Any party you like. As long as it’s socialist.

Socialism. I swear!

The redoubtable S V Raju, who we recently heard of here, of the Indian Liberals Group writes this to the editor of Mint.

…I have been trying to register a party that is expressly opposed to socialism and that I have made very little headway. In fact, I tried to register the old Swatantra Party (there was no registration required in the old days) but my application for registration was rejected.

An amendment to the Representation of the People Act made when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister stipulated that the constitution or the rules and regulations of political parties should contain a provision swearing loyalty to democracy, secularism and socialism. The Election Commission sent me a form for registration which I completed and returned, accepting democracy and secularism but rejecting socialism, as the Swatantra Party was opposed to it in principle. The registration was turned down.

A friend and I filed a writ petition in the Bombay high court in December 1996. The writ was admitted. It has still to come up for hearing. This is the hurdle. Under current law, no party that refuses to accept socialism can get registered as a political party. So much for our democracy! [Mint]

Cynics would say that Mr Raju doesn’t qualify for another reason: he doesn’t lie.

31 thoughts on “Any party you like. As long as it’s socialist.”

  1. The very fact that the Law requires political parties to swear loyalty to any political ideal is undemocratic. Forget socialism, why shouldn’t people have the right to form or vote for political parties that espouse theocracy or monarchy, for example? Just because we don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they should be denied the choice.

  2. Kunal,

    Behind this undemocratic measure inserted by the Rajiv Gandhi government lies a constitutional amendment inserted by the Indira Gandhi government—the one that inserted “socialism” into the Constitution, via the 42nd amendment [Waitaminit: is this what Douglas Adams meant?]. India is, officially, a socialist republic. [Sharad Joshi moved a private member’s bill in 2004 to change this]

    I should ask our friends at Lex whether it can be challenged in the wake of the recent Ninth Schedule judgment.

  3. Have the left parties (CPI, CPIM et al) sworn loyalty to democracy or to communism? I wonder if they have done what they do all the while, register in whatever name and then carry out a sinister game-plan. I think they would have happpily registered as democracies so long as they get to preach communism

  4. Why doesn’t Mr. Saju just accept what the Election Commission demands? I know it’s a matter of principle to idealistic like him, but let us be practical here: Congress has been slowing turning away from socialism since the economy was liberalized in the early 1990s yet the vow uphold. What does socialism mean in the modern context? It’s no Nehruvian socialism. I think Mr. Saju, like Congress, should work within the system, establish a foundation for his party, even if means eating a little crow.

  5. Why is that we feel down and out when congress rules? A cursory look at the Presidential probables is very depressing. My resume would look much better I think 🙁

  6. I agree with Niraj. The redoubtable V. S. Raju should just call his party socialist and get on with it. After all, within certain parameters, socialism can mean anything we want it to mean. So socialism, in the Indian context, (even, I think, during the time when Indira Gandhi’s government inserted it into the preamble) means a government that is dedicated to the welfare of all people. It need not involve nationalization of resources or the committment to a strong public sector.

    That said, I’m surprised that the insertion of “socialism” in the constitution forbids political parties from opposing it. What ever happened to “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship”?

  7. While it may seem expedient to urge the nascent Liberal Party to swear loyalty to socialism, this might turn out to be a problem later. What happens if, say, the EC decides to de-recognise the party on the basis of its violation of the relevant sections of the RoP Act if/when it actually campaigns against socialism?

  8. Niraj, it is not a big deal to call one’s party socialistic and move on in a diagonally opposite side, but I am afraid the problem is much larger than mere words and check boxes. Lets say your non-socialist party comes to power and implements non-socialist policies, there will be hue and cry from the intelligentsia and commies that you are running counter to the constitution and what the founding fathers intended. The net result will be that people will get dejected. I guess you can also argue that if people choose a non-socialist party they care a damn about commies. But in my opinion its better to remove that word – that would signify a shift in our thinking and mindset, no matter how nominal it is.

  9. May be he should claim he belongs to church of blessed lady, Ayn Rand, and is therefore clearly a minority, which means that under secular imperative he has first claim towards freedom.
    Problem solved.

    Now this is some thinking outside the box 🙂

  10. I somehow think that it can be challenged in court. But the challenger has to make his case backed up with good research and sound arguments.

    @scritic and niraj,

    SV Raju is doing the right thing by attacking the right target. We need to win the war of ideas first. That socialism means anything at all that one wants it to mean is the victory of ‘newspeak’.We need to start pushing the front lines right here. We cannot begin to win till we allow the leftists to set the terms and references of any debate.

    I’am fully with SV Raju on this.

  11. Gaurav wrote:
    May be he should claim he belongs to church of blessed lady, Ayn Rand, and is therefore clearly a minority…
    Ayn Rand was an atheist. The only religion in the world that I know of that unequivocally professes atheism is communism. So, it should work for Mr. Raju, even if were denied a minority status 🙂

  12. Can SV Raju by-pass the HC and go directly to the SC and file a PIL? How about using the RTI in some way? Can the guys at Lex comment please?

  13. Hi everyone,

    Mr Raju just emailed me to say that he will find some time over the weekend to respond to the comments here. So do check again later.

  14. I think that the manner in which democracy is practised in India is intrinsically flawed. Sure we celebrate that people kicked out Indira Gandhi after Emergency. Who wouldnt if you get something shoved up ur a** ? Look at Jharkhand, where an independent MLA is the CM! Look at the drama over the Presidential elections. Look at how parties change colour from “secular” to “communal” and back to “secular”, depending on their state of alliance with the BJP.

    In India, democracy has come to mean the power to majority, where the majority is combled up by any means possible. Expressing dissent towards any of the policies of this majority leads to immediate branding as “communal”, “fascist”, “capitalist”, “manuvadi” etc etc depending on the policy. The only “minority” are Muslims and Christians, because they have to numbers to matter in elections. Students protesting against reservation dont, hence they get the lathis and water canons.

    With fractured mandates, each grouping within the “majority” assumes disproprotionate importance. Although the Left’s influence doesnt exist beyond Bengal and Kerala, their mad-cap policies are imposed on the rest of the country too. Regional players like Naidu, Karunanidhi etc can cause the PM sleepless nights.

    The problem lies in the system itself and any new political party should try to break the existing mindset of the “progressive”, “liberal” ruling elite which is carrying the White-man’s burden of civilizing the country’s unwashed masses.

  15. This reminds me of the oath of allegiance that the General had introduced in Joseph Hellers epic Catch-22. In my opinion this allegiance to communism which the people are being forced to endorse is unconstitutional .

    Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression to each citizen of India. Art 19(1)(c) guarantees the liberty to form associations or unions. It is well beyond doubt that these two , separately and jointly , cover the liberty to form any political party and to canvass such a party’s political idelogy . However these twin rights are subject to reasonable restrictions imposable by law under 19(2) and 19(4)in the interests of morality , sovereignty and integrity of India , incitement to any offence and public order .

    Which of these exceptions can the ‘compulsaory allegiance’ fall under. I dare say none of these exceptions . Not being communist is not going to threaten the sovereignty of India . It is not immoral or anything of that sort. It is not going to lead to riots. Then what on earth justifies it. Nothing, I think.

    In the National Anthem Case (Bijoe Immaneul ) the Supreme Court held in favour of two Jehova’s witness who refused to sing the national anthem . The basis was that public morality or national sovereignty is not htreatened by the students not singing the national anthem. What the case also established is that the restrictions on fundamental rights on the grounds of ‘allegiance’ and the like will be frowned upon.

    In this case no such thing is being done. India is not a SOcialist republic. Ther word socialism was introduced into the preamble by the 42nd Amendment in 1976. Moreover the premable can enever be the source of any subtantive rights or duties.

    Fundamental liberties can be curtailed onlyon the grounds provided in 19(2) and 19(4). As endorsement of constitutional ideology isnt one of those, in my opinion the requirement under the RPA act is unconstitutional. And it can be struck down .

  16. But, how did BJP get regd? Is “Socialism” mentioned anywhere in their constitution? [RS on June 14th, 2007 at 13:36 ]

    The BJP has complied with the requirement having included socialism in their constitution – also the word secularism.

    Why doesn’t Mr. Saju just accept what the Election Commission demands?… [Niraj on June 14th, 2007 at 16:37 ]
    I agree with Niraj. The redoubtable V. S. Raju should just call his party socialist… That said, I’m surprised that the insertion of “socialism” in the constitution… [scritic on June 14th, 2007 at 18:42 ]

    It would be a lie and a lie is a lie whatever the reason. And the Election Commission’s demands it because it is part of the Representation of the People Act. The raison d’etre for a liberal party is based on certain values. Without values we would be just another party like all the others merely adding to the multitude of the power hungry. Our aim ought to be getting democracy back on track and all that it entails and not as of now – a five year ritual.
    The insertion of the word socialism and secularism in the preamble to the Constitution was done by Mrs. Indira Gandhi when half the leadership of parties in the opposition were in jail during the 18-months bogus Emergency of the mid seventies. The amendment to the Representation of the People Act making it mandatory for parties to swear allegiance to socialism was passed unanimously much later, with not even the BJP opposing the amendment. Incidentally this swearing by socialism does not apply to independent candidates! Earlier it was swearing loyalty to the Constitution such as it is. In fact when I met Mr.Seshan the then Election Commissioner before filing the writ petition I said we would swear by the Constitution. but he turned it down.

    While it may seem expedient to urge the nascent Liberal Party to swear loyalty… [Kunal on June 14th, 2007 at 20:08]

    This is not likely to happen because socialism is not defined and so like the Chinese commies peddling free market economics as ‘market socialism’ all our parties are free to define socialism as they like!

    Niraj, it is not a big deal to call one’s party socialistic and move on….. [Sriram on June 14th, 2007 at 20:43 ]

    Exactly But in a lighter vein, if this compels the Indian citizen to think and use his vote objectively then it might even be worth it!

    […] Nitin pointed out how Socialism has got ingrained in the Constitution … it. S.V Raju perhaps needs to revisit his mentor Minoo Masani’s remarks mentioned above and not get worked up about Socialism. .. [Offstumped – » Revisiting the Idea of India – Independent, Sovereign but not Socialist ? on June 14th, 2007 at 21:46 ]

    Which remark by Minoo Masani are you referring to?

    I somehow think that it can be challenged in court. But the challenger has to make his case backed up with good research and sound arguments. @scritic and niraj
    In the National Anthem Case (Bijoe Immaneul ) the Supreme Court… duties. Fundamental liberties can be curtailed only on the grounds provided in 19(2) … Shiv on June 16th, 2007 at 19:42 ]

    This is precisely what our writ petition is trying to do. Incidentally a writ petition in the Rajasthan High Court challenging ‘secularism’ in the preamble was turned down.

    We cannot begin to win till we allow the leftists to set the terms and references … [Apollo on June 14th, 2007 at 23:38]

    Exactly. Hence the need for a liberal party and for us to be the Lok Sabha. Many years ago in the 4th Lok Sabha (1967 -1971)7 we were double their (Communists) number. Mrs. Gandhi cut short the full term by a year and called elections knowing she would be swept back after her ‘triumph’ in the Bangladesh war. Even Vajpayee called her the modern ‘Durga’. The liberals should work towards getting back into parliament.

    Can SV Raju by-pass the HC and go directly to the SC and file a PIL? … [Anuraag on June 15th, 2007 at 07:30 ]

    Now that it is in the Mumbai High Court we have to wait it out. The cause of action was Mumbai. The request for Registration was for the registration of the Swatantra Party in Maharashtra. Hence the Mumbai High Court.

    I think that the manner in which democracy is practised in India is … In India, democracy has… With fractured mandates… The problem lies in the …[anonymous coward on June 15th, 2007 at 11:26 ]

    You have made a strong case for a liberal party. Seats in parliament are important. But a liberal party can be formed and start a movement for the emergence of real democracy without waiting for registration, which is needed for purposes of allotment of symbol and some other facilities like free electoral rolls and things like that On more than one occasion Rajagopalachari used to caution members of the National Executive of the Swatantra Party “not to chase power. “Power will chase us” he would assert confidently. The liberals can work among the people for a few years and gain their confidence simply by being different while mounting a campaign to get the law on socialism changed. There is also need for those who believe in gthe primacy of the individuals to get off their butt and work at the ground levels. There is so much to be done.

  17. Referring to Minoo Masani’s remarks in constituent assembly.

    original post by me and the link to Minoo Masani’s speech I refer to.

    (This comment quoted from Masani’s abovementioned speech in extenso. Truncated for readability – Ed)

  18. Pingback: Swear by Socialism
  19. Dear Mr. SV Raju,

    Yours is a commendable effort and my good wishes are with you. I think you should start advocating: Free – Market Socialism. It is the best way to circumvent the Reds and the socialist charlatans.

    If there is no way out of a predicament, we must bring our own re-definition to the table. Best of luck to your party.

    Regards.

  20. Swearing for socialism and secularism is a requirement because these is part of the preamble. But that doesn’t hold any party from following non-socialistic ideals. Interestingly, while the rest of the preamble (freedom, equality, secularism, etc.) has been defined as basic structure of constitution by the Supreme Court, socialism is not. This means that if the parliament passes an amendment to the constitution against socialism, it will be held valid.

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