Supreme Court has recently pronounced two verdicts which are all set to put an end to the monopolies of political parties in the country. Though the landmark ruling seems to change the contour of political outfits, but no one can vouch for it. The Apex Court’s earlier judgement was on the criminalization of politics. As per this ruling, the membership of an MP or an MLA ceases to exist with immediate effect, if he/she gets conviction of two years or more. MPs, MLAs and MLCs would stand disqualified on the date of conviction. The SC upheld the Patna High Court order barring people in police custody from contesting polls. The Apex Court’s verdict will have far-reaching consequences, as not only criminalization of politics but the political corruption is also going beyond control. However, the tainted leaders hardly get punished but they enjoy their position and are competent enough to contest elections citing the reasons that the courts are yet to give their verdict regarding their cases.

In our country, it is onerous task to punish political leaders. Generally, nobody dares to lodge complaint against them. If any complaint registered against them, the cases are stretched for years during which the accused leaders keep contesting and wining the polls citing reasons that they have been falsely implicated by rivals for political gains.  Despite knowing the fact that a particular leader indulges in corruption and has criminal background, voters have no option but to elect him/ her in elections. In this situation people feel cheated. Now, it will not happen as the SC has clearly declared that Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act is unconstitutional, biased and opposite to the right to equality. Undoubtedly, this decision of the Supreme Court has irked many political parties. The SP and CPI (M) have overtly criticised the SC verdict. The ruling establishment at the Centre has said that after consultations with all political hues it will decide whether the SC judgment would be opposed. Clearly, the Central government is not pleased with the SC ruling. Shantaram Naik, chairman of the Parliamentary committee on law and justice, made it clear that he would file a review petition in the Apex Court in this regard. This attitude is completely unacceptable.

Political parties and the government will have to understand that the SC verdict is meant to increase people’s faith in democracy and curb criminalization of politics. The reasons to oppose the SC verdict that it can be misused bear no significance as several laws in the country are bent. If this landmark judgement is also misused, the political parties will be held responsible. They will have to make it clear that why the nation has such system in which a law is prone to be twisted? Why are political parties competent enough to tweak laws in order to score their political points? Why don’t politicos feel pain when common people suffer the problem? Do political parties want a separate law for themselves? If the jailed people lose the right to vote, why should they be allowed to contest polls?

Adding to the woes of politicos by pronouncing its verdict, the Allahabad High Court recently banned the political parties from organizing caste-based rallies hearing a petition filed against the BSP and SP holding such gatherings. The BSP held Brahmin rallies in 40 districts of Uttar Pradesh and the SP was also all set to join the same bandwagon. However, many political parties have welcomed the high court verdict, but their body language indicates that the ruling is inflicting pain on them. They cite reasons that the caste is the reality of the Indian society. In fact, our political parties have gone expert in doing caste-based politics. Some of the political parties are known for either doing politics of a particular caste or representing some specific castes. They assume it as its political assets.

However, in comparison to the regional political outfits, the Congress and BJP refrain from indulging in caste-based politics to some extent, but they are not immune to it as well. The BJP tries to polarize Hindu voters, while Congress strives for mobilizing Muslims. Our political parties deny the fact that politics based on caste and communalism distorts social fabrics. Creating fissure in society or favouring a particular caste or creed will have serious repercussion in the development of the country. Now, leaders indulge in playing caste and communal card to eradicate poverty and backwardness from the country. So, it is pertinent to say, why can’t all the poor and downtrodden people irrespective of their caste and creed be given equal benefits of development?  

The politics of caste and communalism has not only been witnessed in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, rather it prevails across the country in different hues. If India has to go forward, the politics of dividing society along caste and creed should be stopped immediately. The political parties should drive home message that they are Indian first. Mobilizing people on the basis of their caste, creed, language and region as well as grabbing votes by inflaming people’s sentiment are socially and politically unethical. The verdicts of SC and Allahabad HC are giving political parties a chance to plug their loopholes. They should take benefit from it.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on July 18, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)