Democratic Conduit

Being Members of Parliament and raising questions on the floor of the House is one of the basic functions expected of the political class in any parliamentary democracy. However the recent sting operation carried out by a TV channel which exposes Members of Parliament allegedly accepting bribes for asking questions in the House on various issues is highly unethical though it is hardly surprising. While the high command of the different political parties take disciplinary action against their wayward MPs, the parties themselves should be held accountable as those who may have raised questions had done so within the ambit of the respective party forum. As such instead of taking a high moral ground, the political parties should themselves realize the degeneration taking place in the party system.

Political Parties in general, whether in a democratic or totalitarian countries, have become instruments in the hands of vested interests. It is quite normal to learn of how big social and economic groups hire politicians for their selfish purposes. They finance political parties and provide them necessary resources for contesting elections. Subsequently, when such party leaders get high political offices or are elected, they do for the interest of their solicitors. This brings us back to the issue of electoral reforms and how the use of money during elections needs to be curbed. The option of State funding as recommended by the Dinesh Goswami report needs to be seriously considered. 

Going back to the reason why some MPs were bribed to raise question in Parliament, it is common in western democracies to come across powerful pressure groups establish their links with party bosses and thereby manage to set up their contacts in the important areas of the administration. In such a situation the real administrators are not the so called representatives of the people but rather, they are the agents of powerful interests having influential positions in the ranks of political parties. Therefore, the large scale interests of varying kinds that exist in a democratic landscape provides ample room for not only getting their viewpoints across but also doing it in a manner that may question the very ethics of the people’s representatives.

In the formative years of American democracy, pressure groups had a pejorative connotation. Today they have become an important part of the political system having emerged into a public and recognized position because of the popular appreciation that political parties in a vast country cannot possibly represent so many interests and purposes. Moreover, the American Congress itself has admitted the so called lobby groups into its counsels through the doors of its committees where the work of legislation is effectively undertaken. 

Rather than merely condemning the lobbyist as a lone wolf employing corrupt methods to get various grants and concessions, it would be more advisable if such interest/pressure groups are given a legitimate forum where they can conduct their activities publicly and also giving them public access to the Members of Parliament through the committee system. Once this is institutionalized, the legislative procedure of Parliament can provide such lobbyist good opportunities to be heard. They can be an important player in providing information and technical argument to the layman legislators and in the process can become an important and at the same time useful adjunct to the Indian party system.