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Politics of representation in India: Dealing with ethics and equality (Post independence era)

*What is politics of representation?
To understand politics of representation one must know what exactly ‘Representation’ means. One can say it to be-‘re’ (i.e. again) and ‘presentation’ {i.e. appearance by someone, which someone has to create (1.Collins Dictionary 2009)}. But this is just simple definition of representation, the political definition of representation as the principal agent conception is (‘acting on behalf of’) i.e. one person acts on behalf of one other (2.Oxford dictionary). So politics of representation deals with issues of representational patterns and transformation of the power of representation during a course of time. It is a complex whole which cannot be detangled in a batter of few solutions. There are no concrete solutions in this matter because every problem in this is subjective and contextual engaged with loads of sentiments of the people. Politics of representation in India, in the post independent era, has its roots far before the independence, but the focus here is since the issues rose during formation of Constituent Assembly and the Drafting Committee.
The birth of the new representative democracy demanded representation with fair and equal platform for exceptionally large diversity of people in India. There were two kinds of arguments regarding the representation in the governance – first-The representation for the socially and politically disadvantaged groups in the past should have special reservation as they hold significant place in the population but don’t get platform to raise their voice in governance. Another side of the argument was hesitant to do this because according to them it might create dominance of these groups in the future which again in turn will bring inequality and also many of them will have to share the power. But this argument was brought down, and by the consent of majority; reservation for socially and politically disadvantaged groups was accepted as compensation for the injustice done to them in the past. Therefore there were provisions made for the representation of minorities and women in the Constitution.
 A bunch of political arguments started flourishing with the distribution of the representative power in terms of reservation. The then elite dominating power in the governance started opposing the fragmentation of the government and the number of position seekers started rising. A delicate and chaotic bubble of war of significant positions in Governance started to rise.   But how far did these reservations play successfully to bring about equality in the representation of these groups? How ethical were the policies of reservation in terms of representation of the deserving categories?  These are the questions which steal a look out of the politics of representation. The argument here blends the concern of inequality with the perspective of looking at the distribution of the representation.
What is equality in terms of politics of representation?
Equality is a factual or normative assertion of equal capacity or equal standing of persons, generating claims about distributive justice (2). But with the context of representation, the question which arises is whether we should look only towards equality or does equity plays more significant role thanequality. Equity is nothing but ‘Even-handed treatment’ (2). It deals with equal out come for same action done by two different parties in the same context. When we consider the equality in representation, does the outcome stay same for the reserved categories? This is a major issue to be dealt here. To understand the equality, one must be clear who the subjects to this equality are and what is the background they belong to. In the politics of representation two main categories are subject to the argument of equality with rest of the population,
1.Minorities-{Minorities not in the terms of numerical status, but the group which suffered from some kind of disadvantage with respect to the rest that entitled it special treatment from state (Zoya Hasan-Politics of Inclusion).} They consist of religious minorities, backward caste, and tribal etc. Minority representatives raised issues like numerical superiority, cultural practices, and distinct identities supporting their demand for special representation. But majority elite said that this should not be considered because this will just demolish unity of the nation. Untouchables considered themselves totally different kind of minorities unlike Schedule caste (SC) who were considered political minorities in terms of social injustice and stigma attached to them from the past. SCs did not consider ‘territories’ that important unlike tribal who gave importance to land relating their culture identity and tribal life. Muslims are 13.4% of population in India (Census 2011) but still have to fight for their representation. There are also linguistic and other religious minority groups.
2. Women-Even though Constitution guarantees fundamental right to equality and equal right to men and women in voting and political representation (Article 14), there is a noteworthy gap in the participation of women and men in the governance and decision making bodies. Percentage of female representation in Indian government is not 50%.Even if there is equality brought on the documents, still a large deserving chunk still deprived of their rights. On the name of equality some are taking disadvantage of the special representation positions given to them .Thus, Corrective model of equality is something which has to be brought into practice.
 In the post Independence, representation of these two categories is highlighted. But as India is such a heterogeneous mass that equal representation on all the dimensions and strata is almost impossible. The rate of increase of population as well as the rate of increase of representative parties in India is making the issue of equal representation difficult day by day. The equality in representation will be justified when it reaches the results of equity. When the representatives, irrespective of their status of reservation will get the same kind of response from the people in terms of acceptance and trust for governance, then one can say it is equal representation. In practicality one cannot just argue on the existing system with the bias of their prior knowledge or experience without considering the complex scenario of the representation governance. Today the bias towards the reserved category representatives is so strong that the labels attached to them have become their identity all over India.  If these identities are so strong and discrete, it is very difficult to remove the prejudices of the people attached to that particular group. Then how will they accept all the representatives in a context for a similar situation! There will always be a preference based of popular idea of that particular representative body which will attract only certain kind of population and hence there will always be difference amongst the representatives. They will act according to the response of the peoples’ demand. As these representatives compete each other for the same platform, and also peoples’ perspectives and demands change eventually, the argument of fair representation will continue in different paradigms.
So is there any way one can have equality in this politics of representation? The answer here is ambiguous. Because there are chances of results of equity, with the inputs of equal treatment; in the opinion according to the demand of the context, one might consider it equality in that particular context. This can only happen when the demands of the population are specific and confined to which any representative can respond to a certain extent only. So observing in a larger picture of the politics of representation, equality is near to impossible in the current scenario. But can there be ways to come out of this maze is something one can reflect upon for the future. One can design a way towards certain set of solutions which can tackle complex questions like these and give distinct ways of perspectives.
*How ethical the reservations are in the politics of representation?
To begin with, ethics are nothing but moral beliefs, someone’s notions about right or wrong. In politics of representation one deals with different sorts of ethics attached with different texts and contexts. One cannot determine what is ethical for another person, but a governing body can always decide which ethical path it is going to follow. With certain titles come certain norms. As a representative democracy, our government has responsibility to safeguard the rights of its citizens, value their word, give religious and cultural freedom as well as ensure security. But can all this be done in a fair way and still keep the nature of representation equal and unbiased? If there is special reservation for the disadvantaged groups, will their outlook be same as others? Should one bring the past and religious identity while representing a heterogeneous mob? Will it help the government or them as an individual body? These are all the issues which rise while talking about these reservations.
 One has to be clear that a particular form of representation has its own characteristics and flaws. 1. First-past-the-post system (winner takes all or just simple plurality) and 2.Proportional voting-(means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received.) are two main forms of choosing the representative in India. It has been proven that both of them carry pros and cons but in practicality First-past-the-post system is widely observed. Within the categories of representation, there are differences in the benefits of the reservations. For instance safeguards for religious minorities were taken off at the final stages of the making of constitution unlike SCs and STs who successfully defended their needs for reservations. So if a particular body of representation survives only because of the acceptance of the majority elite in the governing body, can it be considered ‘right’? This again is considered to be very subjective to the form of representation whether these governing elite are right to decide for them or not. Also in the case of representation of women, they argue to get a substantive or correctionist model and get rid of the protectionist model. One can argue that representation is successful only if the motto of the representation is fulfilled. The question of ethics here cannot be totally solved fairly because every decision at every level will be subjective irrespective of the norms and standards put forth. And it is hardly possible to go into the depth of every single issue, detangle it and put it in a way that all its issue is ethically solved!
  What one can do here is find a fair way of dealing with the decisions. If a structure with undifferentiated outcomes to decisions at all levels of representation process is made, then one can say it to be based on fair decision and common ethics. Unless the ground for these ethics is not the same they cannot be applied generally to the majority. So before creating the structure for undifferentiated outcomes, one must focus on the structure with elements dealing with equality in representation.
You said, I heard
You gave, I took
You had, I didn’t
You taught, I learnt
I asked, you lied
I believed, you sighed
Is this how it has to be?
They say you can share
I ask for fair chance, you dare!
Senses may stay alive
Thy slave those have to be
Your guilt and soul are not yet free
Just equality I ask to thee
Again you are free to judge
frosted decisions close to merge
You show the hope and then you flee
I hate this courtesy;
Am I so different to thee.
Fair politics I hope you meet
Last resort is yet to lead. !
1.     Zoya Hasan - Politics of inclusion-Castes, Minorities and Affirmative Action
2.     Rajeev Bhargava -Politics and Ethics of Indian Constitution
3.     Arun Kaushik, Rupayan Pal-How Representative has Loksabha Been?- May 12,2012- EPW
4.     Manabi Majumdar- Representing Identities, Interests and Ideas, August- 18,2007-EPW
5.     Drude Dahlerup -Comparative studies of Electoral Gender Quotas