Mahatma Gandhi on Parliamentary System
Mahatma Gandhi analyzed the British Parliamentary system, elections, voters and the newspapers in his book- ‘ Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule’ (First edition 1938. Reprinted Revised Edition 1944. Chapter V. The Condition of England, Page 10-12)
".....Reader: Then from your statement I deduce that the Government of England is not desirable and not worth copying by us.
Editor: Your deduction is justified. The condition of England at present is pitiable. I pray to God that India may never be in that plight. That which you consider to be the Mother of Parliaments is like a sterile woman and a prostitute. Both these are harsh terms, but exactly fit the case. That parliament has not yet, of its own accord m sine a single good thing. Hence I compare it to a sterile woman. The nature of that parliament is such that, without pressure, it can do nothing. It is like a prostitute because is under the control of ministers who change from time to time..
Reader: You have said this sarcastically. The term ‘sterile woman’ is not applicable. That parliament, being elected by the people, must work under public pressure. This is quality.
Editor: You are mistaken, Let is examine us examine it a little more closely. The best men are supposed to be elected by the people. The members serve without pay and therefore it must be assumed, only for the public weal. The electors are considered to be educated and therefore we should assure that they would not generally make mistakes in their choice. Such a parliament should not need the spur of petitions or any other pressure; its work should be so smooth that its effect would be more apparent day by day. But, as a matter of fact, it is generally acknowledged that the members are hypocritical and selfish. Each thinks of his own little interest. It is the fear that is the guiding motive. What is done today may be undone tomorrow. It is not possible to recall a single instance in which finality can be predicted for its work. When the greatest questions are debated, its members have been seen to stretch themselves and to dose. Sometimes the members talk away until the listeners are disgusted. Carlyle has called it the “talking shop of the world”. Members vote for their party without a thought. Their so called discipline binds them to it. If any member, by way of exception gives an independent vote, he is considered a renegade. …To the English voters their newspaper is their Bible. They take their cue from their newspapers which are often dishonest. The same fact is differently interpreted by different newspapers, according to the party whose interests they are edited. One newspaper would consider a great Englishman to be a paragon of honesty, another would consider him dishonest. What must be the condition of the people whose newspapers are of this type?.....If India copies England, it is my firm conviction that she will be ruined…"
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