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??

10 comments:

Indian Home Maker said...

I really liked both these posts.
You asked, "What is stopping the good people? How can we encourage better people to contest elections? "

This is the crux of he whole problem. Established politicians will not allow new comers into politics. everything from direct hooliganism to filth thrown in the direction of clean politicians to discourage their participation. The power and wealth (illicit) that politics provides means they have a lot to gain from joining politics, and we know they have underworld connections, so how does one discourage criminals from joining politics?
Through voting? But do you vote for the fundamentalist who will get some of us killed or do you vote for the one who will fill his coffers with our money?
If there was someway to kick them both out of politics - it is the right to REJECT. To vote for none of the above. The PIL is pending in the Supreme Court, we should all fight for this right to reject, so that new faces can appear on the political scene. We should also participate actively in Politics, work to promote these clean, no criminal records kind of decent candidates.
Do you think this can work?

Usha Pisharody said...

I'd like to echo IHM, here. The bottom line would be to get good persons into politics to restore honour to that field. But then it is now perceived as the one area where you do not need educational qualifications, no age bar, no pensionable limit, no upper limit to anything, be it income, black or white, and of course the green go ahead signal to wreak any kind of havoc. It is the game for "a certain kind". And as you say, Mr Joshi, wearing the kind of clothing that gets them noticed and connected to the masses, who are not really aware of the reality, on most occasions, does make it worse.

Educating the masses, which will never be allowed by the present politicos, to their right, the plus and minus points, by some really committed and active social workers, NGOs, in slowly but surely getting them to understand the power they hold, much like Hanuman ji, had to be reminded of what he was capable of :) , would in a sense make things better. The logistics of it all is a very very complicated one, but nothing that is not worked out at the grass roots will work. No kind of legislation or anything.

The ferment one observes now, if you would notice, is restricted to the informed ones. What of the majority, far removed physically from the happenings, and thereby otherwise too? The India of the villages and the rural, tribal areas?

I am still uncertain. But I have hope, and I do look forward to a brighter tomorrow.

Kudos for the incisive way you approached this subject and the balanced views expressed here.

thearmyguyspeaks said...

i have to read both ur posts before leaving a appropriate comment... but yes democracy is the way for india..for sure...

from the army perspective... policing the home state is never a good or poplar idea..ill be back..need to read and comment... :)..

the armyguy

J P Joshi said...

IHM: Thank you for your comment. You have highlighted some of the problems that are faced by an outsider trying to get into politics. However, if we look at the events as they have unfolded in the last few days, one can be convinced that if a large number of people want it, then it will happen. We do have a large number of good and neutral politicians too, not only bad ones - of course, the bad hog the limelight in the media.

I am not sure how the REJECT is going to work but I am sure if the Supreme court upholds it then it would definitely be workable. Even if we bar a few, that kind of message is good enough for the rest that people are serious about their stake in the governance. What we are seeing in India today may just be a turning point, if the people continue to stay constructively engaged with their governance in terms of rights and responsibilities.

J P Joshi said...

Usha Pisharody: It is only people with hope, like you, that can help achieve the impossible. I can think of one man, Mahatma Gandhi, who worked with this same mass of humanity to get us our freedom - of course God also helped with the second world war, but then God always helps those who help themselves.

The public response after the Mumbai carnage gives me great hope that the younger generation is ready to take on more responsibility towards changing our society. Change can only come with the younger generation, I firmly believe that. They are idealistic; have passion, and not cynical like we adults grow up to be.

Economic boom and rapid growth in the middle class is what will change the Indian society, i believe. We missed out on the industrial revolution and that is what is holding us back. However, if you look around us, we haven't done too badly compared to the others. We always tend to compare ourselves with the developed economies - they've had a 200 + years advantage over us, while we could not even manufacture salt - remember Gandhiji's Dandi march.

J P Joshi said...

armyguyspeaks: Thank you for your comment.

Agree with you that policing the home state is not a good idea as the army is trained to kill and it is not a good thought to kill your own citizens.

Goofy Mumma said...

Hey, Pick up your award from here.

Poonam J said...

Everytime there is a terrorist attack anywhere it upsets me, and more so when there is one on your own country.A peace loving nation we are, we take pride in the fact that we have never invaded any country...but sometime in life it is time to say Enough is Enough.But that can only happen when We the people first rise over our Caste, our Hindu Muslim divide, when we start thinking of India comprising of not Marathis, Tamilians, Punjabis etc., but of Indians. Till We the people resolve these divides within our own hearts, there shall be Raj Thackerays galore,and the politicians that we directly or indirectly choose will continue taking advantage of us and our beliefs.

Renu said...

Two party system should be adopted in our country to stop the bargaining power of parties with few representatives only.Good people cant afford to contest the elections, once i read somewhere the mathematics of election where minimum expenses incurred were in the range of 25-30 lakhs, and nobody who doesnt have black money can afford it.

J P Joshi said...

Goofy Mumma: Thank you for the award. I have a problem though, I donot know how to go about doing what you have asked me to do, as per the rules. Could you please forward me the procedure. Thank you once again.

Poonam: Agree with you 100%. We would first need to re-programme our own brains to rid us of our prejudices, and start believing and behaving like 'Indians first'. The politicians are extremely good at sensing public mood and will automatically fall in place.

Renu: I believe, two party system is the final chapter in the growth of a nation. At our stage of development, and taking into consideration our diversity, I have doubts about it working effectively and efficiently. In India right now we have a number of parties but effectively they have formed three groupings - UPA, NDA and the third front. Our diversity and stage of development dictates a large number of parties. I believe, once we reach a stage where we have a majority middle class, this will happen automatically.