Tuesday, December 2, 2008
WHAT AILS OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM: PART II: DEMOCRACY, POLITICIANS AND THE ELECTORATE
The only long term solution to resolve and reconcile differences in any nation, specially a nation like India with over 670 million voters (nearly double the numbers in the European Union - not to mention the diversity), is through a democratic form of governance. However, this form of governance comes with its own set of problems. At times some of us get a feeling that we would be better off in a regime under a benevolent dictator or under military rule for a while. The example of Singapore is often quoted. Can these ever be compared - a city state like Singapore and a large country like India? As far as the military rule is concerned, we need to look around in our neighbourhood, and around the globe, and one will get the answer. Are there any other forms of government that would help us grow faster, grow more equitably and help solve all our problems?? No, in my opinion. Democracy with all its warts and moles is best for India, I believe. What is your opinion??
Politics and politicians are part and parcel of any democratic setup. However, we are totally disillusioned with our political setup, specially after the latest carnage in Mumbai. Can we do away with politicians as is being suggested by some anguished citizens? I would definitely love to do so, BUT do not believe so. However, there are issues concerning this that need to be debated, and a solution found to the satisfaction of ordinary citizens of India.
First, like everything else in life, we have good politicians and we have bad politicians. Next, we can only select one out of the lot that contest the elections, and our grouse is that only bad people are taking up politics as a calling. What is stopping the good people? How can we encourage better people to contest elections? Most middle class people feel that politics is a dirty game, and are thus not inclined to join it. Is politics really bad? Working for common good is not bad politics. It is what you do with governance that makes it good or bad. Politics inherently is neutral and necessary for the functioning of a nation. As an example, the atom could be used to light up the whole planet, but could also be used to blow up the planet. In this world of duality, nothing is good or bad - its what you make of it.
At one time we had the cream of India in politics - Jawahar Lal Nehru, Dr. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Azad and many more such luminaries. Times were different then - some may argue. Yes, the whole country was united against the British and wanted freedom and the only way forward was by selecting our best leaders to lead us. The leaders came forward and people of India followed. Once the British left, there has been no such uniting event, for an extended period. The best minds refused to join politics and we are left with a number of undesirable elements in our political establishment. There are instances of people lodged in jail on criminal charges getting elected.
In the absence of a national issue, local issues have come into the limelight. Politicians are not ones to miss an opportunity to fracture the electorate on divisive issues like religion, caste, region, ethnicity and what have you to take advantage of block votes - it is much simpler this way. This has ensured that regional parties have been gaining ground at the cost of the national parties. No national party is able to form a government at the centre on its own and looks to these regional parties to prop them up. This weakens the Central government because of the perpetual threat of withdrawal of support. Is there a way of strengthening the national parties so that they could work without the fear of mid term polls?
Have you ever wondered why most of our politicians wear typically rural dresses in public life? It is because these dresses represent the majority of the people who vote for them. Majority of our citizens are still agrarian, and live in rural areas. Urban areas are still in a minority. As per the 2001 census, we have 72.2% of our population living in rural areas and only 27.8% of the population living in urban areas. The outcome of elections is thus any body's guess. Once in parliament, all our elected representatives become urban dwellers but their constituencies still remain rural. This is the reason for the total apathy towards teh cities. However, with the economic boom in India, there has been a mass movement of rural people into urban areas in search of a jobs, and this has prompted the Urban Renewal agenda of the government, because the urban infrastructure is close to collapse in most cities.
With the economic boom there has been a noticeable increase in the disparity between the rich and the poor in India. Although the growth of wealth in the country has, through the trickle down effect, ensured that the number of people below the poverty line has reduced, this has still led to opportunities for the Communists to increase their tally in parliament. The communists have single handedly ensured that a large number of economic initiatives are thwarted. How can we ensure more equitable distribution of the wealth being generated in the country, while at the same time generating larger wealth?
There are many unanswered questions in this whole post. Do you have any answers??