Qualities and Qualifications
When Fazlul Haque was the Premier of undivided Bengal, a young lad from his native village, Jhalokathi, begged for a job, like so many jobless others of that era.
“How much education have you had?” the Sher-e-Bangla asked him. He had to know that in order to help him out. The government employed assorted clerks all the time, policemen for the interior countryside, and there always were vacancies in the government schools.
Scratching his head helplessly, the lad owned up that, given enough time to form the letters legibly, he could just about sign his own name.
“In that case you must wait till the next election,” Haque ruefully said, “for your qualification is suitable only for a minister’s job!”
Seeking admission for your ward to a reputable school or college? Your ward must have the necessary marks in the qualifying test and/or an SC/ST certificate. The only other alternative is to have oodles of money.
Mr Haque was absolutely right: to stand in an election you only needed the right contacts and/or oodles of the filthy lucre. No specific qualification is called for. That is exactly what the constitution guarantees: a level playing field for all aspirants. Nor is your criminal history, if any, a deterrent at all.
That, dear reader, is the first brass brad on the sandalwood coffin of democracy!
Rôle of The Administration
The entire electoral process, from finalising the voters’ list to declaration of the poll results, is supposedly the responsibility of the Election Commission and it must report to someone high in the scheme of things in the government. Since the Prime Minister and his colleagues are elcted by ‘popular’ votes which the EC is charged to supervise, it reports directly to the President of India. This titular figure too is, more often than not, a political creature elected notionally by the ‘electoral college’ as defined meticulously in our constitution.
The Election Commissioners, Chief and those for each State of the Union, are chosen from amongst civil servants. And we are brought up to believe that no political party or funtionaries thereof shall ever try to browbeat or influence any civil servant.
The EC must necessarily requisition the services of several branches of the Union and the State administration: armed security from the central services, the State Police for law and order, individual government servants to complete/correct/update the electoral rolls without prejudice, individuals again to conduct the polls and count the votes, and sundry others.
Since political parties ‘may’ not try to influence anyone, and also because government servants—officers or other ranks—must be apolitical, anyway, there is no reason to doubt the probity of the process.
Such assumptions are a few of the other brass brads on democracy’s decorous coffin.