Democracy and India

Retired judge of the Supreme Court Markandey Katju is noted for his tongue-in-cheek remarks which are generally grim truths not necessarily palatable to many. His latest take is that democracy is not suited to India. Indians in general might be tempted to agree, though politicians as the main beneficiaries of this system here are bound to frown upon this statement. It’s worth analysing how the situation in India is evolving in ways that raise serious concern over the nation’s future.

The political class as a whole is giving a bad name to democracy and derailing the system from the basic principle of according power to the people. Democracy, as famously defined by Abraham Lincoln, envisages a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Under democracy, India ran for seven decades. Some people, including middlemen and corrupt hands, became richer by the day while most others are reeling under poverty and injustice. This has partly to do with India’s huge population bulge and partly with governmental failures. By contrast, China grew by leaps and bounds, took better care of its people under rule by one party with no claim to democracy. So too with Singapore and Malaysia in our neighbourhood.

Katju points out that democracy and elections here are guided by factors of religion – prescribed by the Sangh Parivar – and by casteism, both used as tools to win elections by several parties. This includes even the Congress party, not just the Lalus and the Mulayams. By contrast, as the learned justice noted, China grew by concentrating on matters of national development – not on sectarian issues like cow vigilantism, Ram Janambhoomi etc, which are seen as rightist agendas. When politicians speak up, they hardly show interest to touch upon matters of national development. They either try to whip up sectarian passions in ways that would help them win more votes, or resort to populism, to score political points.

Democracy is also facing odds in the way some politicians act in a foot-loose manner. Consider the harm a street offensive by Mamata Banerjee caused to the federal structure of the nation when she made bold to arrest a set of CBI officials probing a chit fund scam of epic proportions. This, even as her own men were deeply involved in the scam. She gained brownie points from the media for her courage to take on Prime Minister Modi. Sadly, democracy in India is defeated by its irresponsible and immature politicians.

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