B L Saraf
It is election time and a Party manifesto is flavor of the season. From a political party with just one member in the fray to those having hundreds of them, all are in running race to publish a manifesto – wherein everything under the Sun is promised to lure the electors- with no qualms to debunk the pledge once in saddle.
Normally, we know of the manifestoes as a medium through which a political party intends to communicate with a voter. They are meant to reflect ideas of the political parties and give a vision for the future. It could be a link to the past. Ironically, manifesto has turned into a combination of promise and the rhetoric, seldom holding a political party accountable for its failure in terms of a previously declared program that would ensure of betterment of the voters. In reality it is the manifestation of an urge to drive a discourse towards, what the party feels, is its ‘core agenda ‘. No manifesto has ever sought to provide answers for the failures of fulfillment of the promises made in the previous one.
These days manifestoes have fallen prey to a new malaise that prohibits them from having something in positive. All most all political parties are in competition to venture into the ‘ business of abrogation ‘. The ferocity with which the “abrogation content ‘ of the manifesto is pushed hard it transpires that the real issues of bread and butter- shown in the margins- are set out only in recognition of their inconsequence.
We know how BJP has been prevaricating on its stand on Articles 370 and 35 A, and goes on seeking adjournments after adjournments before the Apex Court which is seized of their constitutionality. These adjournments are sought, fearing that any adverse decision may further destabilize J &K, even then the party doesn’t feel shy and, yet again, promises abrogation of these Articles, once returned to power. Congress, through the medium of its manifesto, wants to throwout the law of sedition ( Sec 124 IPC ) and defang AFSPA, apart from nullifying those anti-terror laws which are anathema to the so called liberals and the ‘Human rights activists, whose support the party backs on.
In home, Farooq Abdullah promises abrogation of Public Safety Laws and Mehbooba Mufti wants to abolish NIA laws so that political and financial malfeasance of the actors goes unpunished and all kinds of accountability and probity in the public life is thrown to the winds.
They say election is a festival of democracy. But we never see manifestoes as an invitation to that festival. In practice they are invitation to the chaos or a market where freebies are promised to be doled out, without any sense of the economics. No wonder people don’t take these pieces of paper for what they convey to make positive accretions but what is emphasized and marked out for the ‘abrogation’- not only the laws but whatever little the previous dispensation may have added for the benefit of people.
Not for honorable reasons, a serious debate on national issues has vanished from the public space. Party manifestoes, in olden days, would generate a lively debate. That story is over. Now no voter takes these pieces of paper seriously, just as no elected person cares for him once the game is over.
In the race to abrogate laws,not liked by a political party- it is better to abrogate all laws. After all It is a general refrain that law and justice are distant cousins, who seldom meet each other. Then, It is said ” Law is an ass.” It never delivers justice. Jerome Bentham long back cautioned a litigant : ” It is a court of law and not of the justice.” Nani Palkiwalla would say ” in our country law is somewhere justice elsewhere.”
A politician will never abrogate poverty, caste discriminations and other economic and social ills consistently from 1970, reiterated after every five years, Congress party has been telling us that it would remove poverty from India’s surface. For the party Garibi Hatao would be the catch phrase to hoodwink the voters. It practiced the art with great degree of success. Fifty years down the line, same rhetoric in the same kind of document , albeit with different catchy title Hum Nibhayange is in the political market. If anything needs to be abrogated it is a politician’s poverty of thought. That in turn will abolish poverty of means. Old tunes sound a jarring note- so irritating and so repelling. New symphony is required.
There is conscious indifference to these documents. The political parties are determined not to learn from the past experiences and continue to have the gumption that voters are fools-or could be made so perpetually.The politicians are incorrigibly beyond redemption. So, the voters will have teach them a lesson. It s time to hold politicians accountable to the word scribed in what they call a ‘vision paper ‘.
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)
B L Saraf