How To Fool Voters

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Lawmakers must empower people, not themselves

There can be no two opinions on the advice Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu gave to lawmakers at the Goa Assembly last week: Their duty was to empower the people and not themselves. There is also a good deal of truth in his observation that there was a trust deficit between  legislators and people which needs to be addressed at the earliest. “It is the functioning of the legislators and the law-making bodies that can either make or mar a democracy. Their effective functioning forms the basis of people’s trust and confidence in parliamentary institutions,” he said. Naidu’s words should serve as a wake-up call for the legislators who have been party-hopping for private gains against the mandate of the electorate. A number of  legislators had at one time or the other changed parties in the name of “development” of their constituencies. Whose development it was for was evident when they negotiated for offices of power for themselves, usually for berths in the ministry.

Did the conscience of the turncoats prick when Naidu said, “Your conduct either takes you closer to the people or drives them away. As legislators, you should be owned by the people of your constituency?” The political history of Goa post Liberation has been marked by frequent toppling of governments for positions of power. Goa had seen as many as 30 governments since the first election in 1963. The frequent changes made Goa’s governments notorious for political instability. One-thirds of the governments had a tenure of less than a year; one ministry did not last even a week. The state has also been under President’s rule five times during the last 57 years. Only three governments completed the term. It is indisputable that stability decides the  ability of a government to perform. If a chief minister’s mind is preoccupied with working out strategies to defeat those inside and outside his party planning to throw him out of power, he will have no time left to think of development of the state and welfare of the people.

The matter of greatest concern about Goan politics is that the switching of parties has not stopped. It is beginning to seem as though ideology has lost its meaning and relevance. Politicians mouth the ideology of the party they are in only till they are within the party. They embrace the ideology of the ruling party the moment an opportunity offers them to switch sides for their personal promotion. The stance taken by the turncoats that they made the switch for the development of their constituency is most absurd. If we were to believe them we have to accept that the legislators of opposition parties cannot work for the development of their constituencies. It is only ruling party lawmakers who can. Their stance makes a mockery of democracy. If we were to go by their argument, it will be pointless for a lawmaker to stay in opposition. If we stretch their argument to apply to all opposition lawmakers, it will mean that opposition is useless in democracy, for the opposition lawmakers cannot work for the development of their constituencies. The opposition would cease to exist if we were to go by the arguments of the turncoats!

It is bizarre to think an MLA can do nothing as a member of an opposition party. Opposition is very important for the survival of democracy. The primary commitment of an MLA is to his constituency. If the MLA is in opposition he can still work for the development of his constituency and welfare of the people living in it by raising the issues of development relating to his constituency. He is a representative of the people of the constituency. He should be representing and championing their causes with full sincerity, zeal, passion and sustained effort. The policies and programmes of a government cover the entire state. They are not area or constituency specific. A state highway does not pass through only one constituency. Liquor bars are not given licence on constituency basis. Bridges over rivers are not made just for the development of a constituency. No government makes policies or programmes excluding the constituencies of MLAs of opposition parties. The turncoats should stop fooling the people.