According to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, the first among the seven deadly social sins is “politics without principles”. In other words, it is politics without morality. After the Nehruvian era, India has been progressively witnessing an alarming decline in the morality of politics in India. The maha drama that was enacted at 7.30 a.m. on November 23 in the Raj Bhavan of Mumbai can be described as a “descent to the political sewers” as termed by Siddharth Varadarajan in his write up in the Wire online news.
It is really disgusting to see how politics is being played in India by flouting all ethical and moral norms. The way Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar were sworn in Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively at 7.30 am raises some grave ethical questions. Generally, declaration of a President’s rule in a State is done as well as withdrawn with the recommendation of the Union Cabinet. But on 23rd November, the Prime Minister used the special powers given under Rule 12 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules . This rule says that the “Prime Minister may, in any case or classes of cases, permit or condone a departure from these rules, to the extent he deems necessary.” What was the urgency or necessity of asking t he President of India to sign a notification revoking Central rule in Maharashtra at 5.47 am?
Secondly, the Governor did not verify whether the legislators of NCP really supported a government headed by the BJP. It was widely reported in the media on 22nd evening that an understanding had been reached among the three parties, Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress, regarding the government formation and Sharad Pawar had announced that Uddhav Thackeray, the head of the Shiv Sena, would be the CM. The Governor was well aware of it. Hence the action of the Governor is highly questionable. Akhilesh Yadav, the leader of the Samajwadi Party commented on the political development in Maharashtra, “The party that has governor gets the government”.
It was reported in the media that Ajit Pawar got his MLAs to sign a piece of paper which many of them have alleged was under false pretences. They signed a paper for their attendance, rather than for supporting Fadnavis as chief minister, they allege.
Thirdly, prior to the election in Maharashtra, the Enforcement Directorate had initiated an investigation on the NCP leaders, Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel. The two Pawars were implicated in Rs.25,000 crore scam, involving the Maharashtra Cooperative Bank. Ajit Pawar was also being probed for the irrigation scam running into thousands of crores. How could the BJP, which had promised corruption-free governance, make a corruption accused Ajit Pawar the Deputy Chief Minister?
From the actions of the central government, one can safely guess that the investigating agencies are mainly pursuing the corruption cases of the political leaders belonging to the opposition parties. They are not hunting the politicians belonging to the BJP and other political parties that are either friendly or neutral to the BJP. The opposition parties often accuse the BJP government of using the investigating agencies either to harass or pressurise the elected representatives to support the BJP government. Observing the overnight political somersault by Ajit Pawar of the NCP, one is persuaded to believe that there could be truth in the accusation of the opposition parties. The decision to close the irrigation scam case against Ajit Pawar within 48 hours after he was sworn-in as Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister is a proof of the corrupt practice. This is indeed unethical.
Amidst the darkness of political immorality, the Supreme Court lighted a candle on 26th November with its verdict on the floor test in Maharashtra assembly. In response to the case filed in the Supreme Court by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, the Supreme Court ordered the Fadnavis government to face a floor test "immediately", saying if it was delayed, "there is a possibility of horse-trading; it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values". The SC verdict blocked all the possibilities of manipulation by the BJP, and Devendra Fadnavis was advised to resign. By ordering the floor test within 24 hours the SC proved that it is an honest umpire and the strongest pillar of democracy and protector of the constitutional values. Some of the recent verdicts of the SC had created confusion in the minds of the people regarding the role of the SC in safeguarding secular democracy and the constitutional values.
The political developments in Maharashtra after the declaration of assembly election results expose the steep deterioration in political morality. BJP and Shiv Sena had been allies for about 30 years and both together fought the recent assembly election. It was inappropriate on the part of Shiv Sena to ask for 50:50 power-sharing, including two and half years of chief ministership. Shiv Sena won only 55 seats whereas BJP had 105 seats. Breaking the alliance with the BJP from the part of Shiv Sena on account of the quarrel on power-sharing cannot be justified. The Congress party that claims the legacy of secularism joining hands with a rabidly communal political party for capturing power is also questionable. The act of Ajit Pawar ditching his uncle and aligning with the BJP on the basis of promises made to him was the climax of the decline of political morality in Maharashtra. Questions can be raised on the constitutional role played by the Maharashtra governor, the president, and the Prime Minister. The Congress has called the action of the Maharashtra governor “murder of democracy”. “The damage they (BJP) have done to our Constitution and the highest offices in the country, for their sole bid to grab power illegally, will take decades to heal”, said senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
It is a shame for the people of India that their elected representatives are holed up in hotels and some of them are even abducted by the rival parties. This is not the first time that the MLAs are confined to hotels and resorts because of the fear of poaching by the rival political party. What a pathetic situation! Our MLAs and MPs are on sale. The spirit of the Constitution is blatantly violated.
Politicians alone cannot be blamed for the immorality in politics. The politicians come from society and they are elected by the people. Hence the society, in general, is also responsible for the moral degradation in the realm of politics. It is a reflection of the general moral decline in Indian society. The seven social sins that Gandhiji had pointed out are the result of the decline in morality and ethics in society. All the seven social sins are inter-related.
‘Knowledge without Character’ and ‘Worship without Sacrifice’ could be the basis or the starting points of moral decline. According to the Indian tradition, the most important function of education is imparting virtue ( Sanskar). Unfortunately, education has become only a means for a bright career and the focus is on enhancing or acquiring knowledge to the neglect of character formation. Education in India has become a rat race for the students. The students see the other as a competitor and as an enemy. In fact, education without character can become very dangerous. Almost all those who are involved in high-level scams and corruption cases are educated people. John Sloan Dickey’s statement on education is very relevant in this context.
“The end of education is to see man-made whole; both in competence and in conscience (character). For, to create the power of competence without creating a corresponding direction to guide the use of that power is bad education. Furthermore, competence will finally disintegrate apart from conscience”. The general decline in ethics and morality in a society is mainly due to the neglect of character formation in education.
“Religion without sacrifice” refers to the practice of religions without following the core principles and values taught by the religions. True religion is based on spirituality i.e. the practice of love, compassion, understanding, and appreciation of each other irrespective of the beliefs promoted by different religions. Gandhi believed whatever labels we put on our faith; ultimately all of us worship Truth because Truth is God. Religions become distorted when they are infected with commercialization and politicization. A politicized and commercialized religion gives importance to the rituals, dogmas and traditions to the neglect of spirituality or the practice of the values propounded by the religion. Then religion becomes a divisive force and it is used for spreading hatred and violence. The history of the world is a witness to the bloodshed that has taken place in the name of God and religion because of the neglect of practising the values taught by the religions.
In India today, religion has become a divisive force mainly because of its misuse both by the religious and political leaders. The fundamentalist preachers in the religions create prejudice and often hatred against the followers of other religions. At the same time, they fail to inspire the faithful to practice the values taught by their own religion. Many politicians frequent temples and other worship centres, especially at the time elections. They perform many rituals with a lot of fanfare, but they have no hesitation to indulge in corruption and compromise with ethical and moral principles. Large majority of people frequent worship centres and pilgrim centres to seek God’s favour to realize their various material needs. Very few are spiritually nourished and thereby improve the quality of their lives by practising the virtues taught by their own religion.
How to restore morality and ethics to the realm of politics? Strictly following the principles and norms laid down in the constitution of India can prevent to a great extent the erosion. But this will be possible only when the persons who are entrusted with the task of safeguarding the constitution become persons with ethics and morality. Hence there is an urgent need for revamping education with emphasis on character formation and value inculcation in the students. Genuine value inculcation will also lead to the practice of the core values of religion. As a result, people will be liberated from religiosity and blind faith and they will become spiritual.
(Published on 02nd December 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 49)