Controlled Democracy!

Farooq Abdullah’s Strange Suggestion

Speaking last weekend at The Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on the subject of the Indo-Pakistan Kashmir dispute Dr. Farooq Abdullah came up with a very strange suggestion. Earlier former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammed addressing the same leadership summit had said that Indian decision making was not sufficiently swift for which he recommended less democracy. Dr. Mahathir opined that India had too much democracy which paralyzed decision making.

Inspired by the Malaysian leader, Dr. Abdullah said that India should introduce “controlled democracy” as it obtains in Malaysia . He drew attention to the long pending Kashmir dispute between India and Kashmir which he implied might be resolved through “controlled democracy”.

I don’t quite know the nature of democracy that exists in Malaysia . But it is commonly conceded that Indian governance has become almost paralyzed. This is not only affecting the Kashmir issue but a host of other issues concerning the nation. However, with all respect to Dr. Mahathir and Dr. Abdullah both leaders are horribly wrong in adducing their reasons for paralysis in India’s governance. Indian governance does not suffer as Dr. Abdullah suggests because it lacks “controlled democracy”. India suffers because it lacks democracy. Indian decision making does not suffer as Dr. Mahathir suggests because India has too much democracy. India suffers because it has too little democracy. There is need to appreciate the basic postulates that define democracy. 

The only leader in the subcontinent who clearly laid out a concrete settlement formula was former President Musharraf of Pakistan. He wanted soft borders between the two sides of Kashmir, a measure of autonomy in both sides and joint management by New Delhi and Islamabad of the entire state.

Democracy delivers what free people want regarding the problems that affect them. That implies freedom of speech and expression. It implies decisions that represent the majority view. It implies free and fair elections to determine the majority. It implies freedom to associate and form parties that fight elections. It implies the right of people to address problems affecting them through free choice. That in turn implies for a large multi-ethnic, multi-lingual nation a rational division of responsibility that allows a system in which local bodies determine local policies, state governments determine state policies and the national government determines policies affecting the whole nation. In other words it implies a federal democracy which alone delivers at all levels of governance genuine democracy to citizens of a large diverse society. 

Contrast this with what obtains in India . Contrary to our Constitution we have the Westminster system of parliamentary government. Contrary to the Constitution we have a President with the largest singular electoral mandate reduced to being a titular head. The President alone has the ultimate sworn responsibility to preserve the Constitution and law. The Governor of a state who should be the President’s nominee to likewise protect the Constitution and law in his state has been reduced to the central cabinet’s factotum even though the central government may lack the electoral mandate to govern that particular state. We have a central government that exercises powers over states in which it has no electoral mandate. We have destroyed our federal polity. We allow the Prime Minister elected only by the Lok Sabha to encroach on the powers of the states. We allow chief ministers to encroach on the powers of the district administration. We allow district heads to encroach on the powers of primary local bodies. In this distorted version of the system outlined by our Constitution issues are ignored or dealt with by people lacking empathy with the area they govern. Is it surprising therefore if politicians focus only on personal advancement? Is it surprising that there is paralysis in India’s governance? 

Let us turn our attention to the Kashmir dispute which led Dr. Abdullah to endorse “controlled democracy”. Inadequate as our democracy might be our failure to resolve the Kashmir dispute cannot be traced to it. Incidentally Dr. Abdullah might note that “controlled democracy” would not have allowed Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to raise even a whimper against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The Kashmir dispute remains unsolved because our worthy politicians do not know what they want in Kashmir. Those who do know what they want are too coy to express themselves. That goes not only for central leaders and state leaders but also for the so called revolutionary separatist leaders. They dwell on all kinds of grievances against the conduct of either New Delhi or Srinagar as the case may be, but never clearly define what their ultimate goal in Kashmir is. Without specifying what we want in Kashmir how can any progress be made in dealing with Pakistan? Reiterating the desire for peace and normalization is not enough. On what precise terms is peace being sought? Do we want the conversion of the Line of Control into an international border, grab entire Kashmir, surrender part of Kashmir to Pakistan or make part of Kashmir independent? 

The only leader in the subcontinent who clearly laid out a concrete settlement formula was former President Musharraf of Pakistan. He wanted soft borders between the two sides of Kashmir, a measure of autonomy in both sides and joint management by New Delhi and Islamabad of the entire state. It was a proposal deserving a response. But no leaders in Srinagar or in New Delhi responded clearly. I pointed out that joint management was impractical as long as the armies of India and Pakistan remained competitive and were not cooperative. Politicians could have taken up that caveat and confronted Pakistan with a choice. No such thing was attempted. Never mind our flawed democracy, how does Dr. Abdullah expect progress in defusing the Kashmir dispute in the light of such politics? Are our leaders too obsessed with other issues, too scared to speak up, or too unconcerned to remain so supine on the Kashmir issue? 

Finally, a word of advice to Dr. Abdullah: India does not need politicians who control democracy. India needs politicians who control themselves. 


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

Top | Analysis

Views: 3387      Comments: 3

Comment Dear Sir,

I don't know exact speach given by Dr. Abdullah in the summit, but the intuitive understanding by Controlled Democracy seems to be a system where checks and balances are in place.

What we are seeing is exceesive misuse of "Right to speak":

- to save himself from the bigger issue (as his party worker was beaten up at his house and the situation worsened later, all media was broadcasting only one topic then), and then Omar came up with AFSPA controversy to create louder noise in order to distract attention from the issue that could unseat him.

- in order to escape from noises ove sever corruption charges, Mayawati came up with devine idea of dividing U.P. into 4 states, attention shifted there

- in order to avoid Lokpal and probably to avoid noise on some other unidentified stuff, the govt. came up with FDI proposal and stick to it for days togather while opposition helped in blocking actvities in parliament.

- And now the great intelligent Sibal sahab have come up with relatively trivial matter of screening contents on Facebook and Google before publishing it, surely tomorrow and day after it will create enough noise so that some unidentified (and rather harmful to someone) issue is not discussed in parliament.



We expect self control from these politicians ??

They are ready to sell the clothes which we have put on without knowledge of ours - if it suits their personal interests !

Certainly, some kind of control is needed and rather urgently.

(We are missing the kind of President that was intended in original constitution and being pointed our repeatedly by you these days.)

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
06-Dec-2011 23:49 PM

Comment Dear Sir,

I disagree that proposal laid out by Musharraf needed any positive response at all.

Neither autonomy to the state nor any joint management of it would solve the issue - because I suspect the root cause of the problem is missing here.

Further, giving autonomy will further complicate the problem and one day the state of J&K will be out from India's map - if that is done.

First, no where I could read or listen to – what is the real issue of Kashmir. Different entities have different versions.

The Pakistani version (needless to say that this is also version of Terrorists and separatists) : The people in Kashmir are being mishandled by the Indian-rule tyranny, and therefore it needs to be freed.

The Indian version: Part of Kashmir is being held by Pakistan, and hence there is a border dispute. Which needs to be resolved. Kashmir is an internal matter of India. And there is foreign sponsored terrorism in the region that needs to be curbed.

Sadly, in last one decade or so, the citizens there are influenced by the other side and have become sensitive to any kind of aggression, while terrorists get shelter here and there.

It should be seen in the background of information, that J&K was a peaceful area till 1986, soon after terrorism flourished in Punjab, it was adopted as proxy war tactic in J&K too. Where it got some better support from locals.

And it can not be the desire of autonomy that Kashmiri pundits are thrown away from their homeland - which no one talks about.
It is worth noticing that the situation has deteriorated in UPA-1 tenure, and that deterioration is reflected in changes in public opinion & perception (newspaper Editorials and opinion sections best displayed it).

So, what is the problem ?

When the problem itself is not defined, what solution can be suggested ?

President Musharraf, who masterminded Kargil, can only provide a suggestion that was populist in Pakistan.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
05-Dec-2011 06:10 AM

Comment Right on!
Isn't that exactly where someone as decisive as Modi comes in?
That's probably why they hate him so9 much!

05-Dec-2011 03:42 AM

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