Events in Tamilnadu since the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa have led to heightened anger among the people. The sordid spectacle of intense dogfight within the ruling party, the kidnapping of “people’s representatives” by the faction in command and physical clashes within the Legislative Assembly have all aroused the people’s indignation.
The faction within the ruling AIADMK which held the purse strings has selected V. Palaniswamy as the new leader of their MLAs, and he has been sworn in as the new Chief Minister. This is said to have legally resolved the governmental crisis, in line with the provisions in the Constitution. However, a very deep credibility crisis remains.
The way Tamilnadu is being governed is not acceptable to the vast majority. People want to have a say in how their society is governed. They do not accept the legal position that they have no role and can do nothing except to cast their vote in the next election, in 2021. People are demanding that democracy must mean more than casting a vote once in five years.
That the Constitution does not permit any role for the people except as voting cattle lies at the root of the problem. What is legally “proper” is highly improper in the eyes of the people. It is not the people who are at fault. It is the Constitution which is faulty and does not measure up to the people’s demand to have a say.
The problem is that the existing State, its Constitution, the mechanisms and process of representative democracy are all designed to marginalise the vast majority of people and concentrate political power in the hands of one corrupt clique or another. Every such political clique is tied by a thousand threads to the wealthiest capitalists, Indian and foreign.
The big capitalists invest in election campaigns and back that party which will implement their agenda while most effectively hiding this from the people. Such parties pursue the single-minded objective of winning elections and managing the executive power on behalf of the capitalist class and the sectional interests their party represents. They proclaim themselves as the “life breath of the people” (uyir moochu) and the “apple of their eye” (kannin mani). They use goon squads to terrorise people and at times assassinate their opponents. They incite conflicts among the people on the basis of caste and religion to cultivate vote banks and grab the executive power. Once in power, they facilitate capitalist exploitation and imperialist plunder, expanding their own wealth in the bargain through bribes and kickbacks. They act as gatekeepers of this exploitative, criminalized and corrupt system, keeping the vast majority of people out of the corridors of power.
It is a network of capitalist exploiters, landlords and other parasitic elements, linked with corrupt political leaders of criminalized parties, who are ruling and looting the public. This is the case in Tamilnadu and all over India. One party of the same ruling class replaces another periodically, to continue on the same path while claiming that it has the “people’s mandate”. About 150 monopoly houses, in collaboration with foreign monopolies and imperialist states, allied with landlords and other exploiters at home, rule over 125 crore hardworking people.
The Constitution of India is founded on the premise that the people are unfit to govern themselves; that the people can only be permitted to choose by whom they should be governed. It is based on the British bourgeois principle of “parliamentary sovereignty”, according to which only the elected representatives have the right to make or change laws. People have no rights except to vote for one or another candidate selected by the high command of criminalized and corrupt parties.
By the act of casting their vote, people surrender all their power. They have to remain powerless spectators until the next voting day arrives. They have neither the right to demand regular rendering of accounts nor the right to recall their representative at any time.
The so-called people’s representatives are legally bound to follow the party whip while voting in the legislative body. They are in fact representatives of the ruling capitalist class and the particular section of that class which their party represents. This is legitimized by the existing Constitution and laws, by the Election Commission and its rules.
The existing system of democracy is thus, in its essence, the dictatorship of an exploiting minority, which rules by handing over executive power to one of its trusted parties. The ruling class tries its best to keep this truth hidden by constantly spreading the false impression that people are exercising their will through elections. The truth that parliamentary democracy is nothing but the arbitrary rule of a parasitic clique gets completely exposed in times of crisis, as in Tamilnadu now.
The legality of the exploiters is in conflict with the desire of the exploited masses of people to gain control over their lives. This contradiction can be resolved only by establishing a new system of democracy in place of the existing one, a superior system in which decision-making power is exercised by the people and not by any party of vested interests.
The situation calls for political unity among all progressive and democratic parties, organisations and individuals in Tamilnadu. We must unite in defence of the principle that sovereignty belongs to the people. We have to think beyond the existing system of parliamentary democracy, which is alien, outdated and designed to exclude the majority from decision making power. We must innovate a system in which people set the agenda and not surrender all their political rights when they cast their vote. The role of a political party must not be to seek power in its own hands but to provide the leading force with which people can exercise power.
People of Tamilnadu have taken numerous initiatives in recent years to build their own organs of collective action, rising above all differences of caste, religion, sex or party affiliation. Such efforts have grown stronger through the experience of dealing with floods and other natural calamities, and in the course of struggles in defence of human rights, democratic and national rights.
The united effort towards political empowerment of the people needs to be further advanced by uniting around immediate demands in the direction of that goal. We must demand that people must have the right to select the candidates prior to any election and the right to recall their elected representative at any time. We must demand an end to all private funding of election campaigns, by individual candidates or by parties. We must demand that the State must not fund any party while it must fund the entire election process.
We must wage all our struggles for immediate demands with the perspective of preparing to establish a new Constitution, a new State and political process in which sovereignty will be vested in the people.