to hoodwink thoughtful people, all bourgeois agencies, including a major section of monopoly-controlled media carry on relentless propaganda round the clock to make people believe how sincere they are in putting a stop to this flow and reign of money. As a part of it, the governments define limits to expenses, knowing full well that none of the offenders will care for the official limits. But the latter is always being raised higher. It means, as discussed, only the parties or forces which could amass fabulous election funds from their capitalist- monopolist patrons, sponsors and well wishers, can get freely into the election process. The party or the force which stands for the vast masses of poor people, which fights relentlessly for people’s cause is gradually more and more cornered and debarred from joining the process, not to speak of winning seats, because of the lack of funds. It needs no explanation that the moneyed rich, the monopolists, the business houses, the corporates, which open their wallet liberally to fatten the election fund of a party of their choice, will be adequately rewarded with crores and crores of rupees unhesitatingly and ruthlessly to reimburse their investment as and when their chosen party assumes power. The victim is obviously the people, relentlessly burdened with indirect tax-increase, ultimately leading to ever-mounting price rise.
As the entire election machinery is run by money, it goes on spiraling, And for the most part it is the infamous black money which the holders make use of through their pet political parties. Despite all tall talks of curbing black money, it prevails and will keep on prevailing as usual and with full vigour to play its prank. With a sagacious posture the government stipulate a 2000 rupees limit for an individual to donate to a political party. One can hardly hold back from laughing, as everybody knows how the errant political parties would smoothly find out thousand and one means to bring out, on record, a list of thousand and one individuals, real or fake, each donating them within limits. So, sure and certain, money will continue to flood every part of the election process and at all its levels, monopolists will provide it to keep their machinery moving. The government, on behalf of the monopolists will make this rule or that rule. But the process will run unchecked. And on this background, state funding will mean that the government, meant to be the protector of people, will turn into devouring upon them, saviour will itself provide fuel to this devilish practice of funding elections. From where will the government get the money to fund elections? From another vital point of view it is people’s money called public exchequer. Then how will it reimburse it ? Naturally the government will recover it from none other than people and by nothing else but raising taxes leading to further price rise and associated burden for people. One cannot miss the point that these parties know it well how to dodge the laws and restrictions.
Now the bourgeois political parties of all hues and slogans are standing by the proposal of state funding. All of them are identified with this singular move; what else can they do ? None of these parties can challenge it as all are reaping their harvest from the process. And they are aware of their master’s design too.
Besides, in power or in opposition they have nothing to lose. Either way, they will enjoy the state fund above board and the usual black money underneath the table. So the move is not just insincere, it is extremely deceptive as well. It is a reform not to improve the electioneering process, but to help the process run as usual, the sole objective being to confuse people’s resentment against this nasty role of money and thwart it from growing further. It is clear as daylight that the parties subservient to the ruling class will gain fillip with this move to make use of the process for their petty party interests.
Simultaneous election : impracticability at its height concealing the motive
The proposal for holding elections simultaneously is a second issue now being revamped. Avowedly, it is for the sake of bringing down expenditure and smoothening administrative steps. Incidentally it may be mentioned that even the Chief Election Commissioner of the country could not but raise a warning, though timidly enough, that the process of simultaneous polls will cost a huge amount of money over Rs 9,000 crore for a government that so often speaks of fund shortage.
Since the beginning, there was simultaneous election in independent India. However, there cropped up different reasons for which election had to be held at different times in different states. This was natural for a vast country like India. Here situations were different in different states depending on various factors, natural or man-made; the regions had their own peculiarities, problems, festivities, cultural traits and activities, etc. There were sudden disruptions. There were still other factors.
The ruling capitalist class are frantically trying to keep their subservient parties satisfied with power and pelf, in order that the latter serve them unhesitatingly. The parties, in their turn, are constantly trying to gain advantage over each other. Those in power are driving wedge into the opposition to ensure their majority; the opposition are trying to bring the ruling party down. Now it is even happening that the party running the Union government uses its clout and power to drive cleavage within some state government run by its opponents. In all the cases it is the money of the monopolists that provide the fuel. In this rat race for power, the governments are promulgating anti-defection laws, but to no avail. Defections, even mass defections are bringing down elected governments. It becomes necessary to clamp President’s rule in such cases. Chiefly because of this, mid-term election is becoming unavoidable now and often. In a capitalist set-up such mutual bickering cannot be avoided. Moreover, it should also be mentioned that dreadful capitalist exploitation is giving birth to tremendous resentment in people about to burst out at any moment. This is also causing political instability, cleavage in even a majority-run government. In such cases too, it is found that the House is being dissolved, thus necessitating fresh mid-term election. Sometimes as a diversionary tactics, the government in power facing danger of split and crumbling down is going for before- term election.
In any case, instead of holding such elections as early as possible, simultaneous election over the country on any plea whatsoever will withhold such election for some time, may be a few years. For pure and simple reason of maintaining governance, the state or the region will have to be put under a non-elected government, which in our country cannot be anything else than President’s rule. It means people there would not have any elected legislative body for them and will have to bear with the rule of the executive, that is the bureaucracy. In turn, the non-elected body of bureaucrats running a government will have no accountability to the people concerned, will not need to pay any heed to whether people’s interest is being upheld or not, if people’s democratic rights are being violated or not. So these days when all-out crisis plagues the system and the ruling class, the monopolists are finding no ways towards any solution, such a reign of bureaucrats will simply provide a convenient tool in their hands, to implement their agenda and designs in an unfettered way. In a decadent capitalist set-up there is no escape from the political disruptions narrated above. All claims for bringing stability by this or that means are sure to prove bunkum.
People need to get at truth and decide what to do
People need to get at these truths and would have to decide what they should do. Should they remain just a mute witness of how the bourgeois parliamentary democracy have decayed into a morbid skeleton? Or should they think of throwing it out of the society to rid the latter of a useless putrid hangover of the once bright past? Should they allow the monopolists and their subservient forces to carry through the worst treachery of which people themselves are the victim?
It is true that parliamentary democracy is the superstructure of the capitalist economic base. And the present decadent capitalist order are hell bent upon concentrating their power, economic, political and military. Such efforts towards concentration of power, a cornerstone of fascism, is manifest today in all capitalist countries. But fascism also needs garnering people’s support. And so the rulers, the monopolists continue with this system of parliamentary democracy as the façade to cover up their exploitative bourgeois dictatorship, as the means to hoodwink people in support of their system. As long as capitalism remains the order, the situation is not going to change fundamentally. And within that framework, even the electoral reforms of the sort being suggested at present, will only help to further concentrate power of controlling electioneering process in the hands of the monopolists and their servile forces, thereby assuring the rise of such latter forces to power.
Then for people, or rather for anybody with a modicum of democratic thoughts and values, if these activities and attempts are to be checked even to the minimum, the only course left is the pressure of united powerful democratic movements. Attacks will only mount, so resistance to these should also be geared up. People may see many so-called Marxists, now turned simple social democrats, taking refuge behind the prevailing system of bourgeois parliamentary democracy, not from any respect and regard for democracy or parliament, but for power and pelf that they may happen to enjoy in some favourable situations. It gives a sorry picture no doubt, but for people those forces are virtually exposed and spent up. People may also hear the argument that it is futile for a pro-people force to take part in such a decadent process and so boycotting such elections is the way. The argument is itself useless and futile. Because, with people still suffering from illusion of parliamentary processes, the boycott will only leave them at the mercy of those forces which join the process to serve the monopolists for power and pelf. The rulers — the real enemy of people that hatch the design — will then find it an easy game to carry through their design without any resistance.
So resistance must be there . At the same time, it cannot be forgotten for a moment that all such attempts to resist and thwart these designs must be directed towards ultimately uprooting the main evil, the capitalist system, lock stock and barrel. This is what the time demands of people right at this juncture.