Elected Prime Minister, limiting Prime Minister’s terms, establishing democratic norms in parties are critical for sustainable democratic traditions. UK and USA are taken to be the most perfect forms of democratic countries.
In the world itself, now it is estimated that out of some 190 odd countries nearly 133 or so countries are democracies, however we define the concept. Even military dictatorships like Pakistan have some form parties, elections and Parliament and a somewhat free press! Not many outright dictatorships prevail, though there are some in African continent and in Latin America.
But even in UK and USA we see the many aberrations of democracy, USA went to war in Iraq unilaterally, bypassing UN and so too UK did the most blatant joining with George Bush. So, the point is that democracies in themselves don’t ensure peace and might even trigger dangerous wars. When the Iraqi war will end, how it will be brought to a peaceful end are all difficult questions. Also given the below average intelligence to democratically elected leaders like Bush and Blair, we have to give thought how democracies can be made safe for the people concerned and also for the world. Yes, there are some democratically elected leaders like the French and German leaders but they are helpful for various factors. Indian democracy is a miracle!
India, such a large, backward country with such divergent forces, had managed to remain a democracy for nearly more than half a century. That is why it is a miracle. But then is the Indian democracy structurally sound? Even if Tony Blair commits terrible mistakes, as his critics now say he does, as in going to war in Iraq, he can’t destroy or derail democracy. Strong traditions there ensure that. But in India? I am not sure. Indian presence on the world scene is becoming more and more visible. Given our geopolitical/strategic importance for the balance of power and influence in the global and regional context, it looks India cant but take a more and more pro-active role in solving much of the current and emerging issues of peace and war-like crisis situations. As the one now arising in Iran on the Indian vote to take the Irani nuclear intentions to the UN Security Council. Indian vote along with the USA and also in the context of Russia and China abstaining, India has to do much more hard work, intelligent diplomacy and much more. Is India becoming strong enough, politically and in terms of political legitimacy to assume the more and more a world leadership role, if we can say so? It is here certain ambiguity and even lack of any serious introspection on the part of the politicians and political elite and the intellectuals shows up!
Why? We see all the world over there is much cause for using democracy to do many undemocratic acts and even cause dangerous wars. As in Iraq, before Afghanistan. The fight against international terrorism had taken some dangerous turns. USA President had done much damage, in the opinion of many and yet, there is one saving grace. The US President has to vacate his office after two terms. Now, even the Russian President, as he said recently, ruled out a third term, even against much speculation otherwise. Yes, China is a one party dictatorship and yet there has been a peaceful change. In India we follow the Westminster model of democracy and yet we see much progress in democratic conventions and yet some aberrations. In a recent book on ,ironically called, “Crisis in Governance in Britain, the reviewer writes that Tony Blair, in his third term in office, runs the government much like “Indira Gandhi style of doing politics”! “There is much Constitutional vandalim in UK” he says. The British PM is surrounding himself with some 20 personal advisers who overrule Cabinet Ministers; there is much “spin”(for breaking governance norms and feeding the media almost 24 hours by misleading stories and twists. The UK Iraqi intervention is plainly illegal and yet the top legal expert to government gave a suitable twist to justify Blair’s adventure.
In India? We have attained some positive strength. The Supreme Court is supreme, the Election Commission is free and also there have been smooth General Elections. There are some unelected Cabinet Ministers too, besides the tainted ministers too in the Cabinet. Sonia Gandhi remains, in the eyes of many observers an extra-Constitutional authority, though she is extremely careful in her conduct.
All this is fine and we may justify the present arrangement so long this giving us trouble free government. And yet these are, in my opinion, not good precedents. Now, no ministers even after they commit inappropriate acts or when they are facing CBI or courts cases in corruption charges resign! More so in the states where you see corruption there is no institutional mechanisms, no Lok Ayukta or Lok Pal to tackle political corruption. Parliament doesn’t function as it should nor Rajya Sabha is packed with the Constitutionally-mandated “duly elected” members. The political parties are organised not through any Constitutionally-inspired norms. Party President is elected by sham nomination process and it is nomination, nomination all through the party ranks! Even the Working Committee, or the PCCs or the DCCs are elected by the established conventions. Big money elections, goonda elements give the EC sleepless nights! Other Central Government agencies like CBI or the CVC are allowed to function autonomously, in spite of the court rulings.
So, what is the danger ahead? There is so much danger! In politics, we have seen the world over even the constitutionally mandated, elected Presidents and Prime Ministers could go to war unilaterally. This is the new danger. And now, we see in India, under the present dispensation a nominated Prime Minister is keeping the seat warm for a political heir to take over. This is dynastic politics simple and straightforward! This has now become a menace with other parties and also in the states! The time has come to ponder over the implications to the current political practices. Even in the best elected democracies we see violence and assassinations. India has its own share. So, we have to make political reforms that would ensure we get back to some Constitutional norms of managing our democracy. The terms of the Prime Minister should be limited to two terms. Also the terms for the Chief Ministers in the states. Also the parties, their funds and also the internal constitution of the parties must be regulated by some democratic norms. There is a need for a debate on these issues. In politics any current cosy arrangements is no guarantee for future peaceful transfer of power.