India, China and other democracies compared!

A critical public opinion and a public awareness are called for.
A few days out of the country and in Europe, more so in Italy, a country plagued by economic crisis and political instability, was a new experience and gave new perspectives. Seen from the old imperial Roman Empire capital, Rome, India didn’t seem to matter to the outside world at all.

More so when Indian polity is being led by Sonia Gandhi, an Italian-born person of no known connections and also with the two Italian marines being tried in an Indian court, India didn’t seem to evoke any mention in our conversations and exchanges, from ordinary and yet educated and well-versed  Italian citizens.

All the ten days there I used to buy my daily newspaper, the International Herald Tribune, the widely printed and distributed European newspaper and also the Wall Street Journal and one or two other British papers.

It was on our last day when we boarded our plane we saw in the IHT and WS, there was this news of Rahul Gandhi being elevated to the post of vice-president of the Congress party by his own mother. Though the newspapers mentioned this fact of family dynastic succession the reporting was muted almost to the point of condescension. One report said that there was this uncertainty of Gandhi making it to the top job, given his age of 42 and yet he was unprepared. One report said that Gandhi was still reluctant and yet as he said the next day to his audience in Jaipur:”My mother sat with me last night and cried” and revealed that both his father and his grandmother were assassinated and so the thought must have weighed heavily on both his mother and himself, no less his sister as well.

Yet, here he was, speaking in a more subdued voice and yet giving no clear indication what he proposed t do further.

But seen in the wider international perspective  there are challenges ,more so in an open democracy like India, wherever there is  social democracy, be it in Germany and Israel, two states where elections have happened and news were coming out there were many political parties these days and also the verdicts are always split. Even the veteran Angela Merkal is facing resistance. In Israel, there were new parties and wherever there were youth unrest, as in Israel and where there is also middle class disssatisfaction, as again in Israel, there is uncertainty and we need new parties emerging as the winners and government makers.

In Israel, it is very interesting to note there is a new party whose name itself is inspiring. The Yesh Atid (literally means: there is a future! How wonderful!
This party promoted by a TV personality won a sizable number of MPs and it is now the king maker in a state where entranced Right-Left parties have only dominated so far.
I thought these multi-party democracies are all undergoing a radical change. Even the USA, the biggest country and the economy has seen these changing verdicts.
People everywhere, in every country are seeing a new dawn, a new globe and a new life perspective.

The youth are in the ascendency.
Yes, in India too we see this changing perspective.
The two latest civil society upsurge, one centering around corruption, the other centering around the social outrage of gangrape and violence against women show that no more the political parties, so far dominated by the highly narrowed power-base and also the BJP, with its own internal turmoil may not be the only arbiters of power.

There are now other forces and other personalities as well.
Now, as for the democracy in India, we have to realise that Sonia Gandhi-led party is not the same as the party led by olden day leaders. Even Indira Gandhi had her critics around within the party. Apart from her own old guard, the Syndicate, there were the Young Turks and even others who were opposing her many wrong policies.
When Emergency was imposed Babu Jagajivan Ram resigned. The rest is history now.
Now, the situation is entirely different.

There is no internal democracy within the party at all. There are no independent voices within the party.

The CWC, the AICC and the PCCS are all dummy bodies. Only name sake!
Abroad, there is a perception that India after all is a big country, with a sizeable population and a big market for foreign business. So, there is a comparison with China.
And China! Oh, it is already invading the west. The whole of Italy, wherever we went, to Naples, Florence, the Chinese torusts are always crowding the streets.
All the Italian products and services, from wines to clothes carry invariably the Chinese language price tags!

So, Chinese are the big spenders! Indians in contrast were as conspicuous as total scarcity goods! We didn’t see any Indian faces in all our stays in this part of Europe. This reminded me to say to myself: after all India is still a poor country and also perceived so!
Now, China is also in the news after Mr.Xi Jinping had taken over as the new President. See what he is doing there.

He had gone around and is saying: no more prompt and ceremony for me!
For me : ” four dishes and one soup”. This has now become the catchword there.

Much more important there are persistent demands for press freedom, more human rights, more room for expressing differences of opinion. There have been micro blog revolutions. One famous actress with some 30m followers on her micro blog had quoted international celebrities to tell the Chinese authorities to say that truth is the ultimate test!

What is there in comparison with China in reforms?
Here we pretend that reforms mean only economics, not political reforms! What an irony and hypocrisies!

Indian democracy is now a mature polity. There is any number of parties.
So, the Congress party with a smug complacency and total disregard for public opinion is going about promoting a family dynasty with no one questioning that wisdom!
Is this so simple a transformation for Indian people? A new dawn? A new hope?

Everybody seems to imagine within the tightly knit Congress circle, the inner circle is so secretive that nobody knows who is favoured and who not, that the next elections in 2014 can be won as comfortably as they have done twice in the past so that they, the chosen few can go on to do things as they are accustomed to and enjoy the power and privileges and also with all their corruption scandals and scams totally thrown under the carpet and no one would stand up and question!

It is a very dangerous game the Congress is playing now. There are hundreds and millions of people who might sympathise with the Congress party history and traditions but they might also protest and even vote against the party and its nominees in the next elections.

Will the Congress get past its current tally of 200 MPs?
That is the crucial question.

Also, there are the current allies of the Congress, equally corrupt and deeply into criminal charges.

The ruling alliance might have thought by using the IT and the CBI it might hurt the interests of the Opposition parties. But this may rebound once the current players are out.

They could also face the same charges and turmoil once out of power.
Politics is all about power. Ruthless power. So ruthless power struggles might recur here as well. One thing or one or two things must be clear.

The Congress is a mother party. It represents now no clear ideology. But as a centrist force, it might align with progressive and secular forces. Or, it might get sucked into power-driven, money-driven interests, vested interest, the crony capitalists and the oligarchs of various shades might push the ruling alliance into more anti-people policy traps.

May be, ideologically speaking, it might not occur immediately. But in a slow and steady manner, moderate forces from other parties too may join in a broad-based alliance, like a third party alliance or a split within the Congress movement to elevate a more moderate, genuine secular face like, say, Nitish Kumar to give a new shape to the Indian democracy.
Family dynastic succession vs. a very broad-based liberal and secular alternative or in the worst case scenario a more aggressive right-wing BJP vs. the more power-centric Congress-led alliance of more narrow focused more centralised power-structure can also emerge.

The youth, the educated middle class could play, let us hope, a more viable alternative role in bringing the Indian transformation.

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