Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Discontents of Indian democracy

Updated: February 22, 2018 2:56 pm

There has been a series of leaders in the country who have boasted of India as the largest democracy of the world. If it is so, what are the merits of such size and such claim of working in mass based system of the government? On the other hand Winston Churchill, who led Britain in crisis of world war II successfully calls it worst form of government. No doubt, principle of utilitarianism that seeks maximum good of maximum number governs it, but it is also essential that this form of government should be backed by talented people and those who believe in values of good conduct. The results of various behavioral studies show it to be slow and less gifted form of government which assumes people following good values as prerequisite. Recently there was a skirmish in the house when even Prime minister Modi had to remind the members, who thought democracy is Congress’ find, that democracy is gift of our ancient practice of Panchyati raj or participative governance system since ages. There is no doubt western system is younger than the form of government practiced in India when  kings worked with participation of cabinet and common men the most important ingredient was the participative system which was the essence of government in being open and consultative. Ancient Indian system placed great value on the pursuit of Dharma by the King and this primadoma governed the actions of the ruler. Plato who expounded Socrates” system also talked of Philosopher King who would ensure justice for the people. But the form of government that is similar to Parliamentary system was derided by Greek philosopher as “mobocracy”. What we are witnessing today in both houses of Parliament is nothing short of this deriding description of the form of government by Plato.

In both houses, opposition is running down the government not by logic or debate but by shouting and sloganeering. No doubt Congress is right in maintaining that they have learnt it from BJP, only who indulged in such rowdy behavior in the house when they were in opposition. BJP set a bad precedent but it does not mean the bad becomes good by following it while appreciating that there is demerit in following noise and shout matches instead of debating and discussing matters to resolve matters. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that any member can make cat calls or whistles or even laugh like a goose in demented manner as done by member of Rajya Sabha Renuka Choudhry when Prime Minister started his address. Prime Minister was derided with such cackling that cannot be called a laugh but certainly a schizophrenic grimace. PM of course must be hurt but he did not show it and very politely asked the Chair to allow her as he heard such a laugh after it was in Ramayana. Now the hell breaks out and there is a charge that Renuka is women and women are not treated equal. Strange when she had done most unwoman like action as vulgar as no decent woman would do. It became an issue of unjust treatment of women as she was being treated like Shurpanakha in Ramayana whose nose was cut by Laxman for offending Rama. PM never said it openly but obliquely it meant that only. It can be only inferred not brazen and loud like Renuka”s act.

Such non issues became the focal point of fight between treasury benches and opposition in upper house that turned into a down turn house. Upper house was called as upper as it appeared to be providing higher level of national concern and intellectual debate but frivolous issues now became common in both the house including Rajya Sabha.

All this goes to show that quality of work in houses has hardly added to in depth objective processing of national issues in larger interest of the country. It is no democracy but resembles mobocracy. It is now needed that both government and opposition must think on improving the working of both the houses. It might need changes in the Constitution and we need to develop consensus which may mean even borrowing from other especially US constitution to ensure that houses work properly and no such filly buster becomes daily affair.

Democracy is not just written down rules. It has a soul and spirit which aims at participative work with respect to each other. It needs a culture of consensus and willingness to sacrifice for national interest. If these values are thrown to winds and no respect to constitutional positions is shown, it will become a trite and hollowed institution. It needs people with stature and thinking in sane manner. Our legislators need to deeply introspect on what they have made of it (the writer is former Chairman, International Airports Authority of India)

By Prof. NK Singh

 

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