Crisis of Indian Democracy

As the nation passes through the political throes with the Rahul-Modi standoff being projected as the main bone of contention, the deeper malice – that of the thoroughly entrenched party system which is the root cause of this malady – is hardly discussed. The voter is asking for a presidential omnipresence, as the political parties are increasingly being seen as a bane on the system of governance, with lack of accountability to the voter. Thus, the cry is out for either of these two leaders, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, in the existing party system, which cannot be done away with. Yet, where does the ‘third front’ fit in all this? It is evident that the voter wants some form of political transparency, which these regional parties sorely lack. The current political climate thus is indeterminate, although the air is full of political calculations about two frivolous issues – early elections and the third front. Are we then missing out on the essentials of what ails Indian democracy? There is an acute shortage of tall leaders with administrative acumen and charisma across the board and that is one of the biggest problems of India.

What ails Indian democracy – besides the slight modification to presenting presidential form of candidates that the voter is asking for and how are the political classes addressing these issues – needs some clarification. One of the first things that strikes anyone is the breakdown of institutions. None of these parties, individuals or fronts talks about the same. The Indian political class has subverted a large number of institutions for political gains, such that the name of the CBI is being referred to as Congress Bureau of Investigation. The police has lost its independence and has to bend before its political masters. Strong institutions are the bedrock of democracy and none of the actors for 2014 or earlier talk of this. Law and order is so poor that a recent report, doing the rounds after the Delhi gangrape, states it is not the police force that is alone responsible, but a combination of Human Resource Development Ministry and the Planning Commission as well. There is an acute shortage of schools (by around five lakhs beyond class six) where children can go to complete their education and pursue youth development programs. In the near future, Indian cities will be so unsafe that talented citizens will leave the nation in droves and seek employment abroad. In short, we are looking at a future exodus because all men are not equal before our laws, as a section sobbing on account of a jail sentence for an actor just proved it.

None of the individuals, alliances or fronts talk of the deep political, economic and social crisis with extremely high food inflation, which the country is facing, with Modi, at best, being biased towards private enterprise. The only talk is of a mai baap game changer by the Congress, whereas the people need governance and not a mai baap attitude of direct cash transfer and free laptops or sops in lieu of governance. The Indian political scene is a direct standoff between a total of 15 or so political houses, minus the BJP, where inheritance, and not merit, is the determinant.

Most of these regional parties, which wish to form the government, lack inner party democracy and put party interest before the national goals. Thus, India becomes a non-player in Sri Lanka, thanks to DMK and other Tamil parties, with Mamata torpedoing the Teesta accord with Bangladesh.  Modi is a proven administrator out to showcase his achievements only, but has not given any gamechanging policies that are applicable across the board. The convenient answer for corruption that erodes the very foundation of democracy is the watered down Lokpal Bill and Modi’s credentials here are questionable. The national level bill is so diluted that Anna Hazare is on the road again. The government is so scam-tainted that not a single day passes without a screaming headline. This is common to all first, second or third fronts, as all are nearly in the same boat, because the root issue of sourcing party funds remains unaddressed. The people of India have lost trust in the people who they elect and are struggling on all fronts. The very fact that there is a Maoist insurgency in one third of the nation clearly proves that governance has failed. There is a lack of strategic culture and the current Indian political class can at best think in terms of vote bank politics. Till date, India has not devised a fitting reply to Pakistan nor how will it solve the vexed border issue with China. India has not provided any worthwhile research and development to the corporate sector.  India is happy to be an arms importer, but does not have a process similar to that of America for private players in arms industry, which gets jobs into India.

India lacks a higher education process and the cut off are so high that a lot of talented manpower is being wasted. India needs to think of its young youthful demography as an asset, by giving it the best of medical aid, food, education, and skill levels.

There needs to be a role for the average citizen, clean effective corruption-free governance, a government that works and not asks for votes. India also needs a government that respects institutions and creates jobs, builds infrastructure, and abides by law and order.

Indian democracy needs inner party democracy, and a strategic thinking, a method to use the energy of the youth and preserve the culture of the country as well as manage the green environment.

Are we as Indian citizens asking for too much?

The author is a retired brigadier
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