Transformation in Indian Democracy by Gopal Singh SignUp

In Focus

Photo Essays


Random Thoughts

Our Heritage


Society & Lifestyle


Creative Writings

Book Reviews
Literary Shelf
Analysis Share This Page
Transformation in Indian Democracy
by Dr. Gopal Singh Bookmark and Share

The dramatic emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the recent political landscape has signaled that the Indian Democracy is beginning to mature. I realize that this is a big claim. There are myriads of questions about the future of AAP that need to be answered. But, at the same time there are serveral opportunities that are also emerging. There is no denying that the Indian politics is in a state of flux and it will never go back to business as usual. The objective of this article is to rationally analyze what is happening?

Brief Reflection of the Past:

Indians have to transform their thinking and “Indianize” their democracy to solve the problems that are specific to India. The framework of democracy can be borrowed from others but its approach has to be tailored to our needs. What works in Britain and USA may not necessarily work in India.

You can inherit (or borrow from others with some tailoring) the Constitution, you can inherit the institutions of Democracy, you can even inherit the executive and financial systems but you cannot inherit Democracy. The principles of democracy have to be learned, internalized and put in daily practice one step at a time. This takes commitment, discipline, perseverance and time. We inherited democracy from the British and we began implementing it like British. The British Democracy as implemented in Britain is not the same as it was implemented in India. We certainly had the intelligence to understand it but we did not have the commitment and discipline to “Indianize” it. The results can be seen in the debacles of the past 40+ years.

Those with money and power hijacked the democracy and have been using it for personal gains. With over 37 per cent of the population essentially uneducated and un-empowered, it was easy to exploit them on a variety of grounds including religion, caste, creed, regionalism, language, enticements and false promises during the election periods. Once the “elite” were elected, the electorates were essentially told to shut up and put up for the next 5 years only to have this vicious cycle start all over again. The institutions of Democracy appeared to be same from the outside but were hollowed from within. The educated and the middle class stayed on the side line and watched this debacle. They were shocked at first and then buried their heads in the sand hoping it will not affect them.

The spectacle of corruption in Indian democracy is despicable and most parties including the Congress and BJP are guilty of it. The platforms, manifestos and issues are only for electioneering and are essentially discarded immediately thereafter. The primary driving force is to come to power and form the government. If you cannot, then make deals with any other party, regardless of their background, manifestos and track record, and form a government. This is what our current honorable Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, calls the “Coalition Dharma”. Once the government is formed, all the “victors” enjoy the spoils of the victory. This is not any different than our “glorious” past. Only the violence of the battles has been replaced by the treachery of the “Indian” democracy. I realize that these are strong words and not all actions from these parties are selfish and corrupt but they have inflicted so much damage to all of us in the name of democracy that I do not feel any remorse in saying it.

Anna Hazare Movement:

The corruption combined with the ineptness of the UPA reached epidemic proportions. The middle class and the educated could not bear to stand on the sidelines. A spark was needed to draw them in. It was provided by the Anna Hazare movement of 2011 to bring in Jan Lokpal to provide systemic restraints to unchecked corruption by the politicians and the bureaucrats. It started drawing masses in great numbers. This was further empowered by the technological advancements in electronic media: internet, cellular phones, Facebook, Twitter, television etc. to bring in all concerned citizens to join in. The political establishment was startled. The UPA dug in to oppose the Jan Lokpal and proposed instead its own ineffective pacifier, the so called “Jokepal”. BJP on the other hand provided lip support to Anna Hazare to capitalize on the new wave. Soon thereafter, Anna Ji, who is a patriot, a simple man dedicated to his country, but not apt in dealing with the politicians was deceived and neutralized by the UPA. There is no doubt, if we examine what has happened in the Parliament since then, virtually all the parties, particularly Congress and BJP have no commitment to passing any effective Lokpal Bill. The current bill tabled in the Rajya Sabha is an exercise to pacify the public and take credit. Strange things are happening right now. Both, Congress and BJP are “very concerned” all of a sudden about passing a Lokpal bill. BJP ran to Anna Ji to show its support for him. When I saw Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram walking on the stage with Rahul Gandhi to emphasize how important Lokpal Bill is to wipe out corruption in the country, I could not help but remember the same people mocking the Civil Society representatives two years ago. What brought about the change in their DNA? Politics is truly an amazing arena – it bares your soul.

UPA and NDA repeatedly asserted that Civil Society is an extra constitutional organization and it has no right to agitate people and compel the Parliament to pass any particular legislation. Once the electorates have voted “us” in, we the “Parliament” are the sovereign – not the people and they should get out of the way. They challenged the Civil Society to form their own party and contest elections. With Peoples Representation Act in sad state of affairs as it is now, the incredible amount of money and organization as required today to contest an election, they made the obvious conclusion that the Civil Society agitators, common people with no money and organization, would be helplessly outmuscled and trounced in the elections. They had created and thrived in their own paradigm. They made the classic mistake of ages that has destroyed the proud and the mighty in the past. They could not think out of the box. No set of rules are absolute. Anything can be re-engineered from the bottom up with a different set of rules.

Emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party:

During the year 2012, from the grass roots of the Civil Society of the Hazare movement an incubation of a political organization started taking place. The very synthesis of this organization was different than others. It was not started by established old stalwarts with national prominence. Most of the elements that gravitated into this formation are previously uninvolved, disenchanted with status quo, nonpolitical young people with very little financial resources. What they lacked in money, they more than made up with ideals, dreams, enthusiasm, intellect, drive and commitment. They could easily see through the convoluted logic used by the established parties to support their selfish motives in the name of democracy. They systemically devised approach to dismantle each of these claims and laid out a platform for a party with clearly defined manifesto(s) that would be the foundation of an accountable and transparent government. None of these are extraordinary achievements that people in the existing parties could not think of. The real difference here is that these ideas of democracy were spawned by the pressing needs of the desperate people of this country and not inherited from British or the west. I am not being critical of British. I am merely stating that Indians have to transform their thinking and “Indianize” their democracy to solve the problems that are specific to India. The framework of democracy can be borrowed from others but its approach has to be tailored to our needs. What works in Britain and USA may not necessarily work in India.

Eventually this incubation went through the metamorphosis into what is now well known as the Aam Aadmi party.

What is so special about this Aam Aadmi Party?

That is a very good question. A lot is unknown about them: How cohesive as a group are they? What would keep them from not becoming opportunists like the existing parties? What makes them so morally righteous? Do they know how to transform ideals into programs and accomplishments? We can list a hundred more questions like these about them. They are in no position to offer any concrete answers right now. Only time will tell.

I will attempt to answer the above question as objectively as I can.

  • First: We have been so exploited and abused by our politicians so far that we have turned cynical. Anything new is seen as another twisted version of the old. We roll our eyes and exclaim “here they go again”. We have to be careful in our cynicism. Otherwise it will lead us to a blind alley with no way out. We have to keep our outlook open for any genuine change that may provide a fresh solution. We have to cautiously watch the new developments, study them carefully, question them wherever appropriate and support them progressively if they make sense. Any new opportunity starts small as a fledgling before it becomes a watershed event in retrospect. The mark of a progressive society is to recognize it early and support it cautiously.

  •  Second: The people of Delhi overwhelmingly supported them. It cannot be overemphasized that what happened in Delhi elections this December was a historical event. An infant party with practically no financial resources, made up of bunch of young people from all walks of life, from all across the country and the world captured the imagination of people in Delhi, understood their concerns, touched their hearts and compelled them to turn out in huge numbers and vote for them. They didn’t care if these guys were playing the game of a spoiler and had no chance of winning, as Congress and BJP had warned them.

  •  Third: Congress and BJP, who were ridiculing AAP before the elections are now beginning to imitate them. This is not necessarily a great compliment to AAP to have these tainted parties imitate them, but it is still worth noting. What changed their hearts so suddenly? Rahul Gandhi said he had learned a lesson from AAP and will take actions that will surprise everyone. This is an awkward statement. What is new about what AAP is doing? Didn’t he know that issue based politics and transparent and accountable government is what people have been demanding for decades? He will surprise himself more than anyone else when he tries to implement these changes in his party. It is simply not in the DNA of the Congress party to assimilate any of this. Too little - too late!

It is also amusing to see the awkward repositioning attempts of BJP post Delhi elections. They would not engage in any backroom politics of enticing the MLAs from AAP or Congress with money and positions to form their government. They are taking the high road this time. The Indian electorates have awakened and see through all these petty moves. The more they try to act honest the more absurd they look. They have been exposed and find it very difficult to create a new cover. It was amusing to see Arun Jaitely run to Anna Hazare to express BJP’s support for the Lokpal bill currently before the Rajya Sabha. There is a race to do something “good” to shout about in the coming elections. BJP should not forget that people are equally fed up with them. The only reason they are getting the support in the recent elections is that people are disgusted with Congress and find BJP as the only alternative so far. That is about to change now and certainly more so in the future.

Politics in India is changing. There is a transformation taking place in the Indian democracy. It is not going to be the business as usual. New opportunities are appearing on an otherwise dark horizon. We need to be watchful and welcome and support any new efforts that empower us and give us a brighter future. All eyes are glued on the Aam Aadmi Party right now. Would they deliver? Would we be watchful in working for our own deliverance?

In the next article we will look into the Strategies and Action Plans that the Aam Adami Party needs to take to ensure its success.

Continued to “Mature Democracy & Principles”

Share This:
More by :  Dr. Gopal Singh
Top | Analysis
Views: 1913      Comments: 8

Comments on this Article

Comment I dream nothing of the sort that you are interpreting. I do understand how one can view it in that way. In my next sequel I have tried to expand upon what is the process leading to a mature democracy. It may be an Eldorado but still within sight to try for. There is a fine line of demarcation of responsibilities between people and the elected officials in running the country. The attempt to include the people in the process should not be viewed as communism. In fact if anything the communism is far from it. There are plenty of examples of crises in democracies when the elected officials cut the people off and took the sole responsibilities of running the government all by themselves.

The term "Indianising" would be hard to understand from a British perspective. When an IAS or IPS trainee in India goes to the civil service training school here, he is still taught from the old British manuals that you are here to rule the country (instead of to serve the country).. That made sense in British context but it is absurd in Indian context. What is even more absurd is that we still use it. The entire set of responsibilities for the Indian bureaucrats should be completely re-written in Indian context. This has not happened here yet.

As far as what is possible in India, the future will tell. The current events are in the process of bringing about a peaceful structural change.

12/20/2013 09:27 AM

Comment Your article, indeed your thinking is based on the term 'democracy' which is applied as though it exists, even to ‘Indianising’ it, but which is never defined. Democracy is ideally the rule of the people. India has a representative democracy, whereby the elected ruling party is the one with the majority vote. What keeps an elected government on its toes is the equal rights of members of the electorate whereby dissent to government policy can be freely expressed by opposition groups or parties, and if sufficiently strong can bring a democratic government down on points of policy. This process is the democratic process. You seem to have an ideal conception of democracy which puts one in mind of the vision of communism. Well, we see what happened to communism as it turned out in practice: corruption based on paranoia of the leaders; which is much the same as what happens in a representative democracy, where it is the paranoia of leadership, of being indispensable to the country, that brings successive governments down. To imagine as you seem to some sort of communist democracy, where the axiom is people power, as in the present case resting on the emerging Aam party, is to go back to the failed roseate dreams of communism itself. There will always be the paranoia of leadership, where the whole country exceeds the people in it, and works for the few, who actually think they are doing what is best, and reward their own efforts at keeping the country going. In Britain, a much smaller place than India, with a population of 60 million, the labour movement bettered the lot of the working class to its present middle class standard of living. This would not be possible in India, due to its teeming hundreds of millions. What exactly is your credible vision of a working - with all the lessons of the past - democracy in India? - might be the first thing to make clear.

12/19/2013 23:23 PM

Comment Dinesh Ji,
I stated that the Indian democracy is "beginning" to mature. Where it is on the scale of maturity is subject to individual judgment.

I also stated that we Indians (understandably) have turned cynical when it comes to politics. Anything new is something to be wary about. We just have to make sure that we do not miss the opportunity to encourage and support when something good happens. Again, we have to use our judgment. I have staked my judgment.

As Amartya Sen recently said about AAP "In this case there are two reasons to be delighted—one that it has happened and second - we Indians are unduly pessimistic and anything that demonstrates that they have gone for optimism must be a good thing. So from both points of view I'm delighted."

You bring a host of other good points that I intend to cover in the next article on this series.

12/18/2013 04:49 AM

Comment I think AAP party should capture the golden opportunity they got to form a govt in New Delhi.

It can be reasonably predicted (based on history) that whether AAP forms govt with support of Congress or no party forms a govt, a mid-term election or re-election is inevitable.

If AAP takes seat in GOVT, they will have golden opportunity to show public the difference, even 4 months are enough to show this difference. But if AAP does not form govt, then they will find it very hard to convince voters to vote for them in larger numbers than before. Next time it will be a larger Modi wave, with voters convinced that Congress is huge looser and with doubt in every one's mind whether AAP can form govt on its own or not. All these factors will probably work negative for AAP next time.

But if AAP forms a govt and congress pulls out support, they will have every reason to ask for more voters to support them, they will be able to convince masses to support them as it happened with BJP in 1999 elections after AIADMK pulled out it support.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
12/17/2013 08:42 AM

Comment Sir,

Such 'positive' signals in Indian democracy have occured in past too, when the Congress government was defeated in Loksabha elections - 1977, 1989, 1996, 1997 and 1999.

However, after all these occurances, the alternate ruling coalition or party could not maintain distance from corruption. Rather than crushing the prevailing corruption in system, they adopted it (leaving 1977 and 1989 occurances).

So, I think it is too early to smile for victory of AAP, although it gives us a hope.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
12/17/2013 08:35 AM

Comment Dear Sir,

On theoretical grounds .........

Rather than terming it as 'democracy getting matured', will it not be more appropriate to term it as 'sign of system getting ready for improvement'?

I think it is one of the characteristics of democracy that best candidates are not chosen to power, it is the most popular candidate that is chosen to rule for a defined period.

If democracy was 'matured' in USA, then the Presidential campaigns would not need semi-nude beauties to campaign for candidates !!

People across globe in democratic systems, vote politicians to power often on very simple grounds. Until and unless this selection process of voters gets logical, showing good judgmental aptitude, no democracy can be termed to be mature. Although they can be termed to stabilize or working in equilibrium.

So was the equilibrium in Indian democracy in initial decades after independence till there was one party who won every time and ruled all the time. It started practices that the system followed. Although, those practices were against national interests.

Now, that new political system is probably getting evolved, it is not in state of equilibrium. This is better termed as ‘change’ but not ‘maturity’, because the voters are reacting as per their grievances. There is no guarantee that they will select best party or best candidate in 2014 Loksabha elections.

And even if best ones are elected, there will be no guarantee that bests candidates will elected in 2019. Because the way voters decide has limit of judgment humans have, especially when so much of information is hidden and only selective information reaches public.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
12/17/2013 07:35 AM

Comment Virtually any movement starts with "rag-tag" people. Anna Hazare toiled for 17 years before he became a national figure. Look at Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. The list goes on. As I said earlier any event that in retrospect becomes watershed event is barely noticed as it happens. The "rag-tags" have been oppressed by the "established" and now they are rising. It does not take a genius to run a government. The first and foremost requirements are honesty, integrity and commitment. These are not in the exclusive domain of the "endowed".

Your skepticism is understandable. Let us give them some time. They might prove that they are worthy of running a good and honest government that we have not seen for so many years. More important than that, they might prove that we as a people are capable of running a democracy that we can be proud of.

12/16/2013 22:27 PM

Comment The enamor for AAP is reflective of the Congress-induced depression and Arvind's rag-tag assemblage is no substitute to a political dispensation is bound to lose the novelty by the time of the next husting.

BS Murthy
12/16/2013 12:28 PM

Name *
Email ID
 (will not be published)
Comment *
Verification Code*
Can't read? Reload
Please fill the above code for verification.
1999-2022 All Rights Reserved
No part of this Internet site may be reproduced without prior written permission of the copyright holder