Reality of democracy: Polarization most heinous national security threat

NewsBharati    30-Dec-2021 11:30:32 AM   
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The Parliament House the sacred temple of Democracy
The ongoing "Reality of Democracy in Practice" based on polarization of Indian society is the most heinous mid-long term national security threat.

Invoking Abraham Lincoln, one can also highlight in hindsight on the basis of record of 5000 years of history, that India can never be destroyed from the outside; if we falter now unable to counter strategic threats engulfing India due to short term gains of political power by elected representatives, we will destroy ourselves.

Undeniably, political parties do not anymore believe in ideologies. Their sole ideology is to somehow grab power by hook or crook - Aya Rams and Gaya Rams, money power, liquor, muscle power and opportunistic pre and post poll alliances.

Pure humbug if political parties invoke democracy, socialism and secularism as their ideologies. India, the largest democracy, is not in the list of top 20 democracies - way behind at 53 ranks out of 167 countries with the USA, the oldest democracy at the 25th rank. Socialism was abandoned in the early 1990s. On grand display is pseudo secularism based on appeasement of minorities.

Politics (Raj Niti) is at an all time low. Kleptocracy and mobocracy are on the rise in India today. As per ADR Report, in Lok Sabha election 2019, as many as 233 (about 43%) out of 539 winners declared criminal cases against themselves. In such a framework of parliamentary democracy, the hope for survival of democracy and nation rests on slender possibilities.

Political leaders and parties are in a vicious pursuit for power. Lobbying or jockeying for power through intrigue and treachery has always been an integral part of politics, whatever variety it may be or wherever it may be. Delhi or state capitals are no exception. Such behavior may be disturbing; but quite common.

The root cause for consolidation of such a heinous development can be traced to India’s pluralist society or social order. Pluralist societies - multiethnic, multicultural, multi communal and multi class society divided vertically and horizontally - offer opportunities to political leaders and parties in the name of "Democracy" to drive an irretrievable wedge in society based on narrow sectarian lines. Admittedly, pluralist social order is susceptible and vulnerable to political manipulation. In today's India's content and content, opportunistic political manipulation is dictating the course of politics of democracy; or, its curse.

Ironic but true it is that political parties and leaders have mastered the art and science of political manipulation of pluralist society to achieve polarization on caste, communal and ethnic lines.

Political leaders and parties fully know that pluralist social order - narrow sectarian and parochial - has an overarching influence over politics, economy, foreign affairs, science and technology and national security issues, choices and options. Almost every means in politics like rumors and counter rumors, allegations and counter allegations, fake and fraud news, are used to vilify each other and rally and polarize their vote banks. And, they are least bothered about disastrous outcomes of their flawed poll campaigning based on "Polarization" strategies.

Academic fashion is for academics and media to highlight that "India is poised at cross roads" since the 1970s. Also, Indian democracy is at a crossroads. “Democracy has developed many distortions in India” is the most invoked cliché. Cynics believe that "Democracy is defaced, diluted, desecrated, perverted and mutilated beyond recognition and comprehension by original conception." Optimists believe that Indian democracy is vibrant and resilient.

If the current cantankerous or adversarial relationships among political parties and leaders are allowed to proliferate, then woe be to the posterity of democracy and the nation - democracy appears perilously poised at cross roads to perish.

Most importantly, the leadership crisis is real. Mostly the behavior at majority of political leaders is self-centered and opportunistic, more aptly, self aggrandizement not only to themselves but also for their progeny forever in perpetuity. Very few, by exception, can lay claim to be honest leaders.

Leaders are excelling at partisan politicization of every single issue knowing full well that it undermines the country’s international standing as a model of liberal democracy.

No wonder, leadership credibility is at an all time low. “Aya Ram, Gaya Ram” (party hopping) obsession is phenomenal. Ipso facto, New Delhi is only living up to its notorious inherited reputation of ‘Dalalon ka Shaher’ (City of brokers). Personal vindictiveness manifests in political vendetta to such gory heights that if you are with me, you are clear and honest; otherwise you go to jail through the mechanism of CBI/ED/NCB/IT. Few among them outsmart the legendary “Mama Shakuni” (Master of Intrigue) of the epic Mahabharata. To expect modern Delhi to do a sudden volte face from such an inherited political heritage or genes is unfair.

In reality, elected representatives have scant regard for debate, dialogue, negotiation, reconciliation and consensus - key elements of democratic processes. Their penchant for acrimonious behavior – rushing into the well, tearing papers, breaking mikes etc - inside the “Temple of Democracy”, is incredible. One may justify it as the inevitable fallout of living in an “Exploitative or Cut-throat Age’. Is it carry forward of confrontational politics in streets by all parties on grand display? In retrospect, democracy is subverted and sabotaged by elected representatives.

By oft repeated disgraceful conduct in the so called “Temple of Democracy”, they have not only heaped shame upon themselves, but bred unprecedented disillusionment, disappointment, depression and despondency among people. Even India’s brand image abroad stands denigrated adversely. Democracy may become untenable if its defacing is not stopped with utmost expedition.

Quite disgusting it is to hear leaders oft-repeated jingoistic rhetoric “Save Democracy” especially by “Dynastic” political parties. It is the most heinous fraud played on “We the People” of India. And, they invoke restoration of democratic values and liberal norms when they by themselves do not enforce "inner party democracy". It is the worst fraud to fool the gullible masses.

Once elected, almost all of them live in grandiose style at the “Tax-Payer’s Cost” with assured life time pensions.

Status quo suits majority. For majority, radical changes are frightening – unprecedented challenges, unprecedented opportunities, unprecedented risks and unprecedented uncertainty. Having enjoyed uncontrolled freedoms for the past 65 years, even “Aam Admi” may resist any temptation to support dynamic shifts spelling doom to personal freedoms. After all, radical changes may deny largesses out of corrupt practices in vogue besides disturbing peaceful ways.

How can one expect quite a few criminals and illiterates masquerading as leaders to identify and formulate reforms? Surely, they cannot be expected to make laws guillotining themselves. And, the sane voice of few amongst them gets muffled or remains muted.

Majority, particularly youth and historically deprived sections of society by accident of birth, want urgent change from unjust status quo imposed from above by senile and gerontocratic dynastically inherited feudal leadership. Alienated and frustrated sections of society succumb to populist appeals and continue to barter their votes for liquor and money.

Never a single day passes without protests with “Mobs are on rampage incited and instigated by political leaders claiming to be championing their cause.” Shaheen Bagh Protest (15 December 2019 – 24 March 2020) and 2020 Delhi riots (23 Feb 2020 – 29 Feb 2020) followed by 2020–2021 Indian farmers’ protest (9 Aug 2020 – 11 Dec 2021) and ongoing Junior Doctors’ Protest in New Delhi reflect the chaotic scenario in the country.

Plato, Socrates' disciple, had pontificated over 2300 years ago (Republic, VIII, Sections 562b-563e) “democracy ruins itself by excess of democracy. …Mob rule is a rough sea for the ship of state to ride; every wind of oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course. The upshot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy.”

Next, visual media debates, mostly cantankerous, particularly those on alien payroll, are vociferously partisan. Their coverage is mostly at the behest of "Their Master's Voice in alien lands" tarnishing the image of the country.

Most importantly, the media's influence on the psyche of the viewer is highly divisive depending on one's biases and prejudices. Add to it, the most vicious and abusive "comments" on social media.

Ipso facto, over the past 71-years, populism (freebies), cronyism, and corruption have gnawed at the vitals of Indian democracy. Populism is the means to achieve the end of creating a direct link with “the people” or with specific groups within a population, then offering them quick fixes for complex problems and bypassing or eliminating intermediaries such as political parties, parliamentary representatives, and established institutions.

Elections - 24x365 - are the worst fraud. MLAs resign to gain sympathy of people over highly emotional and sentimental issues and get re-elected in the full knowledge that it cannot pressurize the Central Government to concede to their demands. If they are being forced upon the electorate, it is manipulative skills of those few entrenched in power for gaining consent and confirmation for the existing system.

Less said the better it is concerning “Systemic atrophy”.

In sum, Indian democracy, therefore, appears outrageous and traveling on the course of a self destructive path. People’s faith in the legitimacy of democracy is rapidly getting shattered. Few believe that democracy is perched atop the precipice to fall irretrievably into utter chaos. “We the People” must wake up for “a good form of government may hold rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue with few bad men among them.”

Few others repose faith by invoking that democracy is traveling on an evolutionary course of time. Out of its churning processes, a shift to the appropriate form of political order best suited to its social chemistry may evolve.

Lest current democracy plunges nations into strife, one must redesign appropriate political structures and mechanisms suitable to the chemistry of today and tomorrow’s society.

Brig. G B Reddy (Retd)

G B Reddy, former Brigadier has seen frontline battles in India-China War in 1962, India-Pakistan War in 1965, and India-Pakistan War in 1971 (Liberation of Bangladesh). He has served in various insurgency areas to include Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and West Bengal at the height of Naxal problem; Punjab, J & K and IPKF in Sri Lanka.

Author of seven books and numerous articles covering national security strategy, international, national and local political and social developments, he participated in international and national seminars whilst serving as Consultant/Senior Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad. He also served in Corporate Assignments of Vice-President, Kitply Industries and C.E.O, Hilton Tobacco Ltd.

He is a Graduate of National Defense College, New Delhi, Command and Staff College in Canada, Long and Senior Defense Management Programs at College of Defense Management in Hyderabad. He has served on the faculties of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, College of Combat, and Infantry School, Mhow.

He was awarded Ati Vishist Seva Medal for Distinguished Service of an Exceptional Order in Nagaland 1986. Menitoned-in-Despatches for gallantry in 1971 war. Chief of Army Staff Commendation Medal in 1977 for exceptional contribution for faculty development.

Seven books published: 1) Rising Dragon – China’s Holistic Security Strategic Perspective; 2) Nation in Crisis – Dimensions of National Security and Terrorism; 3) In Search of National Values - Withering Democracy, Secularism and Socialism; 4) India’s Nuclear Dilemmas; 5) Fight Against Corruption and Leadership Decay; 6) Democracy in Peril; and, 7) Cost Effective Rural Housing Technologies.