The Indian Express | 10 December 2016
Rajagopalachari was a lawyer, Independence activist, liberal thinker and close associate of contemporaries such as Gandhi and Nehru.
These are excerpts from pamphlets and essays authored by C Rajagopalachari, which outline his vision for a new political party, as well as a radically transformed political space honouring individual liberty, free and fair competition, absence of state authoritarianism, and protection for minorities. Rajagopalachari was a lawyer, Independence activist, liberal thinker and close associate of contemporaries such as Gandhi and Nehru. These excerpts were collected and republished as a part of a souvenir titled Rajaji: Some Speeches and Writings in 1973. The souvenir can be accessed at Indian Liberals, a multi-lingual and open digital archive preserving Indian writings on liberal thought and politics.
May 13, 1972
I have been constantly reiterating the importance of defending the Constitution. This is because the Constitution guarantees the following: first, the complete protection of minority communities in the practice of their religions and their equality with the majority community in all secular rights and privileges; secondly, the complete protection of citizens in the enjoyment of their properties inherited or otherwise acquired legally and a guarantee that if the State desires to acquire any part of them, the State should give just and adequate compensation to make up for the loss; thirdly, the need for any acquisition and the adequacy of the compensation should be subject to judicial examination and the award of the courts should be fully respected. It is these guarantees inscribed in the Constitution that save the citizens from dictatorship and serfdom. If therefore, the Constitution should be saved from being sabotaged in these respects, a party pledged to these guarantees and to resist totalitarian rule is absolutely necessary. The people may elect anyone they choose to rule over the affairs of the country subject to the guarantees briefly mentioned above. A party dedicated to defend these guarantees is as necessary as it is necessary to have a parliament and leaders dedicated to good government. The independence of the judiciary and the authority of the Supreme Court should not be interfered with directly or indirectly.
These axioms of good government and democracy should be explained clearly to the people and they should be warned against being misled into agreeing to a sabotage of the Constitution. The economic policies of the Government should be so framed as to lead to social justice, which is not impossible, if party politics is not allowed to interfere with genuine economic reform and steps are taken to maintain and improve respect for moral values. This is the fundamental basis for any good government. Leaders should be men and women of the highest character and competence. They should lead and not be led by those whose votes may, by numbers, give power and authority over the citizens without considering what is good for the nation in the long run. A solid group of people, who guard the Constitution and the rights of the people, the rights of the majority as well as of the minorities, is as important as a Prime Minister and President are necessary. Without such a party it would be like a beautiful motorcar without a brake. The notion that the justification for the existence of a party is only that it can be an alternative government if it secures a sufficient number of votes and that otherwise it may be dissolved and extinguish itself is wholly erroneous. A party of those who are dedicated to defend the core of good democracy is even more important than those who run governments according to the requirements of change in times. Politics is not merely a competition between groups for the acquisition of power. The fundamental articles with which the Swatantra Party was founded must be read over and over again by good men and women in the country and must be explained to the less informed section of the community. The defence of the Constitution is not less important than the defence of the country against foreign aggression.
August 19, 1972
What the people of India require is good government and not merely a ‘stable’ government. The stress ought to be on good government, which does not seek to make serfs of citizens. The stress should not be on stability. A regime bent on doing away with the fundamental rights of citizens is not good government. Authoritarian dictatorship can perpetuate itself without other assistance. What should be done is not to make it stable, but to bring it to public condemnation. A free way of life is not possible under majority oppression and intimidation. The illusion that ‘stability’ by itself is good must be dispelled. This reiteration of mine is not a redundant reiteration.
(From the pamphlet “Why Swatantra” published by the Swatantra Party, National Headquarters)
The Swatantra Party stands for the protection of the individual citizen against the increasing trespasses of the State. It is an answer to the challenge of the so-called Socialism of the Indian Congress party. It is founded on the conviction that social justice and welfare can be attained through the fostering of individual interest and individual enterprise in all fields better than through State ownership and Government control. It is based on the truth that bureaucratic management leads to loss of incentive and waste of resources. When the State trespasses beyond what is legitimately within its province, it just hands over the management from those who are interested in frugal and efficient management to bureaucracy which is untrained and uninterested except in its own survival. The Swatantra Party is founded on the claim that individual citizens should be free to hold their property and carry on their professions freely and through binding mutual agreements among themselves and that the State should assist and encourage in every possible way the individual in this freedom, but not seeks to replace him. The new party seeks to oppose the trend of the ruling Congress Party to adopt the ways and ideals of the Communists in its eagerness to prevent the Communists from going forward. The Swatantra party believes that going over to the enemy is not defence, but surrender.
The Swatantra Party, apart from the ideology here explained, hopes to furnish a real opposition to the Congress Party so that parliamentary democracy may be properly balanced. The absence of a true opposition has led to the rapid deterioration of democracy into a kind of totalitarianism. Voices have been heard from all quarters calling for a strong opposition and the new party is supplying a felt want.
This party of freedom is further making a novel experiment in restricting disciplinary control over party members to essential issues, giving freedom in all other matters to vote according to individual opinion. This is not mere strategy to “net in” discordant miscellaneous elements as at first might appear. It is really an answer to the constantly expressed sense of dissatisfaction with party rigidity, and to the complaint that it often amounts to suppression of opinion and rule by a minority in the name of a majority. A majority in the ruling caucus can always, under present conditions, impose their views on all and every issue in the Parliament of the nation. The Swatantra Party intends to initiate a departure from the usual practice of political parties and, true to its name, give Swatantra or freedom to its members to vote according to their own convictions and conscience on all but the party’s fundamentals so that the decisions of Parliament may on those issues truly reflect the prevailing opinion, and not be just a replica of the majority opinion of the ruling party or the fads of the ruling clique.
Without the inconveniences resulting from proportional representation and, in particular, the instability of governments formed under such a system, the reduction of voting in accordance with whips to the barest minimum, as proposed by the Swatantra Party would be a healthy example for all parties. If followed generally or even by the more important ones among the various parties, the freedom given to members on all but essential issues would result in government more in accordance with the ideals of those who conceived the system of proportional representation and laid high hopes thereon. In this matter, the new party may claim to have initiated a great democratic advance worthy of trial in all countries really believing in democracy, and not willing to be subjected to a form of dictatorship in the name of party discipline which often serves only the ambition of individuals or groups.
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