(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
“Save Democracy” is the combined opposition political parties’ war cry under the banner of Mahaghatabandhan.
Democracy was dead long ago; not even remotely on the brink of meltdown or eroding, or backsliding, or perhaps even decaying.
Hypocrites majority are suffering from the illusion of democracy. Voters like the proverbial “Piped Piper who lured the rats into the river” blindly believe and follow fraudsters masquerading as leaders claiming to be representatives and the most ardent front-line soldiers braving to uphold democracy. Fools, more aptly, idiots, are such blind followers of those championing the cause of “Save Democracy”.
In retrospect, a cruel hybrid mix of kleptocracy-cum-plutocracy-autocracy is deeply embedded as political order today in India. Ipso facto, corrupt politicians have used their political power to receive kickbacks, bribes, and special favors at the expense of the populace by circumventing the rule of law during the past 70-years.
Out of it has grown and emerged plutocracy, that is, “a system ruled and dominated by a small minority of the wealthiest or most powerful citizens”.
Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in November 1947, “that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. However, the real credit goes to Liddell Hart, emeritus military strategist, who stated in 1934, “Democracy…, by its very nature, it prefer those who keep step with the slowest march of thought and frowns on those who may disturb the ‘conspiracy for mutual inefficiency.’
In sum, the challenge that lies ahead for voters undergoing the twin revolutions of “Growing Awareness and Raising Expectations” due to Information Revolution of modern India is simple; but extraordinarily complex to overcome, that is, to make the right choice among political leaders and parties, who can protect national security.
The 2019 electoral contest is between Modi led BJP/NDA and the nebulous Mahaghatabandhan yet to consolidate. As of now, the “Gang of fraudsters-cum-fascists-dynasts”, that is, Mamata, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal, Chandrababu Naidu, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, Abdullah’s and Mufti’s in collaboration with Sonia-Rahul-Priyanka Ghandy Congress Party dynasty combined are faking as champions of “Save Democracy” movement. Their scorched-earth and fake media strategy may improve their chances at regaining or retaining power, by ‘hook or crook’ at all costs, but it is surely not in the best interests of messy democracy in practice in India.
Ironic but true it is that what with the inevitability of surge of populism with elections round the corner, vested interest groups, on the right and left, asserting influence to improve their prospects.
In particular, Rahul Ghandy’s (RG) populist urge or surge is borne out of reclaiming power – champion of the poor and jobless. In a pre-emptive act, even Modi and the NDA have announced populist initiatives in the ‘interim budget’. And, regional satraps, of course, are promising the ‘moon’.
If one reflects the past lessons, the inherent shortsightedness of populism stands exposed. “Gharibi Hatao” and “Government or PSUs Jobs for the Unemployed Youth” among others are unachievable. Whoever promises or believes in such fraud slogans are not merely fools; but idiots.
Ipso facto, by persisting monotonously with minority appeasement politics, the Congress Party and even the regional political parties have steadily destroyed the foundations of civil society instead of protecting, promoting, consolidating and advancing them. So, their sledging out the fringe Hindu right groups alone for the State to better reflect their value systems as a reactive response to the cumulative build up of minority appeasement politics may ultimately result in total anarchy and chaos.
Next, the latest onslaught by the combined opposition parties in front of the Election Commission about the conspiracy theories of Electronic Voting Machines (EVN) manipulation by the ruling party. Quite ironic, Nara Chandrababu Naidu with the representatives of Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress Party were also part of the delegations against whom there are electoral fraud allegations have been made, particularly with Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSRCP making allegations of over 50 lakh voters ‘missing or deleted voter’s’ and addition of ‘fake voters’ from neighboring TDP strongholds in Telangana.
Next, on grand display in the pre-2019 poll scenarios will be ‘aye ram, Gaye ram’ politics or shifting party loyalties, pre-positioning money power, gerrymandering (attempt to manage the election result), targeted disqualification and even imprisonment of especially threatening electoral opponents. In retrospect, something much more dangerous is seeking to destroy semblance of democracy by the champions of “Save Democracy” and change the character of our society.
In the name of democracy, illiberal democracy and electoral authoritarianism have emerged in practice around the world today. Electoral authoritarians will not accept defeat. Illiberal democrats will not accept restraints. Illiberal democrats openly and brazenly attack core democratic institutions that would constrain the chief executive. Electoral authoritarians cheat so their power will not be lost. Illiberal democrats break norms and bend the rules so their power will not be limited. So, India is no exception both at the national and state levels.
Across India, particularly in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, democracy virtually stands on the brink of meltdown. Illiberal autocrats-cum-authoritarians like Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu are in the forefront of murdering democracy. What about self styled anarchist Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP Supremo, drubbed as dictator by his erstwhile colleagues? First, they must abandon self destructive course of democracy in their own backyards before appearing as champions of “Save Democracy” at the national level. Of course, dynasts like RG and others only believe in “High Command” or “Monarchial” culture of decision making in the name of democracy.
It raises many questions. When democracy erodes, what remains? When a democracy backslides, where does it wind up? When democracy dies, what is born?
Is India and its States rapidly sliding towards authoritarianism, particularly regional autocracy-cum-authoritarianism due to power-hungry elected political leaders in pursuit of perpetuating dynasty’s. The main question for democracy on the ballot today is, therefore, whether India will keep drifting into outright electoral autocracy-cum-authoritarianism.
If the past and ongoing happenings in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and even Kerala are any indication, the doomsday of democracy in not too distant in posterity.
Finally, as per experts, “Homo Politicus” is a unique breed, acutely conscious of its mortality. Indian political leaders in being and making are no different. Elected officials fancy themselves as agents of change, raring to shake up the status quo. From the moment they enter the ring, leaders are programmed to wield their mandates—real or perceived—in a race to enrich themselves and make superficial attempt to deliver on promises, which they are fully aware that they cannot deliver before the clock expires. So, they fake around as champions of change, but not appear as champions of inertia. They favor superficial and cosmetic overhauls and discount institutional memory.
The media hype over the crisis in the “deep state” or the “Institutions/government machinery” – the judiciary, the CVC, the CBI, the ED, the IT among others – both from the “Right and the Left” is also real. Bystanders or spectators feel betrayed and dismayed. They feel there is great conspiracy by the deep state, the people who really run the country, to overturn the vote.
Don’t Fear the Deep State. It’s the Shallow State – cronies, caucuses, arms dealers, backroom lobbies, most importantly the DALALS of Delhi and State Capitals – that are striking at the vitals of democracy in its already mutilated form on rapid downslide.
To sum up, even at the country’s founding, Indians were a multiethnic, polyglot mix of a unprecedented amalgam of languages, castes and religious denominations. People identify far more strongly by their origins, complicating any effort to bind the young nation with common beliefs.
Yet, the group of self-sacrificing leader’s post-Independence struggle opted for ‘Democracy” which was least suited to the chemistry of emerging society. They drafted the Constitution borrowing provisions after detailed study of Constitutions of various other countries like the USA, UK, France, Canada, Australia etc., and produced the longest written one in the world. It was intended to unite a highly pluralist-cum-diverse country under the banner of highly egalitarian ideas. Their ambition was to forge, out of a diverse population, a new national identity, uniting Indians under a single banner; but remains far remote today than ever.
Ipso facto, narrow parochial and sectarian partisanship has turned Indians against one another—and against the principles enshrined in our founding document. During the 1950s and 1960s, there was slow but steady resurgence of tribalism – Nagaland and Mizoram. With the outbreak of ‘identity politics’, there erupted outbreak of sub regionalism based on sons-of-the-soil agitations; and now supra tribalism in the form of populist demands.
Thus, by original conceptual the prescription and adoption of democracy was faulty – transformation of “a highly diverse and pluralist society” into “inclusive society” is a mirage and utopia particularly considering rapidly declining natural resources and jobs.
Democracy never existed; what to talk of “Save Democracy.”