Friday, July 20, 2007


I thank Mr.Arun Thiruvengadam for his suggestion that what was added as "Update" to my previous post on the subject should ideally be a new post as it raises substantive issues.

The AIADMK chief J.Jayalalithaa has rightly revised her stand on abstention by allowing her party MPs and MLAs to vote, even while abstaining herself, blaming the E.C. for not taking a clear stand. In the comments section to the previous post, both Dilip and Srinivasan argue for freedom for parties to peacefully propagate abstention. There is one convincing reason why such a freedom cannot be conceded. I draw your attention to the link relating to ECI's norms for registration of political parties. The link is here.

One of the requirements for registration says:A neatly typed/printed copy of the memorandum/rules and regulations/Constitution of the Party containing a specific provision as required under sub-section (5) of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in the exact terms, which reads "---------------(name of the party) shall bear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of India as by law established, and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy (italics mine) and would uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India". The above mandatory provision must be included in the text of party constitution/rules and regulations/memorandum itself as one of the Articles/clauses.

What are the principles of democracy? Democracy, according to the dictionary meaning, is a country in which the people choose their government by voting for it. How can anyone interpret it to mean it also includes not choosing a government by not voting for it? Voting indisputably is an essential principle of democracy. Individual voters may have the freedom not to vote, because of various reasons, but they ought to be primarily personal. Even a decision not to vote because the voter is dissatisfied with all the available candidates must be entirely a personal one, based on her perception and judgment of what the parties offer or don't offer; this decision cannot be dictated or appealed to by any party, because once the parties try to persuade the voter not to vote, they would lose the rationale for registration.

The EC has certainly misread its own norms for registration of parties. I am glad Jayalalithaa understood the wisdom and the correct legal position of not deciding on behalf of her MLAs/MPs even belatedly and allowed them to vote, even if she had abstained. There is a strong ground for seeking deregistration of political parties which requested non-voting by its Members.

One can ask what about socialism and secularism? Are not parties guilty of going against the principles of these concepts as well at times? Well, my answer is that the violation of these principles is subtle, and difficult to establish sometimes. Even if the violation is blatant, there is always scope for a different interpretation. One would agree that the word socialism was inserted in the Preamble of the Constitution under circumstances which are arguably not relevant today. But democracy? It is so fundamental to the Election Commission's own rationale. There can be no two opinions on what it means and signifies.
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