The case and context for a new Independent Initiative: V. R. Krishna Iyer

February 27, 2009: The Hindu

The land of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev also produced Gorbachev, the last of the rulers from the Kremlin of the vast universe of the Soviet Union. While Stalin had ruled with an iron hand, and executed people instantly without any hearings or procedural natural justice, Gorbachev had his glasnost (transparency) and perestroika (reconstruction).

Gorbachev was defeated in the elections, but as ideas his glasnost and perestroika will survive as long as freedom of thought and hopes of a better world remain dear to humanity. We want freedom, better governance, more work, wealth and happiness for all mankind.

Herbert Spencer said: “No one can be perfectly free till all are free, no one can be perfectly moral till all are moral, no one can be perfectly happy till all are happy.¶ Jesus taught us that everyone is his brother’s keeper. The Vedic wisdom of Hindus proclaimed the oneness of the universe.

But our world is now going downhill in terms of values and love. Divisiveness, possessiveness, acquisitiveness and pleasures have been griped by a creamy layer that has grabbed the resources of the weaker nations. While millions of people are starving, millionaires control state power. The time has come for a just administration, and a struggle is unavoidable if happiness and human rights should belong also to the smallest man, woman and child — which is the moral quintessence of Vedanta. The only practical means of political egalite for all is democracy with free and periodic force, when through franchise and ballot everyone exercises his or her views and the majority governs.

The party system is inevitable when plural views threaten to create chaos and disciplined and well-organised expression in governance through well-settled ideology is the only means for the stable administration of society. Thus, elections on party basis become all-important for people to have their voice heard and have justice delivered according to the majority view.

Unity in diversity, not money but man, are fundamental to good government. But elections must be fair and clean, and candidates of parties should not be crooked but be persons of integrity. There should be accountability with social commitment, with the power to see that moral values do not become a casualty. To achieve this at least to a minimum measure, we require an organisation that may be justly called the Independent Initiative.

Almost two decades ago, Gorbachev set up an institution in Moscow called the Independent Initiative. Intellectuals from the world over were invited to express their opinions freely and fearlessly on systems of government, be they centralised or democratic ones, oligarchic or people-oriented ones. The idea was to promote through the ballot the election of a certain set of people. A policy of government was spelt out in a party manifesto, where the candidates are clean and independent, neither corrupt nor communal, and morally, spiritually and temporally bound.

If this can be achieved by every party, we can generate a transformation and a revolution where truth and community commitment will prevail. Hunger will vanish, the rule of law will be the rule of life, violence and terrorism will give way, class bias will be eclipsed and everyone will prove to be a true patriot.

In India, parliamentary elections are approaching, processions and propaganda, marches and slogans, are abundant. Vote banks are the strategy and money power is the key to buying votes. Candidates with influence and wealth but without social commitment and integrity manage to manipulate constituencies and betray the masses through bedlam processes and end up with mafia-managed government. The common people being relegated to the last, the lost and the forlorn, and a creamy layer holding the public economy to its own advantage, is a travesty of democracy.

Yet a simulacrum of people’s sovereignty survives. We, the People of India, ceasing to matter and social stability and tranquillity being displaced with discontent everywhere is a huge deception. We need an Independent Initiative to scan and scrutinise the candidates and the election process. Yes, we can.

We expect a positive response from individual institutions and political parties. There has been much decay, but we are Gandhian. We will overcome. That is our tryst with destiny — to have a socialist, secular democracy. Ideas are welcome. Institutions could cooperate and communicate without hesitation.

There was an Independent Initiative Institute working in Delhi, of which this writer was the president. It functioned well and commanded the confidence of a large section of the people. V.P. Singh, who became Prime Minister, was grateful to the Initiative for its invigilation of the elections which brought him to power. Gopal Gandhi, now West Bengal Governor, was grateful to the Independent Initiative for services it rendered to prevent the pollution of the poll process.

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