If AIDS is the syndrome that can upset the destiny of any man, its counterpart in the case of nations or institutions must be much more dangerous. King of France, Louis XIV, made his distinct contribution to the degeneration of ‘man-ruling-man’ systems when he declared “I am the State”. Though he himself was involved in a monarchy, his flawed philosophy produced more followers in democracies than monarchies.
Like AIDS it is not a disease that is passed on from one to another nor is it a symptom of total failure of any of the systems. But it is a syndrome that develops over a period of time among leaders who come to yield power in institutions and nations under peculiar circumstances. Let us name this AIDS that afflict democratic nations and institutions as L14S. Consequences of L14S are invariably disastrous for the leaders and systems that come to contract it.
Though both nations and institutions are equally amenable to L14S affecting its leaders, the strengthening of various watch-dog institutions in democratic countries has cut down its occurrence at the level of nations. Also, now there is the big bulldog watching all nations and its leaders in a uni-polar world. In a way it is good that there is someone watching all the world leaders and their potential for contracting L14S sooner or later. But it becomes counterproductive, when they themselves inflict some selected leaders with L14S to serve the temporary needs of the lone superpower. These leaders with L14S are later hanged or hooted out like rabid dogs. But there are those who develop L14S over a period of time at the top. It is worthwhile taking a look at how the syndrome descends among some of our democratically elected leaders without any extraneous reasons.
L14S in Nations
If it was Louis XIV himself who said it in France, it was a lesser known Barooah who said “Indira is India” in India. What followed is recent history. If the basic pillars of democracy were strong enough in India then, India would have been in a different league by now. But the huge giant on weak knees that India was (and to a great extent, is), the effect of L14S was fast and devastating. Emergency followed and Indian Democracy was put back by at least a couple of decades by the excesses first and its enquiries and punishments later. Precious time was lost during the growing age of a democratic nation.
Advent of a Narasimha Rao a few years earlier, ushering in a two-digit GDP growth rate, would have almost put India at the very top by now. But L14S is like that and its effect is much more ravaging in the case of youths than oldies.
To make matters worse, L14S has never really gone off from the Indian sub-continent for the last half a century. Whenever and wherever its antithesis Democracy takes root, L14S is also lurking around. The case of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Nepal is no better than India’s. When there are no external threats and the leader gets a chance to do something good for the country, what strikes invariably is L14S and not the sane and sound thoughts to do something long lastingly good for the motherland.
There have been very few leaders in democracies who have not fallen for the sycophants and advisers, who are the carriers of L14S virus. The distinct lack of real leadership qualities, coupled with larger than life images that these leaders develop, always take them to their political graveyards sooner or later. Keeping away from L14S needs much moral courage and many inherent abilities, and that is exactly what many of them lack.
L14S in Institutions
Easier preys for L14S in the present world are the leaders of various institutions. Many of them are titans in tiny worlds of their own making. First few times, these tiny titans get elected democratically on shear merit and they do significant contributions too. And then the problem starts. In the midst of appreciation and accolades, many of them get cut away from the outside world that is always thirsting for change. TINA factor (There Is No Alternative) sets in and the leader himself starts believing in the words of the sycophants around him or her. Then it is only a matter of time for L14S to claim its next victim. The L14S afflicted leader genuinely believes that he or she is irreplaceable, and that the institution itself will be destroyed if someone else comes in his or her place.
Democratic countries have the maximum number of democratic institutions and L14S has taken its maximum toll in such countries. The unimaginable diversity that is found in anything and everything about India has resulted in a mind boggling number of democratic institutions also. Thanks to the democratic tag, free and fair elections are held but the L14S victims at the top scuttle real democratic spirit from flourishing. How can we expect democracy to be fruitful in any institution where 70+ old leaders are the front runners in elections for several years? Democracy for the sake of it is not want we want. We should be looking for the democratic spirit for progress and development that can come only from younger and younger leaders progressively.
The inseparable trio of democracy-development-dynamism can happen only if there is constant turnover of leaders at the top of any institution or nation. L14S is an unacceptable syndrome that is afflicting the leaders of so many democratic institutions and nations. While most of us are understandably powerless in doing anything about national leaders, we can certainly do something for inculcating the spirit of dynamism and change in the nearest local institution that we form part of. And if we are successful in defeating L14S in most such institutions, the eternal quest for change and democracy will definitely throw up more and more youthful alternatives from our own midst for our own nations. A giant democratic nation like India can make real progress only in such a scenario.