lady Member in the State Assembly, argued with deftness,
that, at least to steal the thunder from the opposition
side, the government should exempt the agriculturists
from the tax on diesel oil.
“The opposition parties” said the lady member, “are
sure to exploit the situation. They would ask the agriculturists
to agitate—perhaps, they would lead a deputation to
the Minister concerned, plead for a repeal of the tax,
and the minister would be forced to yield to their demand.
Then the opposition would claim a victory! Why should,
we of the Congress party, give room for that? At least
to disarm the opposition, let us straightaway exempt
the agriculturists from the diesel oil tax.”
The House was discussing about the new tax contemplated
by the Congress Minister—and along with many other Congress
members, the lady member, presented this astute argument.
Of course it did not cut ice. The Minister stood firmly—refused
to recognise even the astuteness in the argument advanced.
We are presenting this fact, not to prove how ineffective
that pleading was—no—we are not competent to talk on
such a delicate subject—but we are presenting this fact
for an entirely different object.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave a liberal interpretation
of democracy, this week-end. He spoke about the level
of democracy—the purpose behind parliamentary democracy
and the like.
Here is a problem—pertaining to parliamentary democracy.
On the question of tax on diesel oil, almost all the
Congress members, who took part in the discussion, expressed
options, similar to those voiced forth from the opposition
The tax would hit the agriculturists.
It would be an added burden especially at a time when
food prices are going up.
The government would have to face a stiff protest from
—These were some of the arguments advanced, by all the
Congress speakers who participated in the discussion.
But the Minister refused to budge an inch!
The attempts of the Congress members, to touch the chord
of sympathy proved futile.
The House did appreciate the agility and astuteness
of the arguments—but the Minister refused to find wisdom
in those arguments.
The opposition demanded a division on that issue. And
when the division bell rang—all those Congress members,
who protested against that levy, who argued that it
would be detrimental to the interests of the agriculturists,
had to vote for the tax!!
They gave their voice for the opposition, and the vote
for the party!!
This raises, one or two interesting problems.
When there is a clear case of a clash between one’s
opinion and the party mandate, which is to prevail?
Democracy demands not only party discipline, but also
obeying the dictates of one's conscience. Here is a
case, wherein, several Congress members were convinced
that the tax on diesel oil, would be injurious to the
agriculturists and yet, when ‘voting’ was resorted to,
they had to vote with the party!
Is this conducive to the growth of healthy policies?
And again, why is it that these members, who felt so
strongly about the cruelty of this tax, have not attempted
to discuss this at their party meeting? They should
have tried to convince the party bosses. Did they attempt
and fail? We do not know!
Anyway, they raised their shrill voices against the
proposal, but had to meekly obey the party mandate.
What would be the people’s verdict on this issue? They
have heard heroic speeches of these Congress members—and
found also the strange spectacle of these same people
voting for a tax, which they vehemently opposed.
And after witnessing this, what would be the opinion
the people, about Democracy, itself. Would they not
turn round one day and ask such people. “Are you with
the hound, or with the hare?” And what possibly could
be the answer!! We wonder!
(Editorial - 16-03-1958)