Friday, July 16, 2010

A democracy can’t have a fixed ideology

Sanjiv Agarwal's article titled "A democracy can’t have a fixed ideology" was published in The Economic Times on 16th July 2010.


The largest multi-party democracy in the world cannot have a fixed ideology of the state. That is the view taken by founding fathers of the Indian Constitution. There were debates in the constituent assembly on whether the word ‘socialist’ should be included in the preamble.


Our founding fathers were great social democrats. They could not bind future generations to one ideology even if it was their own. What went wrong then? What was the need to put the socialist tag on India by later politicians? The question is open. How does it matter? Well, it does, because it is about our Constitution. We may become an Orwellian Animal Farm if we don’t care about it. The 42nd amendment provision that inserted the word socialist in the Preamble of the Constitution in 1976 was challenged in the Supreme Court. The court ruled that though it was an important question, it would be looked into as and when the situation demanded.

As the situation stands today, talking against socialism could be high treason and it takes only a despotic ruler to do the rest. History is proof of that. The present situation is that every political party in India swears by socialism before being allowed to register. That takes away space for ideas and opinions. Worst of all, it legitimises curbs on essential freedoms. For example, the fundamental right to property was eliminated in the 44th amendment of 1978. No one noticed because we were already a socialist country! The safety belt that saved us from being taken over by the state was lost. That is why it should matter.

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