Illusion of Democracy

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In the words of Dr BR Ambedkar, “… however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot.”

Democracy has moral virtue; it is the only acceptable form of an efficacious government. In his paper, Larry Diamond states the paradoxes of democracy. These become apparent through its nature of being an “institutionalized competition for power”. For effectiveness, competition and conflict are necessary. Since democracy is a rule of consent, it needs to effectively perform, which in turn needs the state to use the power given to it through consent. So, if democracy doesn’t work, will we choose not to be governed by our consent?

Indeed, the State is responsible; as per Constitutional mandate too. If democracy gives people power to eliminate thugs from governance, then the state must use that power to keep them out. But paradoxes riddling a democracy aren’t resolved straightforwardly.

We could never quantify the success of a Democratic structure through its custodian’s illicit activities. India’s state-building process involved establishing complete democracy first, giving it an Achilles’ heel due to many underdeveloped institutions. This left the state vulnerable to politics being hijacked by power and prejudice. As India developed, representativeness and responsiveness grew apart.

A befitting example from Milan Vaishnav’s, When Crime Pays, is the July 2008 no-confidence motion, tabled against the then government with regards to the Indo-US Nuclear deal. To avoid defeat, the governing coalition pulled out six MPs from different jails, just 48 hours before the vote, to retain power rather than uphold democratic integrity. When such is the predicament of our representatives, how do we expect them to respond to our needs and be concerned with our empowerment?

Even more hideous is political perpetrators sculpting organised crimes and systematic assaults through bandhs and riots. Some events have deleterious effects that shake the very pillars of democracy and everyone avoids interference. The recent events in Delhi at Jamia Millia and JNU confirm this fact.

The twisted narratives defy democratic development and no longer cater to the interests of all groups. Delirious political balance is created over broadening fault lines. Ruling parties don’t forgo political ideologies and in turn fail to align themselves to constitutional ideologies.

But the overarching question remains — how is the state responsible to the people through a government elected by the people themselves? When in 2018, the Supreme Court (Public Interest Foundation vs Union of India) directed political parties to publish pending criminal cases of candidates on their official websites, it was a weak attempt at improving democratic effectiveness. Election trends are predictable when candidates come with long rap sheets. Voters en masse exhibit faith in them by voting for them.

The bottom line- thugs in politics equals power play; a power wielded for all the wrong causes!





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