Democratic Set-Up and Democracy

If it is democracy it has to be only sane; prone to headache, fault lines and fits but capable of raising the bar and achieving the highest standards possible, being in sound health and rearing greatest disquisition provided measures to this effect are in place. A democratic system never guarantees an absolute Right; for that to happen we will have to revert back to righteous monarchy but makes sure that every crepuscular Wrongs is set right to the maximum push-able degree. Hence a democratic setup aims to have an ideal happy society at its core even at the expanse of a very successful one in riches.

When looked at from this view democracy paves the way for the concepts of equity and equality. This equality further can have myriad aspects to be explored but the rudimentary seeds when watered with the civil justness give rise to the tree of highest possible esteem having branches touching every section of the society.

The trunk of this tree is rooted in the capital of the nation and hence the soil of the capital will have crucial bearings on the health of the tree. More healthy and green will it be better the all encompassing shadow. This esteem is nothing but a link between the democracy and those who are being democratized by an official decree that in all senses is also a granting of consent on the part of its subjects. But still even as pious and righteous a system as democracy may be, like any other system of governance democracy too does cleave society into two parts.

The sanctity of the democracy can be gauged by which one comes first and which second. If people think they come first not their representatives then it is assertive democracy which is good but not great. A large measure of this democracy is contingent upon the intellectual level of people which broadly and quite curiously is nothing but a reflection of their representatives. Thereby much more than this assertiveness which works as a healthy dose for any democracy to grow it is the nature of assertion that determines the direction the democracy will venture into. If representatives position themselves after people it is nothing short of a utopia though along with its own share of fault lines. At the most any society can hope for bouts of these utopian moments for it is not easy to fill the lacunas and chinks in an democracy owing to its being so open and at the same time hostage to the world economic and social order. In third case if people are too acquiescent and toady and representatives too royal and dominant than democracy appears making way for another system which wears the same clothes but gives account of a different disposition. This is psephocracy.

Every feature that marks up a democratic set-up will belong to this new system also but these are the elections and their results, not the service and the satisfaction and the plum posts and perks, not the sense of achievement that seek to gain the center stage in this system. This system hovers around highfalutin celebrations but seeks to devour the reasons for these celebrations. Even with celebrations fast on our heels a large swathe of population remains indifferent and skeptical of the outcome.

Every humanized democracy paces ahead with its head aloft with dignity and eyes warm and anchored in vision deriving its power from the sturdiness of spine of election and vim of legs of sense of service and power of motivation. The two hands of justice and equality wave only in tandem with the pace of legs. So while spine carries the whole body together, individually these are the different limbs that do the quotidian work and help the body live its full existence to leverage its very being and ambiance it happens to be in. The idea of equality, especially economic one is a chimera but civil equality i.e. the societal deference for every work and modus vivendi that fits in the ethical framework of liberal intellectual minds ranging from past to present is achievable.

Now imagine we have a body with only spine and no limbs. Democracy too looks same when elections and alliances come to become the be all and end all of a democratic set-up. To get finer perspective we can also equate this state of democracy with the mental setup of a student aiming to crack an entrance examination on account of whatever he could cram in a fortnight before the exam. His buoying through the exam is bound to be proved disastrous in the long run for both candidate himself and the environment he will inhabit. Invariably conflicts will arise thanks to lack of loyalty and dedication to the environment. These very innocuous looking conflicts take on dire consequences when the desire to have a sense of purpose slips in one's life. This conflict when engendered in political arena which even empirically is all about social service exerts undue influence on entire nation and more importantly on the very definition of service. Every so Often we see the manifestations of these conflicts when we bear witness to a politician utterly naked in his avariciousness. It is not the welfare of the society which forms the crux of a polity outwardly steeped in democracy but the greed that drives his actions and deeds. Corruption which like a waterfall falls forms top to bottom not other way round is nothing but just one offshoot of this conflict. When the conflicting position of a candidate whose cramming planted him at the wrong place in the system leads to uncharitable ways then the challenges another candidate who sought to cheat his way into the superficial but personally favorable result poses to the idea of democracy can easily be imagined.

This report by Vijay Simha, published in 'Caravan', journal of politics and culture, March 1-15, 2009, drives home at least one side of this elections dominated democracy. During a meeting of senior BJP leaders held sometime in November 2008 to choose nominees for vacant seats in the Rajya Sabha when L.K. Advani proposed the name of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to one of these seats adducing his ill health (was he giving the suggestion that an unwell person could easily be accommodated in Rajya Sabha?), Rajnath Singh, the current BJP president pointed out that if Vajpayee could step out and file his nomination to the Rajya Sabha he could do the same for Lok Sabha even and easily win the election without even campaigning given the popularity and esteem among people.

This meeting is a perfect epitome of how some political leaders do their calculations and does Rajnath Singh's idea of democracy revolve around only filing nominations and winning elections? Didn't his political experience make him think that winning an election from a constituency is also about taking care of it? Will Vajpayee, one of the only few statesmen among our living politicians, be able to serve his constituency deeming the health problems he is running into. The act of reducing a leader like Vajpayee into one more number in the total tally speaks not only poorly of his own party but also of the democracy which seems to have been incarcerated inside the walls of elections. Unfortunately this is just one case of many that exemplifies the ills that psephocracy brings.

Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara had once said,

'Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians.'

If we contrast this verily quote with what Aristotle had to say we will find how far the intents and ideals of democracy have moved from their original interpretations. When Aristotle said,

'in democracies the poor are more powerful than the rich, because there are more of them and whatever is decided by the majority is sovereign'

did he have in mind the virtuosity of rulers or the power of awareness of people? Don't we miss both? In most of the democratic set-ups today technically at least owing to either gerrymandering or number of candidates or parties the triumph may come even with less than one third of the total ballots cast.

What Che Guevara had said stands true today. This truth takes on even more dangerous form when a large percentage of voters happen to be either illiterate or semi literate. Because democracy allows every single citizen to have his say it all boils down to the characteristics of the majority. If majority is quiescent and inert then democracy will be nothing but a passive one. The choice of the representatives will not be governed by work done by the candidates in the interest of the society, ideological leanings, and election manifestoes but by personal factors. This results in whetting up those very ills which a democratic society in all its fairness stands to fight. Largely in our country a large percentage of election outcomes is held hostage either to anti incumbency factor or even more prevalent caste factor and religion factor thanks to BJP. Election manifestoes are something neither we read nor our parties do take seriously. Even if they do take trouble to write one mostly it is nothing but a rehash of whatever had been written there once upon a time. In 2007 BSP leader Mayawati secured a huge majority in UP assembly elections not only without any manifesto delineating her party's programs, policies and vision but even after publicly ridiculing the very concept of writing manifestoes. If her rustic approach and electoral calculations struck a chord with voters shall we admire her political acumen or accuse her of exploiting the weaknesses of democracy?

This weakness also have lead to criminalization of politics or as often people say politicization of criminals thanks to their election winning abilities. If a person convicted in any case other than political wins an election then it points to huge chinks in our democratic structure that needs to be dealt with greatest immediacy. A politician who in any democracy could have been a bulwark against societal ills becomes the fountain and patron of these ills instead. Worse still not only does he nurture ills and diseases but like a virus also resists the attempts at every medication and often, unfortunately even defeats them. That leaves democracy with the plight of a tamed animal tied to the peg of election rather than the liberty of a human being bound to his roots but free to roam, learn and serve.

For a democracy to be true to its definition and purpose not only do we need only party manifestoes but also strong ideological divide in the society instead of class or caste or religious divide. While caste divide abets regionalization and deigns the administration it is lopsided class divide that results in huge gaps in earnings and as we have often seen in the history it leads to frustration and even revolutions. The sad truth about revolutions that sometimes they are nothing but just a divergence leading to a path seedier than the prevailing stands even today. So far as religious divide's ramifications are to be said not only distant but even very recent history has evinced the venom they can spill into the vessel of the society and ghettoisations they can lead to. An ideological divide, on the other hand, often ends up as a precursor to the constructive debate in the society. That brings us to the gospel truth that debates are the leashes which a democracy should use to prevent its cart from running astray and ride smooth.

Quite sadly though any discussion of democracy involves ramblings about civic sense but somewhere the talk of ethics and morals values remains untouched. We can't have a stronger paradox than that. It is not that toleration of other's views and deference toward other societies is not nestled in the spirit of democracy but a skewed picture of democracy does give ample room for such discrepancies to creep in.

Here I am not talking about the religious intolerance, terrorism or self styled gurus and mullahs of ethics and moral values which we all know not only stand on the other side of democracy but even leer at it. But in contrast, think, if a software engineer of the new emerging India can kill his four year old daughter allegedly for as absurd a reason as her coming in the way of his spending quality time with his wife or a CEO of a TV channel beheads his wife or a political leader chops his wife into pieces etc then what sort of societal values are we venturing into?

If people belonging to educated or even elite class can indulge in such medieval and barbarian acts with what hope we expect people living in the recesses of poverty, gloom and darkness of illiteracy to give account of moralistic values. Isn't it incumbent upon all of us that we call into question our own comportments and those who helm our democratic set-up? Some might want to dismiss these incidents as stray and aberrations but when acutely observed over a period of time only the thinly reported incidents even from the metros are enough to sicken us let alone digging deeper into the dark lanes of hinterland where often law faces the scimitar on the altar of ignorance or insularity. Not only our politicians but we all stand guilty of reducing a system passed onto us by our forefathers to a mere formality. If we and especially those whose job entails this don't squirm at the sight of a bare feet emaciated boy walking in the excruciating heat or shivering cold or a women splashing contaminated water off her body in the public or a child in an English medium public school using cuss words and expletives at the age of eight then it is not the slow pace of lumbering democracy but the fast pace of the vehicles of governors of democracy and a lack of community-hood that stands reprehensible.

Democracy may be just a political system of governance but it is humanity that propelled it to come into being. Without humanity democracy is just a body shaking but not moving and alive but not growing. It is imperative on our part that if we pretend to care for democracy we should also care for what I hold as nothing short of temple: primary schools among other things. Unfortunately the primary schools which give the child the first embrace of his life outside his mother are too clumsy and repulsive. The beginning gets as worse as it could get. It goes without saying that often it is none but democracy that bears the burnt of an adulthood grown out of uncomfortable or absent embraces.

This all having been said still we have some reasons to take pride in whatever muddling we have done through last six decades. Not only have we succeeded in preventing the fabric of democracy from ripping apart completely but have a system which needs overhauling, rectification and makeover but is indispensable. As the elections for 15th Lok Sabha draw near once again we will get to see this festival of democracy being celebrated across the India. I hope soon we will realize that election is a question fundamentally tied to the spirit of democracy asking us the basic tenets of a democracy. That is how it reminds us of the answers we have to look for. Though answer of the ballot will determine only the fate of the symbol that represents the question it is the debate about what could or should have been the answer or who the answerer is or what does the symbol represent and more importantly what our answer is will determine the flowering or wilting of democratic values.     


More by :  Pramod Khilery

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