Millennium Post

Democracy in deep crisis

This is a party adrift, and has been for the whole first decade of the new millennium. The party does not have any single face that could be considered as its candidate for an impending prime ministership. One of its youth leaders had said, during the recently held Uttar Pradesh elections, that his party had 56 chief ministerial candidates. No money for correctly guessing the name of this party.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is unfortunately our primary Opposition party, the one with supposedly a shadow cabinet of ministerial candidates, ready to provide options to the voting public. This, in an environment, when the party in power – the Congress party – has lost the moral authority to rule. It can thus be said that even though the BJP sits in the opposition benches in Parliament, it has already lost the moral authority of being an Oppositionist party; and is fast losing the authority to be in government.

In other words, democracy in India is in deep crisis. So, we witness the spectacle of politically obscure Annas and Babas holding ‘made for television’ sit-in agitations about a kilometre away from Parliament – the seat of democracy. They claim their fame from being the only voices against the pervasive governmental corruption in the country. They do not provide any alternative platform for issues of governance.

They only pervade on the political scene because there is no widely acceptable political party in the country, who could straddle the political space left bare by the ruling and the primary opposition parties. So is India going the Pakistan way, where the absence of any legitimate political authority helps the army-bureaucracy nexus to create a government by political parties which take their fancy?

Considering the ramshackle condition of our army or the bureaucracy, that too does not seem to be our future. Or even if it is, the people of the country will not accept it. So will the middle class, who have been the beneficiaries of the economic liberlisation programme, come out on to the streets and act in their corporate interest, which will be translated as national interest? Seems unlikely again, for this benefitted middle class takes great pride in being considered to be apolitical. Indeed, they turn up their nose, and say that they ‘hate’ politics.

But as we know from the laws of physics, a vacuum cannot exist, be it in politics or in matter. So who would rush into this vacuum to fill it up? Let us for the moment, suspend our disbelief. Can any of us countenance a situation that those forest inhabitants, who we read about these days in our newspapers, can congregate at the Jantar Mantar and suddenly throw all barricades down and march towards Parliament?

Arguably, they are currently the most politicised group of people in the country, whatever the existing political parties and their pet carpetbaggers may say about them. They need not bother about the quaff, perfumed middle class – they are not forest people’s natural constituency. And the latter, after a long time, are making a claim for political power that would empower them to bring change in their well-being. So is their smash and grab approach to political power, legitimate in our conventional political sense. I do not find any wrong on that count.

If you call their people’s war illegitimate in terms of democratic exchange – and rightly so – their mostly peaceful march with carefully calibrated violence just to deter any attack on themselves should be called democracy. After all, they are the sixty per cent of the country that live on less than two dollars a day! If they now desire to jettison their alleged representatives and take the issue of governance in their own hands, can you morally deny them the right? At least, we shall be spared of the travesty of democracy that we have now. We shall be spared of the show when a politically castrated political party embraces a supposed saffron-clad guru – with whom at least 25 per cent of the people of the country have nothing in common – for the sake of gaining a semblance of legitimacy.

We shall also be spared of the vision of a country that is ruled by a political party, which fulfills its need for injecting new blood follows the old blood-line. At least some of the sections of the society have its blood boiling seeing that.

And the political mummies that adorn the seats in Parliament need to be embalmed freshly for the good of the society and given a final send-off. But I did say at the beginning of this exposition that we need to suspend disbelief. That disclaimer was required for we have not seen mass level radical politics in the country ever since Gandhi was killed. Are we ready to welcome back political radicalism into our lives?

Pinaki Bhattacharya is a senior journalist.
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