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HYMN FOR THE REPUBLIC

The founding fathers of the Indian republic cannot possibly be too comfortable with some of the developments within the Indian political system as its enters its 65th year. Many of these developments are actually challenging some of the fundamental features of the democratic system that the founding fathers put in place. There is a chief minister of Delhi, popular among certain sections of the population, who has sworn an oath of allegiance to the Constitution but is happy and proud to describe himself as an anarchist. He recently held a dharna against the Central government, threatened to disrupt the Republic Day parade and, what is worse, allowed one of his ministerís racist remarks to pass without even a word of reprimand or regret. The same chief minister is also a champion of direct democracy and believes in taking critical decisions by seeking the opinion of the people of Delhi. All these go against the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. But this does not daunt the chief minister of Delhi, who sees himself as a loyal Indian committed to clean up the political system of its many corrupt practices. He is yet to provide an answer as to how his agenda squares up with aspects of the Constitution. This grammar of anarchy, a la Ambedkar, would have been frowned upon by the framers of the Constitution; and there are no extenuating circumstances that justify this kind of mockery of the republic.

The republic faces challenges from other, more unexpected, quarters. The executive has remained paralysed for longer than any serious citizen would care to remember. Members of the executive remember that they have salaries to collect but are oblivious of their duties. The result has been a spastic government. The legislators have not been inactive but their energies have been focused on obstructing the very process of legislation. They have done this by flouting every single code and convention of parliamentary behaviour. One offshoot of this abuse of power by the executive and the legislature has been a pronounced tendency on the part of the judiciary to step out of the ambit of its own jurisdiction. Over the functioning of the judiciary falls the shadow of activism ó attempts to act as a surrogate because of the malfunctioning of the executive and the legislature. The arms of the State, through acts of omission and commission, have often failed to carry out the duties assigned to them by the makers of the Constitution.

It is apposite, some would argue, that this erosion of constitutional and democratic values has coincided with the marginalization of the political formation that was integrally linked to the fashioning of the Indian republic. But the Congress is also not free of the charge of ignoring and overriding the spirit of the Constitution. Witness its appointment of a prime minister from the Upper House. All these developments notwithstanding, the people of India retain their faith in the republic and the Constitution. The turnout during elections is the best statement of their faith. Political parties have failed to honour the faith. Fortunately, the republic is constituted of other entities than just political parties.