The robustness of India’s political system

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The robustness of India’s political system

Saturday, 15 June 2024 | Vinayshil Gautam

The robustness of India’s political system

The recent Indian parliamentary elections underscore the resilience and maturity of the country’s democratic processes, reflecting the electorate’s nuanced choices

Civil society requires an acceptance of rules, regulations and practices for the orderly conduct of affairs. These rules, regulations and practices may or may not be documented but they are generally composed of items which everyone agrees to confirm.

A commonly referred example is the fact that the United Kingdom does not have a written constitution, yet it manages to conduct its affairs in a fairly orderly fashion. This requires a great deal of self-regulation and the ability to allow matters to function together, even in disagreement. This enables the orderly conduct of affairs with or without agreement and with mutual respect. It is a significant achievement.

Compared to this, there are some countries with written constitutions that find it difficult to conduct their affairs in an orderly manner and often have to resort to courts. Appealing to the courts itself is an acceptable method of conflict resolution, even though it may be seen as a less evolved order than working with mutual agreement.

The ability to manage oneself and manage disagreements is a significant constituent trait of civil society. In extreme cases, withdrawal from participation is known to happen, but this needs to be an exception rather than the rule. Put simply, agreeing to disagree is a gentlemanly art which only the evolved can practice.

Together with this, the use of temperate language and polite methods of disagreement are inherent parts of civil society. Loose talk and abrasive postures can, of course, happen, but they do credit to nobody and become an indicator of a lower level of evolution.

The recent elections for the parliament are a tell-tale story of the State of health of Indian political processes. On one hand, it is a resounding testimony to the fairness of the Indian electoral process and the sheer maturity of political choices.

It truly reflects the thinking of the electorate, who went to record one’s views in a matter most consistent with the individual’s judgement and inclination. Such large-scale observance of the peaceful exercise of political choices can and should fill with joy any one’s thinking and observation.

That being said and done, there are other actions which need thought and some better understanding of the causative factors. That some victors of the electoral process, even if they otherwise had the credentials, did not make it to the cabinet is an understandable aberration.

There is no one’s ‘right’ to be in the cabinet and if the Prime Minister, in his inherent prerogative, did not deem it so, he exercised a conscious choice.

Similarly, the inclusion of some who lost the election in the cabinet is also justifiable under prime-ministerial prerogative. An example being cited is a former Congressman who lost the election, under the BJP ticket, taking oath as a minister.

Another interesting case is of a BJP functionary in Kerala (the General Secretary of the BJP there) without being a member of any of the two houses of Parliament, taking oath as a minister.

From a particular State, eight ministers were chosen, but two veterans, former members of the different era cabinets of the party, notwithstanding their success in the election, lost out for a cabinet berth.

Examples are many, but they all carry the stamp of prime-ministerial prerogative. A gentleman who was a minister in the outgoing Government has found a place in Modi 3.0 despite losing the election. This particular gentleman, as noted above, was not only a minister in the outgoing Government and lost the election (he has at least the redeeming feature of being a member of the Rajya Sabha).

There have been some negative press reports and commentaries on such examples. It does not help a cause.

Mounting a telescope on a microscope to detect departures and deviations from what one believes should be the norm of cabinet-making in a parliamentary system, cannot be accepted as an algorithm of decision-making. No rule or regulation can be followed 100 per cent in all exceptions and this is what judgment and prerogatives are all about.

By and large, the ministry formation of 70+ has been a remarkable achievement of balance and poise. Whether it be the case of Ravi Shankar Prasad/Rajiv Pratap Rudy/L Murugan/Rajiv Chandrasekhar, whether for inclusion in the cabinet or exclusion, not too much can be made out of such decisions.

A case can be cited of a veteran BJP leader from Gujarat who took the oath in the first and second Modi’s Government and won this election but did not make it to the cabinet. Such decisions are to be taken in stride and accepted for what they are worth.

It can be rightly claimed that constituting a 70+ ministerial house is a major feat and it has been achieved with consummate artistry. It is one more testimony, if any, be needed to the maturity of the Indian political process.

(The writer is a well-known management consultant of international repute. The views expressed are personal)

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