India by whip

By Satish K Singh | Last Updated: Sunday, December 25, 2011 - 22:31

Satish K Singh

The very word ‘whip’ invokes fear, pain and compliance. In conventional lexicon, whip is known as a tool to exert control over animals by human since time immemorial, though as a weapon of punishment of human by fellow human it exists even today. The choice and design of whip depends as to why and how it is to be used and accordingly it can be firm or flexible.

The ruling class or regimes, irrespective of the kind and the variant, has used this tool, no holds barred, for direct or indirect immediate results and impact. You name it and they have it- kings, despots, totalitarians, dictators or democrats. The only difference being the method and intended objectives - despots use it for direct punishment and democrats, as a tool for party discipline, command and compliance. In modern days, when democracy is run through party system- one party or multi-party, whip is the most effective battle diktat, to enforce clarion call, particularly in legislatures of the elected representatives to demonstrate party discipline in continuity without fail. But, why should one suddenly whip up this potent word – the tool?

In Indian context, the next couple of days are the most critical and vital in country’s modern democratic history, when the Indian parliament will be discussing, debating and perhaps voting on the Lokpal Bill. The entire world will watch the proceedings bit by bit in the temple of world’s largest democracy; let alone our own billion plus strong population. Flips and flops will be many; filibuster and circuitous reasons will be on display in tons. Sense and nonsense, all can be assured in surety. Some will cry constitutionalism, most will go all out to defend the law making sovereignty of Parliament. Some spoilsports can’t be ruled out and some may just sit silently, having written the script behind the scene on display.

Each and every speech is certain to be lapped up by a large set of charged up cheerleaders. However, on test, will be the sound reasons, rational arguments and constitutional defence. There is a real fear of tyranny of some - insiders or outsiders, aided and abetted. It may drown the saner voice. The irony of the situation is that the parliamentarians, any party they may belong to, are caught in a cleft. The dilemma before them is to choose between the party lines, people who really matter for them or prove themselves as the real patriots of Parliament.

Coming back to the question of whip - the democratic brand, the most crucial question is what the different political parties will ask their respective members to do – to fall in line solidly or use their calls of conscience, even with a whip in place. It is also not final yet, barring some, whether the whip will be issued at all and by how many parties and that too in support or against which clause or clauses of the Lokpal Bill, i.e, – PM, CBI , CVC, etc.

Is it the Lokpal Bill, on which, the parties across the divide, sound ‘one’? Is it not a truth that the ‘Lokpal’ whip may not carry the same weight, as that of the one that ousted Vajpayee who lost the Lok Sabha by just one vote (1999)? Recall the ‘international whip’, which the ex-US President Bush Jr issued declaring ‘war against terror’ after the 9/11 attack -“you are either with us or against us”. Should we assume that the party whip on the Lokpal Bill, in the Indian Parliament, will sound the same? There are many like me who doubt the sincerity behind the whip on Lokpal. Then what is the sense that is coming out?

My gut, reasoning included, says that we might witness a whopping majority, cutting across party lines, that may defy even if whip is there-commandeered and steered by their own party bosses- some hidden, some vocal. Let us not forget, as to why and how Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy lost his first Presidential race to VV Giri. I think I am right till now, after having seen and sensed the parliamentarians. But you never know what will happen tomorrow-credibility, rationality, acceptability and support base of one and all is at stake, insistent Anna included.



First Published: Monday, December 26, 2011 - 14:33

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