The paratroopers

If you want to travel from one place to another and you select parachute as your mode of transport, be rest assured, the most likely way you will get to your destination is by being air dropped! Although in daily life, people do not, typically, choose a parachute as a mode of transport to reach their desired destination, in politics, para-dropping is quite common. 

Last week, elections were held for 27 Rajya Sabha seats (in India). Most members of Rajya Sabha are indirectly elected by the State legislatures using single transferable votes; some of the members of the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the President. In the Indian federal structure, Rajya Sabha is representative of the States in the Union legislature and so, is also called Council of States, while the Lok Sabha is the lower house where members are directly elected by the people to represent their respective constituencies.

If one examines the profile of candidates over the years in a Rajya Sabha election, one common theme repeatedly emerges with great consistency: a portion of candidates are paratroopers. At some point in time, each political party has been guilty of nominating candidates who are naturally non-domicile to that particular state.

Paratroopers, in political terms, are candidates who are air dropped from a central command to be elected as a state representative.

In Indian democracy, Rajya Sabha or the Council of States is expected to serve the interest of States in the Federal structure. So, what does interest of States mean? The Indian Constitution has clearly demarked the subjects or topics that a State or Center can pass legislations on. Rajya Sabha is supposed to be the guardian of this list. Additionally, strength lies in numbers, right? Rajya Sabha is also supposed to be where a State’s interests are represented and brought to the attention of the Center. Not that this cannot happen in Lok Sabha, but Rajya Sabha is expected to play this exclusive role.

Over time, however, political parties have failed to conduct Rajya Sabha proceedings on these lines. It has turned into a mini Lok Sabha with topics and discussions based on party lines, rather than being representative of a State. Will members of Rajya Sabha oppose any change that adversely impacts a State (say, Center and State list where it has exclusive rights) if the same political party or alliance is in majority in both the Houses of Parliament? Absolutely not. Rajya Sabha members are aligned to their parties and not with the interests of a State.

Para-trooping candidates is a representation of the decay in our political system, where the emphasis is only on numbers and nothing beyond it. The most famous of the paratroopers, in recent times, is our former Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.

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