The inauguration of the nation’s new Par- liament building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a moment of pride; a historic event that sheds India’s past colonial legacy. Unfortunately, the ceremo- ny was marred by political controversies and boycott by a number of political par- ties, with trust deficit being a key factor. In fact, the very rationale of constructing a new Parliament building at Refugees a cost of around Rs 1,200 crore, part of the “Central Vista Redevelopment Proj- ect” was questioned by certain sections of society. Reconciliatory consensus on the issue amongst the po- litical fraternity would have been a befitting manifesta- tion of India’s credentials as a mature democracy and its unity in diversity.
The new Parliament build- ing with state of the art facil- ities and enhanced capacity to accommodate 884 Lok Sabha and 384 Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament (MPs) is futuristic and per- sonifies the idea of New In- dia. However, for common citizens the moot question of genuine concern is: how the sanctity and sacredness of the new “temple of democ-
racy” will be preserved. Go- ing by the current profile of the Lok Sabha, almost 50% of the MPs i.e., 233 have de- clared criminal cases pend- ing against them. It marks an increase of 44% in com- parison to the number of MPs with declared criminal cases since 2009. The trend is almost similar with re- spect to the legislators in the state assemblies.
Incidentally, the scepti- cism on the nexus between crime and politics was evi- dent right from the first gen- eral elections held in 1952. In fact, this trend had been anticipated by the found- ing fathers, in particular by C. Rajagopalachari, the first Governor General of India, way back in 1922. As per experts, the character of the nexus changed over a period of time, especially since the 1970s. Hereon, from the earlier pattern of politicians having links with criminal networks, a new trend start- ed to set in where persons with serious criminal record began to enter politics.
The degeneration of our political system has been taken note of, from time to time. The 1993 Vohra Com- mittee report underlined the emergence of the sys- tematic practice of bonding between criminal networks, bureaucrats, politicians and the media. Even the 2002 report of NCRWC (National Commission to Review the Working of Constitution) reinforced the same con- cerns. Given “winnability” being the overriding factor for the selection of candi- dates by the political parties across the board, the crimi- nals now enjoy open access to be constitutionally elected as legislators and hold key ministerial posts. Ironically, from the available data, those with criminal records fair better than those withclean credentials.
During his inaugural speech, Prime Minister Modi stated that when In- dia is celebrating “Amrit- kaal”, the people of India have gifted its democracy a new Parliament. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla expressed confidence that the new at- mosphere in the new Par- liament will engender new ideas and take forward the good principles of our Par- liamentary system. Taking cue from the above passion- ate statements, perhaps the best return gift the the new Parliament could offer to the democracy and its people is, when the Indian Republic marks its centenary in 2050, both the Houses will free be of the tainted elected repre-sentatives. This will require the introduction of path breaking political reforms to dismantle the existing gridlocks.
Embracing the past tradi- tion of governance, the Sen- gol, a symbol of righteous- ness will act as a beacon of inspiration for future par- liamentarians to be the wor- thy trustees of the nation’s democratic spirit. It will also act as a nudge towards self- reflection and conscience keeping by the political fra- ternity; marking transition from the culture of “being served” to “serve”.
The nation today stands at the threshold of break- ing into the big league. It is also a time of reckoning for ordinary citizens about their ability to bring about a tectonic difference, and pave the way for “Young India” to realise its dream within the country rather than seeking it in distant lands, thus mak- ing “Amrit Kaal” a reality. Maj Gen (Dr) G.G. Dwivedi (Retd) is a war veteran, a for- mer Assistant Chief; currently, Professor of Strategic and In- ternational Relations.