Democracies, as per one estimate, in the world’s most populous states the ruling parties won hardly 40% of the national elections. In the five major nations, the incumbent parties suffer3ed humiliating defeats, France and South Korea and Britain barley escaped defeat. The world economic scene presents a dismal picture; global economy slumped to 2.5 % this decade.
Democracies are marked by polarisation of one sort or other. As for India too it looks this global trend is not impacting. Mr.Modi, in his third year, seems to be enjoying an unprecedented luck with 7 and odd percentage, the world’s fastest growth. And also a spell of run in most states. Though new challenges are seen in the form of a series of farmers agitations. In the midst of such mixed blessing comes the last major election, a new President at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.
The Presidential nominations saw some hilarity, if you see that way. Mr.Modi, the Prime Minister played how own part in his own style. He assembled some colleagues and sought to build a consensus. Knowing well there is no point of any easy context with Sonia Gandhi, the Prime Minister yet sent in a delegation, yes, it looked like a delegation for no one was sure that any single leader from the BJP stable had really any rapport with Sonia Gandhi.
Yes, the delegation met Sonia and yet no one knew and the press didn’t really revealed more than the meet and everyone was fed with the false impression that there would be a consensus candidate.
To tell the story short, it was a drama enacted with such tasteless feeling. The sudden announcement of Ram Nath Kovind surprised and even shocked a lot of people who watched the entire drama.
Once the surprise announcement was made the Opposition parties got busy. They assembled at once and announced their own rival candidate, Meira Kumar and both are Dalits and what stood out?
Caste and communal flavour only.
Of course, the Indian public got a new flavour of camaraderie among the Opposition leaders and we saw the row of leaders who among the seventeen of them of course presented a picture of unity of purpose. This coming together of diverse ideological partners augus well for the Indian democratic strength. Though one prominent figure, Nitish Kumar, the JD (U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister played spoilt sport, he really emerged as an unknown quantity, if we can so say so.
So, Indian politicians like Nitish Kumar whom many looked upon as a future Prime Ministerial candidate suddenly tripped.
So, what, one may ask.
Otherwise, the ruling party and its allies also presented a picture, not of unity of purpose, but desperation to survive in the power game.
Anyway, Indian Constitution would be only strengthened by a contest for the Presidential election. This is a positive sign. Mr.Modi might have got a man of his choice; Modi would be the single individual who would occupy the political base.
To that extent how the government performs, the Prime Minister as a single individual would be judged by the various nuances, protocols and utterances would be critically scrutinised.
The two pictures that were splashed on the newspapers on the same day, one with the Opposition stalwarts and the others with Prime Minister leading the Presidential candidate accompanied by the BJP veterans, with L.K. Advani and M.M.Joshi also might have raised many anxious thoughts in the minds of the concerned individuals as well as the BJP ranks. Oh, what twists and turns cruel fate plays in the lives of ambitious individuals! All the life, the hard labour, the accumulated ambitions for grabbing power all ended so tamely and so cruelly!
Some total outsiders came in, barge into the citadel of power game and seize the high prize!
We see democracy in the world facing several challenges. Yes, there is much hope and optimism that democracy as the highest possible civilised political conduct all the world over. There is widespread public opinion everywhere, in all parts of the world, that any form of democracy, however flawed, even with a modicum of election or the participation of the citizens in the election of a president or a prime minister is seen as a mark of political maturity and a sort of political legitimacy.
However, there is also certain negative trend, a sort of deterioration in democratic conduct and behaviour. There is a democratic degeneration. This seems to be a parallel trend. On the one side there are improvements in democracy. On the otherside there is a democratic deterioration.
See some of the current trends. In the Gulf crisis involving Qatar the other four Arab states, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Baharin have asked the Gulf state, among other demands, one key demand is to shut down its broadcaster, Al-Jazeera!
Al-Zazeera : press freedom under challenge in Russia and also surprisingly in India. In India the independent private channel, NDTV was raided by the police. The Economist magazine in a latest cover story had commented unfavourably on Mr.Modi’s “psychophantic cult” image the PM is cultivating.
Al-Zazeera is one of the latest broadcaster and that too in the Gulf area where there is a new sense of freedom, a free media that is respected in the rest of the world. Why, even the most famous broadcaster, the BBC is excelled by the Al-Zazeera’s more refreshing and more wider coverage of events and issues in the most crucial Middle East and African and even Asian regions. For an Arab state to run an English language TV channel with so much of freedom is a rarity. Instead of applauding the spread of a liberal free voice to make it a demand, a demand for cutting off the freedom to spread truth and light, is a setback for the democratic rights of the people in the region and beyond.
So, here is one instance of what setbacks await the spreading of the democratic institutions and also the realisation that there are no firm hopes for democracy establishing itself even now, in the new century with so much other mutually reinforcing powers of such developments like Internet and other related technological tools.
One more development is from Russia. There you see that such a big nation with so much history of recent upheavals and change of government as a democracy and parliament, we see now a reverse of sorts where the Opposition leader, Alexei Navlany, who had established his credentials by his long struggle and peoples’ disillusionment with the three time President, Vladimir Putin, now set to stand for the fourth time!
What sort of democracy Russia is nurturing to show before the world?
Russia is a very poor shadow of a democracy. Press is suppressed, there is no press safety, journalists are routinely killed and press freedom as we all know is zero there.
And there are certain warnings that any lover of democracy and human rights and much of the individual freedoms that are symbols of any democratic political system.