HOUSE OF ELDERS

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 30.06.05
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It is a clich? to assert that there is the letter of the Indian constitution and there is also its spirit. The nomination of Ms Brinda Karat and Mr Sitaram Yechuri to the Rajya Sabha from West Bengal does not violate the letter of the Constitution. Neither is domiciled in West Bengal, but this is no longer a necessary qualification, since the 2003 amendment to the Representation of the People Act did away with the domicile clause for election to the Rajya Sabha. The more important question is whether the nominations are in keeping with the spirit of the constitution. The Rajya Sabha was conceived as a body that would articulate the interests of the state. The founding fathers wanted to create an upper house but could not possibly replicate the House of Lords in a republic. They thus married the constitution of the United States of America to the Westminster model and created the Rajya Sabha as an upper house that would speak for the states. Hence, the significance of the domicile clause, which at one time the leftists used to criticize Mr Manmohan Singh who had come to the Rajya Sabha from Assam even though he has never lived there. Even without the domicile clause, now part of a legal wrangle, can Ms Karat and Mr Yechuri, without ever living in the state, adequately represent the interests and aspirations of the people of West Bengal? Or is it taken for granted that since the party to which they belong ? the Communist Party of India (Marxist) ? rules in West Bengal, they can speak for the state? The use they make of their position in the Rajya Sabha will determine their commitment to the state that has sent them to the upper house.

From the point of view of the CPI(M), the decision to field Ms Karat and Mr Yechuri is noteworthy for two very different reasons. First, it seems to suggest that the CPI(M) is surrendering its high moral ground. It is now adopting practices which it criticized in other political parties. The fact that it is legally in the clear in no way diminishes the scale of the moral violation. This might be read as a sign of the CPI(M)?s moving closer to the political establishment.

The second reason is related to the first but is even more significant. Ms Karat and Mr Yechuri are by any reckoning the two most articulate and respected comrades in the CPI(M). Their presence is bound to have an impact on the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha. The decision to send them to the upper house is the signal that the CPI(M) now considers the parliament to be an important forum for its politics. From the streets, the focus is shifting to parliament; the class struggle will be carried out not on the barricades but by sophisticated comrades who are elected representatives of the people. Is this the burial then of what the comrades once called half-partisan warfare?