Challenges before the Parliamentary Democracy – From the Pen of Dr Ambedkar


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With the capture of political power all over the country by the forces who do not believe in the democratic form of government, who do not believe in government by discussions, it is time to revisit the thoughts of Babasaheb Ambedkar on the challenges before the parliamentary democracy.

Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar defines parliamentary democracy as ‘a form and method of government whereby revolutionary changes in the economic and social life of the people are brought about without bloodshed’.

Babasaheb states the following conditions as essential prerequisites for Parliamentary Democracy to be successful.

(1) Absence of Glaring Inequalities

The first condition precedent for the successful working of the democracy is that there must be no glaring inequalities in the society. There must not be an oppressed class. There must not be a suppressed class. There must not be a class which has got all the privileges and a class which has got all the burdens to carry. Such a thing, such a division, such an organisation of society has within itself the germs of a bloody revolution.

(2) Need of Strong Opposition

The second thing which a successful democracy requires is the existence of opposition. Parliamentary democracy means a veto power. Democracy is a contradiction of hereditary authority or autocratic authority. Democracy means that at some stage somewhere there must be a veto on the authority of those who are ruling the country. There is no veto on the part of anybody on the power of King. But in democracy, we have provided that at every five years those who are in authority must Ho yo people and ask whether in the opinion of the people they are well qualified to be entrusted with power and authority to look after their interests, to mould their destiny, to defend them.

Parliamentary democracy requires that not only the government should be subject to veto, long term veto of five years, at the hands of the people, but there must be an immediate veto. There must be people in parliament immediately ready there and then to challenge the government.

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The government must justify every act that it does to those people who do not belong to its party.

Unfortunately, in our country all our newspapers, for one reason or the other, I believe it is the revenue from advertisements, have given far more publicity to the government than to the opposition.

(3) Equality in Law and Administration

In England, in order that administration should remain pure, impartial, away from politics and policy, they have made the distinction between what is called political offices and civil offices. Like Great Britain, India had made that wise decision that administration must be interfered with by the government and that the function of the government was to lay down policy, but not to interfere and not to make any discrimination.

(4) Observance of Constitutional Morality

What we have a Constitution which contains legal provisions, only a skeleton. The flesh of that skeleton is to be found in what we call constitutional morality.

To the American people, George Washington was God. He was made the first President of the United States after the constitution was drafted. After his term was over, what happened? He refused to stand for the second time. When he was asked why he said –

“My dear people, you have forgotten the purpose for which we made this constitution. We made this constitution because we did not want the hereditary ruler or a dictator. If after abandoning and swerving away from the allegiance of the English King, you come to this country and stick to worship me year after year and term after term, what happens to your principles? Can you say that you have rightly rebelled against the authority of the English King when you are substituting me in his place?”

He said, ‘Even if your loyalty and fidelity to me compels you to plead that I should stand the second time, I, as one who enunciated that principle that we should not have hereditary authority, must not fall a prey to your emotion’.

Ultimately, they prevailed upon him to stand at least second time. And he did. And the third time they approached him, he spurned them.

(5) No Tyranny of Majority over Minority

The minority must always feel safe that although the majority is carrying on the government, the minority is not being hurt, or the minority is not being hit below the belt.

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It may be that if the government were constantly to oppose the adjournment motions of the small community which is represented in the house by a group of few members such as four, five or six, such a small minorities can never get a chance to ventilate their grievances. What happens is that these minorities develop contempt for parliamentary people and develop a revolutionary spirit, something unconstitutional. It is, therefore, necessary that when democracy is working, the majority on which it is based must not act in a tyrannical manner.

(6) Moral Order in the Society

Democracy is spoken of as a free government. And what do we mean by free government? Free government means that in vast aspects of social life people are free to carry on without the interference of law, or if the law has to be made, then the lawmaker expects that society will have enough morality in it to make the law success. If there is no moral order, democracy will go to pieces as it is going now in our own country.

(7) Strong Presence of Public Conscience

Democracy requires Public Conscience. Public Conscience means Conscience which becomes agitated at every wrong, no matter who is the sufferer, and it means that everybody, whether he suffers that particular wrong or not, is prepared to join him in order to get him relieved.

In India, I have very seldom found anybody not belonging to scheduled class taking up the cause of the Scheduled class and fighting. And why? Because there is no ‘Public Conscience’.

I and my India is the only world within which I am bound. If this sort of thing happens, the minority which is suffering from injustice gets no help from others for purpose of getting rid of this injustice. It again develops a revolutionary mentality which puts democracy in danger.

Author – Jayant Pathri

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