Political parties: United in agendas?

When it suits their dodgy interests, the political parties actually cooperate with each other, even though they are theoretically opponents in the electoral and other arenas. Yesterday (June 11, 2013) we saw a very good example of this in the Karnataka Legislative Council.

Some years ago, the Supreme Court handed down a judgment that was intended to free the police forces from direct political interference. The court ordered the establishment of an appointments Board in each state that would manage the postings of lower level police staff (below the rank of DySP). This Board is filled with members of senior police ranks, but does not have any political members.

For a couple of years, Karnataka just ignored this judgment, and then the original petitioner took the matter back to the SC. In one of its hearings, the court went to the extent of openly criticising the State for its laxity, and perhaps cornered by that the government set up the appointments Board reluctantly.

But now, the new government has introduced and passed a law that would curtail the powers of this Board, and restore political interference. The surprising part is not that the law passed in the Assembly, where Congress has a majority, and therefore its anti-Supreme Court bill passed easily. The real surprise was in the Council (upper House) where the Congress lacks a majority.

Here, the BJP and the JD(S), which you would have expected to oppose such an obviously anti-accountability move, showed us where they really stand, behind all the rhetoric. First, the BJP members staged a walkout, effectively reducing the strength of the Council and allowing the Congress members to have a majority. The JD(S) members also, while vociferous in their opposition to the Bill outside the Parishad, allowed the bill to pass. Control over the police appointments will henceforth be restored to the political class, unless someone challenges the law in the courts.

This is why we’re where we are, as a democracy. We don’t really have meaningful politics representing either the public good, or even moderate opposition among the different parties. They just wear different clothes on election day, and sit in different benches in the people’s houses, but the real ‘party’ is just one.

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About Ashwin Mahesh 96 Articles
Ashwin Mahesh has been involved in public policy for Bengaluru through his work with the Karnataka government. The views expressed here are his own. He is a member of the Lok Satta party. He is also CEO of Mapunity Information Services, and a director at Oorvani Media, publisher of Citizen Matters and India Together. He is also a visiting faculty with the Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore.