Meghnad Desai loves to cook, watch and write about old Bollywood movies and shuttles between London, Delhi and Goa. He pursues controversies on economics, history and anything else which catches his attention. He is also a British parliamentarian sitting in the House of Lords. He has written over 25 books, over 200 articles in learned journals and hundreds of newspaper columns in UK and India.
Any day now, the Election Commission will start the process for the general election of 2019. All the political parties which register to contest will assert an untruth. Under the Representation of the People Act, as amended under Rajiv Gandhi’s prime-ministership, all parties contesting the election have to declare that they adhere to the principles of socialism.
How bizarre is that! All parties, bar none. It is one thing for the Leninist parties CPI, CPM, CPI (M-L) and even Forward Bloc to say they are socialist. But beyond that, how many can truthfully assert that they are socialist? Is the BJP a socialist party? During early days, the Jana Sangh used to assert their belief in Gandhian Socialism. But now they follow Deendayal Upadhyaya, who consciously searched for a path rejecting socialism and capitalism. The Congress used to be a socialist party. But as of December 2017, it is a Hindu nationalist party (Shaivite tendency). It could say it is a liberal Hindu nationalist party or even that it is a liberal Hindu socialist party. And why not? There are Christian Socialists and Zionism originally was a socialist movement. Anyone can call themselves socialist.
Even the casteist parties of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who follow Ram Manohar Lohia may call themselves samajwadi, but they show no special commitment to socialism. Casteism and socialism do not go together. George Fernandes, who died recently, had his Samta Party and he was probably the last of the remnants of the Congress Socialist Party which became Praja Socialist Party and then split many ways and is now defunct.
The assertion that India is a secular socialist democratic republic was foisted upon the Preamble to the Constitution when India was oppressed under Indira Gandhi’s undemocratic Emergency. Secularism is in the text of the Constitution. The Constituent Assembly had seen no need to put it in the Preamble. Socialism was never officially adopted in the Constitution, nor by the Congress which only resolved to work towards a ‘Socialist Pattern of Society’ at the Avadi session of AICC. To declare India to be socialist was grossly unconstitutional. This was compounded by Rajiv Gandhi in amending the Representation of the People Act and adding the requirement that all parties declare their belief in socialism. It was a massive misuse of his majority. Luckily after that the Congress has never won a majority.
The fact remains that the electoral procedure is built on a tissue of false assertions by all but a small number of Leftist political parties. Hypocrisy is a common coin of politics but there ought to be a limit. In a country where people rush to file a PIL for the most trivial of causes, no one has as yet challenged this set of untruths. It is like a collective conspiracy. We all know that no one means it when they say they adhere to socialism and no one cares that they are lying. Satyameva Jayate may be the national mantra but not in election procedures.
The most offensive part of this practice is that it is a violation of the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Speech. Why should an Indian citizen not assert that she does not believe in socialism and wants to start a party which explicitly says so? Is India a democracy or not?