Farce of a Democracy, how India got Modified?

Rajvinder Singh | August 24, 2014 10:16 PM
Rajvinder Singh

By Rajvinder Singh 

Allow me to begin this piece of writing with a trigger warning: If you do not value free speech and stimulating political discourse, chances are bright that your day might get ruined if you carry on reading the piece beyond this point.

Now that you have decided to move ahead with the perusal, the risk involved is of your own making. As the present government is approaching to complete its first 100 days of being in power, it gives us all an opportunity to reflect upon its beginning. 

Sadly enough, the day the election results were announced and many heart-bound, short-cut Indian intellectuals exhilaratingly dubbed it as the wonderful proof of the functioning of Indian democracy, I felt myself sitting in the wrong train. For me, on the contrary, it was yet another jolt to a collective hope of democratic roots ultimately shooting out from the socio-political soil of this wonderful nation comprising so many religions, so many languages, and so many ideologies. So I felt a strong urge for this myth of democracy to be deconstructed. 

If voters are wooed using underhand tactics to sell their votes, earlier for a blanket or a Sari, but now, in our inflationary times, for a cycle, a television or a laptop, can it be called a democracy?

All in all, the reason for being jubilant for my fellow observers was the mere fact of elections being held and regimes being rejected by means of vote.

But if millions of litres of illegal alcohol, hundreds of millions of rupees in hard cash, and tonnes of dry drugs are all used in a short period of just five weeks to entice votes, can it be termed as a democratic exercise?

When in more than 3500 cases the investigation is on that the candidates have paid money to the print and electronic media to give them a propagandist positive coverage, thereby virtually snatching the democratic right of the people to independently think and decide who should deserve their vote, is it democracy?

Consequently the general public, hammered constantly by the electronic media, was enticed into buying the idea of putting behind the post Godhra riot issue. The phrase often used by them was: People are matured enough to choose what is right and what is wrong. Are they? 

If voters are wooed using underhand tactics to sell their votes, earlier for a blanket or a Sari, but now, in our inflationary times, for a cycle, a television or a laptop, can it be called a democracy?

When elections are decided primarily on caste and communal lines, in complete disregard to the competence and democratic credentials of a candidate, is it still a democracy?Although other parties too have achieved quite a large number of the percentage of the votes, the winner with a landslide victory has only a few percentage points more than the loser. But then, we all know it, at least from that beautiful ABBA song that “the winner takes it all.” This is the shape of our democracy. Parties should be given representation in the parliament on the basis of their total vote-share in elections, as is the case in German political system. 

Question after question arise in this regard…

No folks, merely holding elections every five years do not make a nation a democracy.

It is true: the democracy does not rest on the ground of secularism alone, though it forms an important ingredient.

It is true too: Every political party, notwithstanding its secular or a communal agenda, has its democratic right to contest elections. But if such a party calls the shots in politics after getting a shot in the arm by the powerful media, which in fact holds the responsibility of exposing that party, the whole exercise becomes a farce of democracy.

How far can a simple voter hold against platoons of strategic media, big money, and a mythologizing of the persona of the leader? 

Voters in the under developed areas, which at least form 60% of this divers, unpredictable and paradoxical country, where poverty and lack of education limit their socio-political horizon, hardly understand what democracy means. Beyond a recurring act of casting their ballot every five years, they have no idea of how democracy functions. To that they are fully engulfed with a much more challenging “present” of day-to-day struggle for survival than their counterparts in real, informed and functioning democracies are. 

Much beyond the voting exercise, people need to be confronted with rights and duties involved in a democratic process. But even after 67 long years of independence our political leaders have failed to adopt any agenda whatsoever to promote that kind of thinking. On the contrary, it seems that such a consciousness-raising-drive is consciously avoided, under the spell of fear that if people would begin to understand the extent of their rights, understand the real issues involved, then they cannot be fooled any further and cannot be bought for peanuts every five years anymore. Keeping the status-quo of depriving the polity of this due enlightenment is the only guarantee they have for staying in power. (Oh, how I miss souls like Vinoda Bhave in these times!) The lack of politics-led social change in Indian democracy is due to the lack of competence among many Indian politicians, whose motivation to enter politics merely has been to hold on to power rather than to bring about visionary changes in the society.

Thus, the common political rhetoric, devoid of any concrete, substantial arguments, is kept alive consciously as it can help trigger intense nationalistic emotions on the one hand, and even the secular fervour on the other for that matter of a politically blind, misinformed polity, and so set aside reason to exploit them. In the face of a true democracy, nationalism is the last thing India needs. 

Ironically enough, in functioning democracies (e.g. of Scandinavian countries) it's usually the political authorities who are entrusted with the onus of enlightening the citizens, informing them of their democratic rights, socio-political dos and don’ts. Another reason why power holders in our country keep on depriving people from viewing such rights-duties-scenario is because they understand that people schooled in the precise meaning of democracy are very less likely to consent to their vagaries.

Not only politicians, even the intellectuals and liberal thinkers in our country have failed to do their duty of educating the polity through their words and deeds. 

Now that an RSS-indoctrinated lot of leaders of BJP have taken the girdles of this nation in their hands, a nation which has the capacity to remain ancient and still be ultra-modern at the same time, I see such so called liberals shedding crocodile’s tears at a hypothetical prospect of the country being pushed toward the right or even ultra-right political spectrum.

Is their fear rational, or is it just another of their intellectual vagaries? 

In fact, the critics of Modi model of democracy all too lightly overlook the fact that India is a constitutional democracy with a powerful judiciary. They need not worry too much about any normative risks involved in extending the popular meaning of democracy onto his own brand we may call Modification, as he cannot afford to harm the constitutional edifice of secularism guaranteed in the preamble of the Constitution of India, and further reinforced by the 42nd Amendment in 1976. 

The general worry among the intelligentsia is precisely about the safranisation of Indian secularism: Now that the voice of many stalwarts in the BJP has been stifled by the vociferous RSS to submit to its thumb, being the RSS nominee, Mr Modi’s all actions would be subject to the RSS seal of approval. Doesn’t it smack of déja vu, something we have had seen and enliven before? Mr Manmohan Singh is now free from Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the show goes on with Mr. Modi and the girdle holder RSS. 

However, whether and in which ways this sort of change can happen, remain to be seen. But one thing is clear: Despite the above stated lack of intellectual and political emancipation, the degree of aspirations, to which this country has already elevated itself, was good enough for people to see a stable anchor in Mr Modi. Being well versed in both RSS ideology on the one hand and modern governing on the other (he has already transformed his communal heritage to a mere communal baggage), he is expected to prove competent enough to appropriate his already downscaled communal baggage further and condition it to undergo an appropriate amount of secularization. 

Mr. Modi would not want to be subject to the same trap as the outgoing PM had been all these years, although he still has done an excellent job for the Indian economy.He wouldn’t want to be seen as prompted and dictated by his ideological parent body the same way as the outgoing PM had been by his party president.

But then Congress president Sonia Gandhi was at least an elected MP and a chairperson of the ruling coalition making it a constitutional post. But an ideological laden communal body, however parental role it may have towards a political party, dictating shots to the government of that party will have to be viewed as legal. Mr. Modi is well aware of that.

Mr Modi and his BJP well understand - and I am sure of this - the relevance of a general mood of dissatisfaction with the regime they have ousted, which after all had given the people many a firsts: Right to information, right to education, right to a minimum 100 days employment, and so on… And Mr Modi and his BJP, despite denying it throughout their election campaign, cannot forget the fact that where major economies of the world suffered heavily, in which countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy are driven to the verge of bankruptcy, India managed to stay afloat of this economic deluge. 

All these facts will provide them with an insight into the more complex exposition in and understanding of the political stakes involved, as the BJP would definitely be envisioning being in power not merely for this one term, but rather be around for a longer period to come. Hence, any of his or their re-conceptualization of the secular is bound to grant the political sphere the necessary independence from any doctrinaire form of politics. 

Politics is a temporal game. Even the Indian Muslims seems to have chosen to adopt the South African-Formula: Forgive, but not forget, and have invested their hope in Mr. Modi. Hence, the Indian democracy cannot and will not be affected by his personal agenda, of which he will be well aware.These unwarranted assumptions should be set aside. 100 days in power is no time to judge a government. Let us watch and wait and give the man his due, an opportunity to show his worth, in the coming months and years of his tenure.





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