Is Democracy a Fraud in India?

NewsBharati    02-Aug-2021   
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In 1947, what India got was “Freedom from Colonial Slavery” but not real democracy propagated by many political thinkers. Even after 71-years experimentation, dynasts and feudal lords Kleptocrats have hijacked democracy.

The continuing unrest, more aptly fracas, in the Parliament with elected representatives at their criminal worst behavior does not augur well India's claims to real democracy. Loss of nearly Rs.150 cr of tax payers’ money is despicable, particularly in the Rajya Sabha - House of Elders.

Leaders are supposed to lead by example. If the ongoing leadership atrocious behavior - use of choicest expletives, most scandalous, with least concern for their fallout - is the example to follow, then Youth will certainly adopt the same tactics sooner than later to spiral uncontrollable violence on the streets. If some among them, particularly those unemployed provoked by partisan vested interests, follow their leader’s footsteps, the civil unrest that may follow can spiral out of control. Even human rights activists and democracy watchdogs will exploit freedom of expression with utter disregard to nation’s image.

Modi may pontificate India's civilization commitment to democracy, freedom of thought, and liberty and shared belief in open societies, democratic values and multilateralism to international audiences; but India is engulfed by rising civil unrest on streets and political dissent and unrest against reforms in the parliament.

De facto, for the first time since the late 1990s, the pro-democracy nonprofit Freedom House downgraded India’s status from “Free” to “Partly Free,” on account of the country’s weakening protection of civil liberties. A second report by the Varieties of Democracy Institute reported that India no longer qualifies as an “Electoral Democracy,” relegating it to the ranks of “Electoral Autocracies”—a grouping that includes noted backsliders such as Hungary and Turkey.

Intellectual bankruptcy it is on the part of internal and external experts to pontificate that the nature of elections is largely free and fair. “Booth Capturing” and “Rigging” by feudal lords was quite common since early 1950s. So also, “Cash for Votes”, “Vote Banks” became the norm based and consolidated on caste, class and communal lines.

Even the commitments to values, freedoms and protections enshrined in the liberal constitution started suffering from systemic onslaught and collapse. Secularism stands abandoned. Pseudo secularism persists. Democracy woefully defaced. “Demassification of Democracy” and ‘Devolution of Powers” is a bogey.

Political democracy is yet to transform into social democracy or real democratic socialism. Hierarchies and oppressions continue as hither to fore. Rich are becoming richer; poor are remaining poor. Its root cause is simple. The system – the Constitution of India – by original conception was inappropriate to the chemistry of the ‘Great Indian Society’. “Functional Anarchy” stated Professor Galbraith, former US Ambassador to India in 1950s and 1960s.

Notwithstanding centuries old inherited historic humiliation of social status, Adivasis, castes "low" and "high", and Dalits are proud of their Indian origin. Even all other minorities owe their citizenship status to India.

In retrospect, Democracy is a highly egalitarian and idealistic concept. For democracy offers equal assurance and access to freedoms and opportunities: food, shelter, health care, education, jobs and decent wages, and all other basic necessities to lead a decent life, which is a virtual impossibility in a highly pluralistic and diverse society with many layers of civilization - from stone age to space age co-existing. When the State fails to meet raising expectations and increasing aspirations, it is but natural for the citizens to revolt against the rulers.

In today's extensive social media outreach, initially vested interests may spin speculative rumors, fake and fraud news and conspiracies theories to enlist affected groups. Once mobilized, disgruntled and dissatisfied sections of people will be organized to rally under various banners and participate in peaceful street protests that may precipitate escalation of uncontrolled violence. When violence explodes, the army is called in "Aid to Civil Authority" to quell unrest and restore normalcy and order, which will be drubbed as State oppression.

A brief overview of the key challenges faced by India today offers the realities of the boiling cauldron. Civil unrest by opposing political parties broke out when Modi government revoked “special status of J & K” and enacted “The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019”. Farmers started protest when the “Farm Laws” were passed. Meanwhile, Covid-19 pandemic broke out. And, the second Covid-19 wave of Delta Variant continues what with a third wave predicted. The latest is the quandary over “Pegasus Spyware” controversy.

Of course, there is tremendous political uncertainty due to faction ridden warring in State level politics - Punjab, Rajasthan and Karnataka; and "Aye Ram, Gaye Ram" in full flow. Add to it, the growing frustration and disenchantment among youth due to unemployment.

Others include: ravaging floods over vast tracts; Assam and Mizoram border clash fiasco; unresolved border disputes in Eastern Ladakh with China; and the Drone strikes from Pakistan.

“Systems failure” is the buzzword today among intellectual circles. It implies the failure of institutions to deliver on what is enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution over the past nearly 71-years. The opposition political parties oppose obdurately even minor changes and prefer status quo ante - pseudo secularism, fraud socialism and corrupt and criminalized democracy. So, changes in the system universally acceptable are virtually impossible.

india_1  H x W: In sum, India has been besieged by crises proliferation ad infinitum - politicians, non-state and State actors and even multinational corporations nibbling away unmindful of national security interest. Viewed in such a highly volatile environment, sustaining liberal democracy is increasingly viewed with skepticism by international agencies.

The current state of affairs in India truly reflects political science sages/emeritus, lamentation in the past. 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.” Mob’s are on rampage everywhere incited and instigated by political leaders claiming to be championing their cause. Kleptocracy and mobocracy are on the rise in India today.

Next, Locke almost 250 years ago, in his book Second Treatise: “Things of this world are in so constant a flux that nothing remains long in the same state; …..But things not always changing equally.” One may also like to take a cue from the reflections of Laski, an eminent political thinker of the 20th century, on the fluidity of the concept of state: “Political philosophy, therefore, cannot content itself with a static theory… When we say, therefore, that the state must secure to each citizen the conditions under which he can fulfill himself as a moral being, we must realize that those conditions are not permanent but relative to an environment perpetually changing.”

How appropriate is Will Durant prognostication also in his book “Pleasures of Philosophy” published in 1929 to the state of Indian politics: “democracy without education means hypocrisy without limitation; it means the degradation of statesmanship into politics; it means the expensive maintenance, in addition to the ruling class, of a large parasite class of politicians, whose function it is to serve the rulers and deceive the ruled”.

The dilemmas or riddles of democracy are one far too many in India to resolve. As per ‘Duns Dilemma’, “freedom and order cannot co-exist. For freedom, which is the main tenet of democracy promotes anarchy, whereas order breeds tyranny. The difference between reactionary liberals and authoritarian conservatives is also slender. ... Even in democracy people do not rule; they merely elect those who rule. Those who rule are the few powerful politicians - they raise issues and determine people’s lives. More aptly, they fool the majority and play around with people’s lives.”

Political sages had emphasized long ago that the ‘Chemistry” of societies and nations in perpetual transformation is the determinant of political order/concept best suited to realize their full potential. So, it must spring from below; not imposed from above. And, the change is inevitable that cannot be swept aside in a cavalier manner in pursuit of status quo ante.

Furthermore, Montesquieu reflections on passing of laws are quite illuminating: “Intriguing in a senate is dangerous; it is dangerous also in a body of nobles. ....The misfortune of a republic is when intrigues are at an end; which happens when the people are gained by bribery and corruption: in this case they grow indifferent to public affairs, and avarice becomes their predominant passion. Unconcerned about the government and everything belonging to it, they quietly wait for their hire.” Montesquieu in The Spirit of Laws (1748) concluded that republics were best suited to the small countries, limited monarchies to the middle sized and more prosperous, and enlightened despotism’s to the large nations.

Rousseau had remarked that “the growing conflict between those wielding power and the civil society may plunge the society into utter chaos sooner than later. ... Freedom is the bedrock of democracy. The coercive apparatus of the state cannot be made to trample it."

In sum, juxtaposing past political sages views, the emerging Indian political scenario can be discerned even by a layman. Democracy in practice has created a large parasite class of politicians who invoke “Save Democracy” and champion status quo ante to stall key reforms vital for maintaining peace so vital for progress and prosperity. Freedoms sans responsibility and discipline particularly by elected representatives and their gargantuan appetite, avarice and ambition are real. Political leaders and parties are simply fooling people by promising the “Moon” in their “Election Manifestos” and fail miserably to fulfill them. Unless the “Gullible We the People” wake up and consign the “Pretenders” to the dustbin of history, there is no hope for consolidating and advancing democracy which is presently in the ICU status.