Coalition politics eroding democratic values: Ex-CJI

Leaders do soul-searching at diamond jubilee of Assembly; debate on the way forward

Confluence of old-timers and new-entrants, a recall of the glorious past and some pep talk by dignitaries marked the 60th anniversary celebrations of the State Legislative Assembly’s first session at Vidhana Soudha on Monday.

The event was attended by five members of the first Legislative Assembly of 1952, six former Speakers, four former chief ministers and several members of Parliament from the State. Governor H R Bhardwaj presided over the function.

Former chief justice of India M N Venkatachalaiah, in his keynote address, said compulsions of coalition politics had served to erode some fundamental conceptions of the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, including erosion of the authority of the chief ministers and the prime minister.

“The chief minister would in practice have no control over the behaviour of a member of his Cabinet in view of the compulsions of coalition politics. Virtually, there will be as many chief ministers as there are political parties in the coalition government. The result is that reasoned argument is shelved aside in favour of polarisation, violence and struggle for power,” he stated.

Highlighting the need for restoring the dwindling credibility of the political class, the former chief justice of India stressed the urgent need for institutionalisation of political parties in order to usher in effective electoral reforms.

“A comprehensive legislation should be enacted to regulate their registration, functioning and finances. The electoral reforms, among other things, should include 50 per cent plus one vote for success in the elections and liberty to the voter to reject all candidates on the basis of a negative vote,” he said.

Justice Venkatachalaiah said the most crucial issue was restoring the ethical and moral dimensions in public life. The biggest challenge is to overcome a general sense of disenchantment with the institutions of democracy.

“We cannot but say that our main problem today is a combination of vast social and economic disparities and fragile political institutions on the one hand and loss of credibility of the political class and the apathy and indifference of the people on the other,” he said and added that the contemplation and judgment of people should be strong and vigilant to ensure that there are only worthy people in public life.

He called upon the law-makers to voluntarily place themselves open for public scrutiny. If it is supplemented by a code of ethics, it would place legislatures and legislators on the high pedestal of people’s affection and regard, he noted.

The Governor said coalition politics should not be blamed for all the ills of the system. “Not only in India, there are coalition governments in the entire Europe.”

“We have to carry forward with coalition for five years. We cannot afford to fight every now and then. We are a poor society. I do not agree with those who have a pessimistic view of India and those who think that everything is lost,” he stated and added that people in public life should follow the principles of probity and commitment to serve the poor.  

Veteran politician and former Speaker D B Chandre Gowda did some tough talking about the diminishing values among the legislators and the office of the Speaker in recent times.

“It is not proper on the part of the Speaker and the chief minister to manipulate the proceedings and the traditions for their benefit. I am deeply pained with some recent developments in this regard,” he said.

Earlier, Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Siddaramaiah, felicitated members of the first Assembly – U M Madappa (Chamarajanagar), Mulka Govinda Reddy (Chitradurga), T G  Thimmegowda (Tiptur), Ambadas (Bidar) and Vasanth Rao L Patil (Belgaum) – with Kodagu peta, a garland and memento.

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