PROFESSOR MOHAMMED SALIM ENGINEER, Vice President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, is a professor at NIT-Jaipur with Ph.D. in 4G Mobile Communication Technology. His areas of research are Wireless Communication, Coding and Image Processing. Prof Salim is also General Secretary of Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity (FDCA) and Convenor of Kendriya Dharmik Jan Morcha, a joint national forum of religious leaders. In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN on value-based polity, he said Jamaat-e-Islami Hind believes that only value-based politics can strengthen and take this country towards the path of progress and development. Excerpts:
Nowadays, the way political parties are campaigning, elections being fought and candidates selected reveals that value added politics is fading out fast?
This is a very serious concern. All who are peace-loving and advocate democracy are worried that our electoral polity is gradually becoming valueless instead of practicing value-based politics. Earlier, in elections, people used to assess a candidate’s character and social image. But nowadays, talking about value-based politics seems to have lost its relevance. However, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has always talked about it, for it is part of its policy.
People do not pay full attention to it but the Jamaat believes that only value-based politics can strengthen this country and take this country towards the path of progress and development. It can promote harmony and ensure justice and equality. It can also strengthen the values enshrined in the Constitution of India, for sans value-based polity constitutional values can’t be realized.
Today we can see criminalization of politics. The entry of criminal elements in Parliament and assemblies is on the increase. It is said that cases are made against political leaders due to differences of opinion and political animosity. This may also be true to some extent. But the trend of criminals entering politics is common. If you delve into this phenomenon, you will realize that there are a large number of people in Parliament and Assemblies against whom criminal cases are pending. If leaders come from a criminal background, they sit in the Parliament and make laws, obviously we can understand what kind of society and country we will create and how dangerous it would be for our polity.
The second issue is of corruption which is common in our elections. Huge money is used in elections. People spend lakhs of rupees even in the elections of local bodies like Panchayat and Municipal Council or Municipality and Municipal Corporation. For Parliament and Assembly elections money is spent in crores and it has become a costly affair these days.
Only those who have huge money can manage to fight election. There are many parties which are said to take money from the candidates and give them tickets. These days voters are bought and lured with money and other things. Our election system is not yet free from the slavery of money and that is why we can see money being used in elections in many ways.
Apart from that, the corporate world also invests their money in elections. So, when a corporate gives money to political leaders or parties, it is obvious that they will try to get in return many more times the money invested.
Obviously, corporates will have their say in the decisions taken and the laws made by the government even if it goes against the people. We have seen in the past and also during the last 10 years that the corporates who exert control over politics are getting stronger; it is very dangerous.
When you say there’s increased role of money in our polity, do you also mean money accumulated from the Electoral Bonds?
Yes, one more aspect emerging from the increasing role of money in electoral politics is that of electoral bonds; it started in 2017. As per the latest figures available, the party in power has received around 65 to 70 percent of the total electoral bonds. In comparison, what other parties have got is very less. The Supreme Court has also taken notice of it but the central government’s response in terms of electoral transparency is which party has got how much money from which source is not mandatory to make public. On the contrary, they want even the transaction of Rs. 10,000 from the citizens to be known and transparent. This is a very big flaw in our system as it will be misused every now and then.
Another important thing is this money is used to woo voters during elections in a number of ways. When they win or fall short of majority, they use money for horse-trading. Governments are formed and toppled these days with the help of money. Thus, the role of money in our electoral polity is increasing by the day.
Yet another point is equality which is a fundamental value in our Constitution which ensures every citizen is equal and has equal opportunity and enjoys equal rights. Therefore, keeping in mind the increasing role of money, is it possible for a common man to fight elections these days?
A poor man may be a suitable candidate for a Parliament or Assembly election but he cannot even imagine to fight it. Will this discrimination on the basis of money make citizens equal?
The one who has more money has more rights, more options, more opportunities. Our polity has become slave to money. This is a very weak point of our democracy. It is a big challenge for organizations like JIH which advocates value-based polity to ensure the electoral polity becomes free from money-centric. Then, awakening the people is the only way forward.
It is said opportunistic politics undermines the concept of value-based polity. What you have to say?
Apart from the role of money, there is also the increasing trend of opportunistic polity. It means leaders who are opportunistic have no values; they have no policy, no vision, no ideology. Those who change parties before and after elections suggest that they are not serious about their ideology. They adopt whatever policy – whether right or wrong – suits them. This opportunism is a big factor in our politics which is weakening our democratic values.
The election policy of Jamaat includes telling people that they should elect only those candidates whose character is good, who maintain good image in society and who do not have any criminal or communal background. These values are very important for value-based polity.
These days winnability is all important for parties. Of course, winnability can be a factor but shouldn’t be the only factor. People from criminal background should not be promoted. People with wrong image in the society and those having bad character should not be given tickets in the greater interest of the nation. But political parties are not at all serious about this. They want winning candidates who can yield results.
Another factor which dominates our polity is the caste factor. In most of our states caste factor plays an important role. Whether castes, groups or communities, their representation in politics should be in proportion to their population. This will strengthen our democracy. It should not happen that the population of one community or caste in a given constituency is high but that community or caste is not represented politically; then of course our democracy will be affected.
One more factor which is very dangerous is the communal politics or the politics of hatred which divides the society on the basis of religion, by creating hatred against a particular religion and taking political advantage of it by mobilizing the entire society against it. Now hate speech is being used even in the Parliament.
Hatemongers these days are called bigger nationalists. The more he is anti-Muslims the faster will be his growth in politics. This politics of hatred and polarization, the politics of communal polarization is aimed at a particular community. If it is not stopped, perhaps it will cause even more damage to this country.
How do you see the role of Supreme Court?
Certainly, the court should fulfill its responsibilities. But the court has its own limitations. Today even our courts are not strong enough to deal with such things. They have a responsibility and should try to stop hate speech.
Things will not improve unless and until people reject this kind of politics. If such people join politics, it will be a loss to our country; but there is no awareness among the people about it. The progress of the country will stop and the name of the country will be defamed.
As you have rightly said awakening of the people is the only way forward, what role do you think citizens should play to ensure value-based politics?
We the citizens should be aware of our responsibility towards the country and about what kind of people should come in polity. So there is no other way except the awakening of the people. If the attitude of the people changes, the mindset will change. Then the political parties will also be forced to do political reforms.
What is the responsibility of its citizens in the country? And how honestly do they fulfill that responsibility? Because today’s voter is not sincere and is not fulfilling his responsibility in the true sense, realizing that his vote is very valuable. People should keep in mind that progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their mindset cannot change anything. Thus, the role of citizens is very important for peace and development of the country.
The Jamaat releases manifesto on the eve of elections. This manifesto is called People’s Manifesto: When general elections are held, we tell the people what kind of politics we want. What kind of leaders we want and who should be elected and what kind of leaders and parties can take this country in the right direction.
What role do you think religious leaders can play in this regard?
In our country, a large number of people believe in religion. The following of religious leaders is still growing by the day. It is also true that many fake religious leaders have emerged. In reality, the religious leaders who are there are very serious and concerned too. There is a need to organize them so that they do not remain isolated rather they come forward and remind people of their responsibilities in a situation when the politics of hatred is being practiced in the name of religion. Religion can also play a more important role in stopping this. If religious leaders can play an important role in this direction, they can definitely bring a big positive change in the country.