In the recent elections to the Lok Sabha and the State assemblies, one of the slogans raised by the Congress (R) was 'stable government'. By this it was' meant that as the coalition governments did not last long the voters must vote in favour of 'the Congress (R), which would provide the nation with stable governments both at the Centre and in the States. The voter has done this with vengeance. The Congress (R) now has not only a comfortable but an overwhelming majority in Parliament as well as in the State Assemblies. It would be irrelevant here to discuss how these majorities were secured. They were beyond the most extravagant expectations of the party. Some candidates who succeeded were themselves surprised by their victory. The most favourable computations were falsified. Only the Prime Minister was not surprised as she said after the Lok Sabha results were announced. It may be that she is not surprised also at the results obtained in the States. This may be due to the fact that she had complete knowledge of the forces working and those that were brought into play. Nobody else expected such exceptional majority in favour of the ruling party, notwithstanding the victory of our armed forces against Pakistan and the charismatic character of our Prime Minister.
Let us now see the results of the landslide victory in favour of the ruling party. Everywhere now we have stable governments. Not only are they stable for the present but they threaten to be so perpetually, if the methods used by the ruling party in the elections are not abandoned or even modified.
The question then arises whether stable governments are essential for the healthy functioning of democracy. If there were only stable governments, there will be no likelihood of their being thrown out of power by democratic procedures. They could only be thrown out through a violent revolution.
It is true that there must be stability in a government for some time to give it a chance to fulfil its pledges made to the electorate at the election time. But a stable government, that threatens to perpetuate itself by any means that it can command, would certainly, in course of time, destroy democracy. It may result in the dictatorship of a party; but ultimately this becomes also the dictatorship of an individual. When such an individual commands a charismatic personality, the process towards dictatorship is complete. We see the signs of this clearly today.
The process began with the success of the Congress (R) in the Lok Sabha elections. Earlier in many States where Congress (R) was in power, the PCCs democratically chosen were supplanted by ad hoc committees. The Chief Ministers of four States, Mr Mohanlal Sukhadia of Rajasthan, Mr Brahmananda Reddy of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Shayama Charan Shukla of Madhya Pradesh and Mr Chaudhari of Assam, were obliged to resign their office at the behest of the Prime Minister, even though they commanded majorities in, their respective Assemblies. I say 'obliged' because they were all, hard-headed and hard-hearted politicians. Such people do not resign their high positions which they could retain through their majorities, simply on the advice of a person commanding superiority. They do so because the advice of such a person amounts to a command.
Let us see what has now happened in 11 the States in which the Congress (R) has secured majorities. In each State a Minister from the Centre or a General Secretary of the Congress (R) or a leading politician in the party is sent to supervise the election of the party leader. He goes there and calls the Assembly members of the party to elect a leader who is to be the Chief Minister. And sometimes even as the meeting is going on he is telephonically connected to the Prime Minister to know her mind as to who among the contending rivals is to be selected as leader. When he gets the name, the person is unanimously elected leader. As soon as the leader is chosen, he rushes to consult not the Congress (R) President but the Prime Minister about the colleagues he is to choose for his Cabinet.
It will be of note to remember what happened in the days of Jawaharlal Nehru in the case of the election of the leaders of the Assembly Congress parties in the States. In 1963, the Chief Minister of UP, Mr C. B. Gupta, had to resign, being axed by the so-called 'Kamaraj Plan'. His successor was to be chosen. There were two candidates in the field, Mr Kamalapati Tripati and Sucheta (Mrs. Kripalani). A great deal of canvassing was done by prominent leaders at the Centre and in the, States in favour of Mr. Kamalapati Tripati and against Sucheta. Mr Hafiz Ibrahim, then a Minister in the Centre, was especially sent to canvass Muslim votes in the Assembly for Mr Tripati. Though Jawaharlal Nehru himself did not indulge in any canvassing, his views were known. In spite of all this, Sucheta got the majority of the votes in the Assembly Party and was elected its leader. These days such a thing would be impossible. The party legislators in the States unanimously carry out the wishes of the Prime Minister They are of course free –to do her will!
If the present pattern of stable governments both at the Centre and in the States is allowed to last, we would not be in the process of getting a dictatorial party and the dictator at its head but we have already got them. This is stability with a vengeance! Democracy, as we have said earlier, can prosper only where there is a possibility of change. It is wrong to think that periodical changes in the government, whether in favour of a single party or a coalition of parties, is undesirable in a democracy. Most countries on the continent of Europe have no two parties, alternately enjoying power and being in Opposition, as in England and the US. There are generally multi-purpose coalition governments. Also there are frequent changes to the ruling party, or parties. It is notorious that in France before Gen. Charles de Gaulle, there were changes in the Ministry every six months. France did not, on that account suffer very much, in its political, economic and social life. The failure of coalition governments in India was due to their being in an experimental stage, apart from manoeuvre against them by the Centre. It is not necessary that it should always be so. But stable governments, as we have got today at the Centre and in the States, are a menace to democracy. The nation, therefore, may be very well apprehensive of the stable governments that have been recently established.
This article was authored by JB Kripalani and was published in the 13 May 1972 edition of Swarajya.
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