Source: 
Gomantak Times
https://www.gomantaktimes.com/news/goa/govts-dont-come-from-us-but-from-parties-jagdeep-chhoker
Author: 
Praveena Sharma
Date: 
21.02.2024
City: 

Die-hard crusader for political reforms is chasing the ‘tail’ to catch the political bull by the horns, calls on voters to boycott loyalty-switching politicians for life

The brutal and uncomfortable truths of India’s democratic elections were called out Monday by Dr Jagdeep Chhoker, founder-member of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the lead petitioner in the electoral bond case in the Supreme Court (SC), when he addressed a small gathering at The Blue Brick Wall Café in Miramar.

“A secretary to the government of India is on record, in a discussion with me three days ago, that only 5-7 per cent of the money used by the political parties (for elections) is declared,” he revealed to his astounded audience.

Political parties have kept a lid on the source and the use of the remaining over 90 per cent of the election funds. Attempts by anyone to uncover it could prove to be a wild goose chase; “we know we are chasing the tail but we not able to catch even that”.

The recent favourable SC judgement on the ‘illicit’ election bonds has instilled hope in this crusader for democratic reforms. He sees it as a “small mercy” but believes “our political financing system would still be nowhere near transparency (after the judgement and would return to pre-2017 transparency)”.

The recent favourable SC judgement on the ‘illicit’ election bonds has instilled hope in this crusader for democratic reforms.

According to him, the two things that can make India’s democracy better were democratic processes within a political party and transparency in their funding.

“The biggest and fundamental problem with Indian democracy, touted to the whole world as a vibrant democracy, is that political parties who claim to uphold the democracy are internally undemocratic. In 1999, the Law Commission said there cannot be a superstructure of democracy standing on non-democratic foundations,” averred the fiery civil rights activist.

He argued that the need for funding arose from the non-democratic functioning of the parties which foisted candidates on voters without giving consideration to their choice.

“Selection of candidate (by political parties) is an arbitrary phenomenon; a decision made by a coterie or a high command of the party. The members of the party (or voters) have no say. This blind belief in election needs money,” he explained.

He argued that the need for funding arose from the non-democratic functioning of the parties which foisted candidates on voters without giving consideration to their choice.

To prove his point, he gave the example of the pre-independence provincial assembly election conducted as per the Government of India Act – enacted in British Parliament in 1935 – where late Vaikundthbhai Mehta won from Bombay province without campaigning or spending any money.

The story goes like this; Mehta, who was working in the co-operative banking sector, was being coerced by people to contest the election against his will. He decided to consult Mahatma Gandhi, who advised him to take part in the election but on two conditions.

Gandhi wrote back (Vaikundth Mehta) if people want you to contest then you must but on two conditions. First, you will not campaign for your election; just go and file your nomination and sit at home. Second, don’t take money from anybody. Mehta, as a dutiful soldier went and filed his nomination and sat at home and won by an overwhelming majority,” narrated Chhoker.

Mehta went on to become the finance minister of the pre-independent Bombay province; “elections can be won without money and you don’t have to buy ad space on commercial televisions to inform the voters”.

Chhoker asked voters to “boycott” loyalty-switching politicians “for rest of their life”.

He said cases like Mehta’s can happen even today provided political parties are democratic in their operations. The ex-dean of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) described Goa’s politics as very “grassroots compared to anywhere else in the country”.

Chhoker asked voters to “boycott” loyalty-switching politicians “for rest of their life”.

Busting the myth that people elect their government, he said; “citizens choice is pre-constraint by the choices made by a set of political parties. Once the person gets elected, he goes to the Assembly and when a bill comes, does that person have a choice whether to support the bill or oppose? He goes by the party whip”.

He concluded it was the political parties that elected the government by choosing their candidates for you and controlling them thereafter. “Government doesn’t come from us but from (political) parties.”

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