The dilemma facing Indian democracy today
America, India and China
What is common for them in economic and political arenas?
The time seems appropriate for asking such a question. A question that is heavily laden with serious issues of peoples of the respective countries as well as for some of the big global issues of ending global recession and promoting economic growth and no less in promoting political stability and international peace.
The three countries, incidentally, are on the cusp of change, politically, where USA is facing a Presidential election or re-election of President Barack Obama and in China too where there is a political transition in early November, when the current fourth generation leaders, both the Chinese President and the Premier make room for once-a-decade change of leadership. In India, no less, is the very sensitive issue of a regime change! The 2014 General Election, for the Congress party and for the Indian people, seems unlike other previous elections!
This too in a democracy like India, the world’s largest democracy which is again unlike other democracies of the world. In the UK and the USA the tradition of democracy is well-defined and well-settled in terms of periodic, in the case of USA a two-term of eight years is the maximum that is permitted to a President. In the UK, the tradition is for a periodic change through elections, as in India. Even there lately, as in the two unprecedented instances of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, the two were “ousted”, a sort of place coup by the Party MPs!
In the case of India, there is now a sort of development, it looks like an unprecedented development at that where the Prime Minister is “nominated” by the party president and also the Party President herself, was not elected even by some pretence but nominated by a coterie of party functionaries and in the Indian case, these developments are clearly undemocratic, as we understand it.
The consequences of the Indian development in the democratic politics of the country are very serious in the sense the future seems very uncertain as far as the democratic practices are concerned.
There is no clarity as to when the Party President would change or is there any certainty who would succeed the incumbent Prime Minister. May be, the next general election might throw up some clue.
Is this a happy development for Indian democracy?
In the USA, as the Presidential debates showed there is an opportunity given to the people to assess what the Presidential candidates have to offer for the people, there are opportunities for the peoples ,from the audience who participate in the debating hall to ask some direct questions and get answers and clarifications from the contesting candidates.
In China, of course, there is no such opportunity. There is no press freedom either there. But there is one distinct difference from the communist China’s governing mechanism, as it has evolved in the post-Mao era. There is the nine-member polit bureau and whose membership is also a secretly constituted group within the party. But in spite of the secrecy prevailing, there are some recent changes in Chinese society and politics(as we noticed during a recent brief visit to that country) that point towards an easing, if not strictly an opening)of secrecy in politics and much else in society, economics, even the expression of protests and gatherings of people, even in such public places like the Peking’s Tiananmen Square and elsewhere. Yes, there is much authoritarianism in very many areas. But the old style Mao-type of even the Deng-era type brutal show of state power is given way to more subtle, if not more benign, easing of restrictions on the way people go about and conduct themselves in public places.
There is so much happiness and satisfied faces we could see everywhere.
Of course, in the prevailing restrictions and censorship, we don’t know for sure what extent this expression of happiness or hedonism, as some foreign media portrays, in China.
But there is for sure an easing of the dictatorial tendencies. At least, there is a dual leadership under the President and the Premier, there is also the nine-member polit bureau and over and above there is the massive parliament-type assembly every now and then.
There is unrest vastly in the countryside and we have read much about the number of such rural protests growing. There is now much urban migration, foreign travels by students and other peoples and also the country is not free from unrest in many Border States. Not just in Tibet only.
The point is that the internal party rebellions are there(as the recent expulsion of BO showed)also there is the high profile court trial of Mrs.Bo and judegement that seemed not state-imposed, as we might imagine.
Anyway, my point is that even in Communist China where we suppose there is party dictatorship, today’s China seems vastly changed or changing fast.
In India, our worries seem very different.
Here we talk of democracy, of course we have democracy and along with it we have intolerable corruption that had hit the governance and we see the PMO, the Cabinet, the executive and elsewhere, there is deterioration in the standards of governance.
And now, in the face of mounting number of mega corruption allegations, allegations that have come to the door steps of the Prime Minister and ,alas, the Party President as well!
This is quite an alarming situation!
Though we have elections, this time, we are confronted with the prospect of seeing an imposing of a member of the ruling party, a dynastic type of imposition of another hand as the next Prime Minister.
A dynastic succession and a crony oligarchy, crony capitalism is all we have in India as our choice?
If not, what other choices available to the people?
Indian democracy follows the Westminster model. This means, two major parties or two major groupings of parties must put forward before the people two ideological approaches to solve the problems of peoples.
As it is, the two parties, the Congress and the BJP, one centre-left and another centre-right don’t have well-articulated visions. One, the Congress, handicapped by the need to impose a family member whose calibre and claims are yet to be proved.
Another party, the BJP, whose leaders, some of them at any rate, seems quite fiery and fearful and no one has a clue to their programme of action. First, Indian democracy must get its real strength from the peoples’ free choices. The political class, both national and the regional ones, are so provenly corrupt, there is very little to choose from.
The incumbent PM, a very respected name once and now, faced with massive corruption charges, at his very doorstep had chosen, as a tactic, to brush aside corruption and had announced a rash of radical reforms!
So, what do we do? We get distracted and vote for the party again?
This is the dilemma facing India and Indian democracy today.