The key political institutions responsible for the functions of governance constitute the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government. Not only is each branch of government important in its own right, but it is even more important that all three branches work in concert to check and balance aberrations of each other’s powers. The fourth pillar which is really the watch-dog is the media.
Now the question is = are these institutions working properly and in tandem? The answer is no as the following analyses bear it out:
It is reported that more than one-third of the current Members of Parliament have criminal charges pending against them. Members are either looking to satisfy the whims of their narrow vote banks, or to oppose the initiatives of the majority for the sake of opposition itself. As a result, Parliament often fails to pass meaningful reforms regardless of which political party is in power. Furthermore, the inability of elected representatives to think holistically has led to a fractionalization of the political assembly.
The fractionalization of the Parliament leads to a weakening of some of the institutions that are under its purview. Though organizations like the RBI and the CBI (amongst others) are all supposed to be politically unaligned; governments in power have in the past been able to exert pressure and influence on them. The present happenings in these institutions particularly RBI and CBI, however, indicate otherwise. While RBI is flexing all muscles, CBI is apparently suffering from unbridled corruption. No healthy working is possible under the circumstances.
Coming to executive, one instance would suffice. Centre took a long time in giving sanction to CBI to prosecute Shri Chidambaram, former FM in the Aircel-Maxis case. However, the sanction to prosecute the five-bureaucrat co-accused is yet to come. The bickering among investigating agencies CBI, ED and Revenue department is another instance.
Talking about judiciary, the backlog of court cases and the short-staffing of India’s judicial system has led to a situation where justice cannot be served in a timely manner, if at all. At the same time, while the lower courts remain ineffective, India’s Supreme Court has become more vocal recently on a wide-range of issues. This increasingly assertive institution has also begun to stray into issues that are constitutionally ambiguous or irrelevant, and is reinforcing a trend of overreach. All this is delaying and obstructing governance measures. Probably more baffling is the statement from the CJI that there are more important issues for the Supreme Court to look at other than Ayodhya, an issue which has been lingering for more than a century, is associated with the religious beliefs of close to a billion people and has led to riots in the past. And the very next day it takes up the pricing of the Rafale jets, something which just a week earlier they had said they won’t get into.
Then come the media houses. The blatant anti-Modi bias of most of the media houses has come to the fore since 2014 so much so that they don’t see anything positive in the reform programs of the govt. Further, there are numerous allegations of peddling fake-news and paid-news mostly to downgrade the present govt. or promote opposition. The Supreme Court even cited some incidents where the terrorists were helped by the live telecast of the events.
In the circumstances, popular mandates don’t get established, the instructions and directives of the govt. are not sincerely and speedily communicated or delivered and governance gets hampered or even sabotaged. That is why, Modi govt. gets constrained and restrained despite all its efforts to the contrary.
While we do appreciate the sensitivity of the govt. to the democratic norms and not trying to steamroll opposition despite its comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, we don’t see why it should be unable to properly deal with the executives especially the senior bureaucrats.
The writer is a long-standing commentator on contemporary issues