Saturday, August 13th, 2022 23:59:52

India Losing Democratic Ethos

Updated: March 22, 2014 1:01 pm

Finally, India will vote for its next government starting April 7. The Election Commission announced dates for elections to the 16th Lok Sabha this week. In this grand exercise, around 814 million people will be eligible to cast their votes–about 100 million more than in the last elections in 2009. But, after the declaration of general elections, the skirmishes between the cadres of AAP and BJP in Delhi and Lucknow were witnessed, which engendered the national disgrace. For, we are proud to be the largest democracy in the world, which has witnessed, for more than sixty-five years, the conduct of successful elections, peaceful changes of government at the Centre and in states, people exercising freedom of expression, movement and religion. India has also been developing and transforming economically and socially. At the same time, we, quite often, listen complains about prevalent inequalities, injustice or non-fulfillment of expectations of certain sections of the society. These people do not feel themselves participative in the democratic process. And this is substantiated by the fact that the just-concluded Lok Sabha had the ingredients contrary to the dignity of the House, characterised by vulgar display of intolerance and indiscipline. The important thing is our MPs and MLAs are cut off from ground level and rather than working for public welfare, as they are assumed to, they work for themselves, so they do not have anything that may help them in acquiring the next term and here comes the cheap tricks of casteism, communalism, unnecessary agitations like they do in the Lok Sabha, or the one witnessed at Rail Bhawan, New Delhi. It seems Indian democracy is nothing more than a game of greedy personalities to satisfy their greed. Hardly, there were any debates on the tribal or the poor being uprooted from their homelands in the name of development, while industrialists are free to do anything. What happened in the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha was a new low. Furthermore, with money playing a decisive role in elections, both in terms of investment and return on investment, it is not difficult to conclude that Indian elections are becoming hostage to money owners and lenders. What is lamentable is the fact that even as the elections become more vibrant and transparent, Indian national politics is becoming hereditary, with power passing to a few hundred families. According to an estimate, of the 545 MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha, 28.6 per cent had a hereditary connection. Of the two leading parties, BJP had 19 per cent hereditary MPs, while 37.5 per cent of Congress MPs were hereditary. Moreover, what happened this week in Lucknow, Delhi and other parts of the country corroborates that politics in the country today carries with it an image of intrigue, venality, disorder and anarchy. We need to correct it urgently, so that our people begin to view politics as a respectable profession in the service of society as was perceived during the long years of our struggle for freedom.

In fact, since Independence, India has been functioning as a responsible democracy. The same has been appreciated by international community. There have been free and fair periodic elections for all political offices from the Panchayats to the President. There has been smooth transfer of political power from one political party or set of political parties to others, both at national and state levels on many occasions. In this background, one will find many intriguing examples in our neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Myanmar and even Bangladesh, where transfer of power has been done through military coups. Hence, it cannot be gainsaid that democracy in India has been a fascinating subject for the people of the country, who are enamoured of its signs of success, as reflected in the ritual conduct of periodical elections to Parliament and the state assemblies and the almost regular swapping of roles by the ruling and opposition parties after an election. So, thanks to the ballot power, Indians have gone to the polls repeatedly to elect leaders they feel will benefit them or their country, and thrash and evict those who fail to live up to their promises. When the first election was held in 1952, no other country or population had ever tried a voting exercise on such a large scale. Now India is attempting a transformation, which a few nations in modern history have successfully managed. Therefore, given the forthcoming general elections, we have to rewrite the meaning of democracy by seeing the proceedings and events in Parliament. It is the time to change the behaviour of the politicians to end the malice created by them. The cynicism that is creeping into the minds of the people, specially the youth, about our democratic structure, should be weeded out by the proper functioning of the people’s most important institution, so that bright young citizens do not get disinterested about participation in public affairs and politics. All stakeholders in our democracy have to unitedly work with dedication, commitment, cooperation and self-discipline to find lasting solutions to safeguard parliamentary democracy from the tremendous strains experienced today and to strengthen it. So, after the coming elections, it would be useless to blame after we vote. It is high time we thought before we vote in the upcoming elections. Let us not waste this opportunity to use this valuable vote, which only can bring the grace to our nation for electing a leader with a character of decency and serving attitude.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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