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Lecture - 1st, on April 22nd 1965 Lecture - 2nd, on April 23rd 1965 Lecture - 3rd, on April 24th 1965 Lecture - 4th, on April 25th 1965 Presidential Speech at Calicut in Kerala in
December 1967

Presidential Speech at Calicut in Kerala in December 1967

-V.N. Deodhar

Fellow delegates,

You have entrusted to me this year the responsibility of party presidentship. Ours is an organization of workers, all engrossed in building up the party with equal zeal and devotion. That you have called upon me to fulfil this particular constitutional articles obligation and thus honoured me, is token only of your own generosity and affection, which indeed I have been receiving in liberal measure during the past fifteen years that I have been General Secretary . It is this generous affection of you all that is going to be my mainstay hereafter too.

Conjunction of Two Eras

We are meeting today in Kerala, this land hallowed by Bhagwan Parashuram’s tapas. In point of time we are at the conjunction of two years. During the half century gone by, the country’s mind has been dominated completely by the Congress and its ideology. Its leaders have been not only the framers of national policy but the arbiters of contemporary life-values as well. After independence, the reins of government also came into their hands. While this is no occasion for any elaborate stock-taking of the Congress’s performance, it cannot be gain- said that awakening of political consciousness in the common man has been the most significant contribution of this era. If this political consciousness, unpolluted by the exigencies of the day-to-day politics, had been made an instrument for the country’s resurgence on a positive national basis, we would have made considerable progress by now and the country might have been spared the problems which beset it today. The new era, at whose threshold the country stands today, should be a positive manifestation of this political awakening. There are people in the country who are still chained to the age gone by. Then there are others who are ignorant of national values, or have scant regard for them, and so are readily influenced by foreign concepts. The country’s transition into the new era, therefore, is not being smooth. It is accompanied by severe strains and struggles. It is against this background that we must analyze present problems and draw up our policy.

Search for an Alternative

  Portents of the coming revolution had become visible in August-September 1965, when India’s brave legions proved their valour against Pakistani aggression. The policies framed by the Congress regime in wake of these events demonstrated only its utter incapacity to function as the instrument of the coming revolution. The result was that the people began longing all the more intensely for emancipation from Congress misrule. With the Fourth General Election, the process has started for Congress’s gradual withering away. If opposition parties had been better organised then, the results would have been even more convincing. In comparison to other parties the Jana Sangh’s achievement in the election have been considerably significant. But in relation to the demands of the situation, the results left much to be desired. However, the out come of these elections clearly proved to the people the Jana Sangh’s potential of growing into a clear alternative to the Congress. It is this confidence created in the people which accounts for the sharp rise in the party’s popularity and its organizational expansion after the election.

Nature of Problems 

 Post-election problems can be classified into three categories. Firstly, there are the problems pertaining to the politics of the transition. Inter-party relations, instability of coalition ministries, floor-crossing etc. are problems which fall in this category. To the second category belong those problems which stem from our constitutional set-up but which had either not arisen as yet, or had not confronted us as seriously as now. And thirdly, there are the manifold problems relating to economic, defence, home and foreign affairs which, because of the impolicies of the Congress Government, have become very grave now. Problems of the first category are of immediate topical interest and so generally evoke the maximum of public comment and debate. But they are less important than those in the other two categories. If these letter problems are not properly tackled, they can jeopardise the country’s unity and interests seriously.

Conduct of Governors

articles The first problem which faced opposition parties after the elections was that except in Delhi and Madras, nowhere else was any single party able to secure a clear majority and so be able to form an alternative non-congress Government by itself. Appreciating the requirements of the situation and in deference to the verdict of the electorate various non-congress parties came together to form coalition governments in Punjab, Bihar, West Bengal and Kerala. In Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, however, in the teeth of public opposition, the Congress contrived to worm its way into office with the assistance of the State Governors. In Uttar Pradesh they could not hold on to office for long; but in Rajasthan, by taking recourse to various devious means, they have managed to increase their majority considerably.
  The arbitrary conduct of the Governors in the above cases,  then later in Madhya Pradesh at the time of the fall of the Mishra Government, and again recently in West Bengal, Hariyana and Punjab, has lowered the prestige of this august once and weakened regard for constitutional proprieties. As Governors are the representatives of the Centre, the Central Government must own full responsibility for their actions. By declining to take the onus of their actions the Central Government has only created mistrust about its own bonafides and confirmed misgivings that they are intent on using the office of Governor only as a facade behind which they might further their own party ends.
The demand has been voiced in some quarters that the Governor's should be an elected post. I do not think that would solve the problem. Exceptional occasions apart, the Governor is only a constitutional head. Appointees to this post, therefore, should be men of integrity capable of exercising their discretion in a judicious manner and in whose impartiality there is general confidence. I think that it would be better if instead of selecting rejected politicians or retired civil servants for this job, the Government turned its eyes to retired judges of the Supreme Court. A list may be drawn up on the basis of their dates of retirement and posts of Governors falling vacant here- after may be filled by these judges in their order of priority. If some such convention is followed, neither the consent of the State Government concerned, nor the wishes of the Home Ministry would have any relevance.

Performance of Coalition Governments

  On the administrative level, the coalition governments did present a better alternative to the Congress, but they did not over any comprehensive set of policies and programmes in substitution of the Congress's. Actually, l thinks, they were not intended to. It is a matter of regret that some of the constituents of these coalitions failed to appreciate the ideological limitations under which such coalitions would necessarily have to function, and tried to use these governments as instruments for the execution for their respective party policies. As the result of this partisan approach and lack of a sense of responsibility, these governments have been subject to internal strains, and have had always to work under a shadow of uncertainty. It must be recorded, however, that despite all these handicaps, despite the limited resources and rights of the States, and despite continuing Central machinations to topple non-Congress governments, these coalitions have during their brief term of office brought relief to the people in many matters. Of course, they who expected these governments to work miracles might have been disappointed.

If this coalition experiment has given birth to a sense of realism and a habit of objective political appraisal, that, in itself, would be a gain. Also, the formation of these Governments has been a commendable step in the direction of eradicating political untouchability. A readiness to appreciate an opponent’s view-point and a willingness on the part of different parties to work together inspite of variations of policy is an index of a democratic temperament and of the nation's basic homogeneity. Whatever be the future of these coalition governments, I wish we are able to conserve this achievement.

Parliamentary Democracy on Trial

articles The strains inside these coalitions and the political instability resulting from the continued efforts to topple these Governments, or from their fall, have prompted many to suggest that the present cabinet form of Government are discarded in favour of the Presidential system. Shri Ashok Mehta has suggested that the system be introduced only at the State level. I really fail to understand why a distinction is sought to be made between the Centre and the States. Fact is that the systems of Government in Britain and in the U.S.A. have grown out of their history. Instead of trying merely to imitate the one or the other, let us try to evolve democratic practices suited to our own genius. Actually, during the past 50 years or so we have been working with the parliamentary system of Government. It would be more fruitful if we try to mould this to suit our changing politics. Instead of conventions relevant to the two party democracy of the British Parliament, let us develop conventions suited to the multi-party pattern of Indian politics so that the instability of the transition period can be avoided. A convention can be accepted, for instance, that no Government would resign except on the adoption of a no-confidence vote against it by the legislature. Another convention which might be evolved in conjunction with the above one is that if a majority of the members of a legislature request the Speaker that the House be convened; a meeting of the legislature would be invariably summoned.

Problem of Floor-Crossing

Floor-crossing by legislators is another issue which has occasioned much comment in the context of the formation and fall of Governments lately. Floor crossing is no new phenomenon. Quitting the Congress on the eve of elections and rejoining it after the elections has been a familiar feature of Indian politics and the birth of several parties and the dissolution of others can be traced to this feature. Even those who may not have left the Congress have been shifting their factional loyalty within the party very frequently. As a result of all this even though, outwardly, the Congress's name has been a constant, Congress Ministries have been in a state of perpetual instability and have often fallen too. After independence Congress and Congressmen have betrayed a singular idealism and direction. It is therefore that they have been inclined to behave thus. Ninety-nine per cent of those guilty of floor- crossing are either Congressmen or ex-Congressmen. As the policies and programmes of parties crystallize on the basis of well defined principles, their organisations become stronger and political enlightenment of the masses grows and enables talent to exercise their vote on the basis of a party's platform, this tendency of floor-crossing will automatically decline.

It has been suggested that legislative steps be opportunistic floor-crossing. Rather than take recourse to law to control law-makers, it would be better to leave the matter to convention and the pressure of public opinion. After all, every legislator is responsible not only to his party but to his constituency and the country as well. It would not be easy to fit all these varied obligations of his into a rigid legal scheme. If, however, political parties could agree on a code of conduct in this regards opportunism can be suitably checked. Also, if instead of having electors vote for individual candidates on the British pattern, we could have the Lists System in which votes are cast for the party, many of the evils of present-day politics might be obviated. Perhaps, a synthesis of both these patterns on the lines of West Germany might suit us best.

Compiled by Amarjeet Singh, Research Associate & Programme Coordinator, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, 9, Ashok Road, New Delhi - 110001
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