Fractured Democracy : Demands Surgery
People’s power was amply exhibited in different protests in the year 2011. In a democratic setup public opinion is very important factor in policy making. Hence there is always a concerted effort on the part of the establishment to mange the public perception. With the explosion of media of mass communication this task has become more and more specialized. Print media has its own influence in the class of people in the polpulation but the spread of electronic channels and then the sudden explosion of social media has given the masses multiple avenues to express there opinion. The first two are influenced by the government by spending enormous amounts on advertisements. But the internet being an open forum without much financial involvement it is very difficult for the governments all over the world to effectively control this.
Professional perception managers are employed to meet this unprecedented challenge. The art and science has been developing gin the developed countries for more than decade now but we are experimenting with this in last couple of years. This government is learnt to have used most expensive professionals available in the field. It was reported in some news papers that these agencies have been advising the prince of the ruling party on matters like how to dress? How to speak? How to pick up a child at appropriate moment to be photographed etc. Same report claimed that the couple of day’s growth seen on the face is also a planned move suggested by PMs –Perception managers. On a more serious stage an example of effective perception management was the Mumbai fast of Anna. It was reversal of perceptions that worked against India Against Corruption. Earlier IAC had successfully created a perception (without any professional help) that Janalokpal is the key to all the problems related to Governance. The central government very cleverly managed to put forth that they have come up with Lokpal. May not be copycat of JLP but nevertheless a Lokpal is here. This created an overwhelming impression in the public mind that Mumbai fast is just an ego boosting exercise. Hence we did not see the response as before. It was naive on the part of team Anna to think that they are in an honest fight. They proved to be politically immature to match the choreography of the political managers of the government. Basically Bharatiya Public wants to believe in the Rule of law. They tend to follow the government even if little less than perfect. Agitation is only an extreme measure. The UPA had failed to give this room for an alternative earlier in April and August. After the 4th June crack down on the peaceful gathering of fasting protestors including women and children in the Ramlila grounds created an out rage. Public felt cornered hence the agitations got mass support. This time around the government was successful in creating a perception that the effort is on and there are parties like TMC apart from the opposition who are grinding the Govt for strong Lokpal, hence no need for extracurricular measures. This is most typical how Bharat works.
There is another extreme in the discourse. They claim that the system and not the governing group are responsible for the mess. The Democratic set-up adopted by Bharat is the root cause of all the problems. Even the team Anna members criticized the practice MPs following the party line. They demanded removing the provision of whip so that individuals can vote in the parliament according to their own thinking. This is height of duplicity. On one hand we are talking about people’s right to recall and on the other we want the MPs not to follow party discipline. The legal provisions of whip were strengthened by anti defection law after the repeated horse-trading episodes in the 1980s. An MP is elected on the party symbol. It is not his individual win. The party policy is projected to the public in the election; they are supposed to have voted accordingly. To claim that the individual will be in a better position to take moral position than within the party mandate may open flood gates for more dangerous corruption in the houses of Parliament. In fact the present irony of coalitions is also a great drama of our flawed democracy. The parties which fought against each other in the election come together and form the government. On one hand at the central level support of parties is bought by CBI threats or relaxations, on the other hand the same parties are target of vicious campaign at the State level.
But can we blame Democracy for all this? Contention that Democracy is the root cause of all the evil does not hold good in an objective analysis. Any other alternative will be inherently more prone to dishonesty and exploitation. Democracy as such at least notionally has the potential of generating people’s power as witnessed in the “Samagra Kranti” led by Jaiprakash Narain in 1977 and again during the Ayodhya agitation in 1992. The same was done apolitically last year. We can definitely infer that present form of democracy has created systemic faults that are responsible for the failure of governance mechanism in the country today. But to say that per say Democracy need to be negated does not go with the times. We will have to win the game by following the rules of the game. Reforms are no doubt needed in our democratic system. But we will have to demand reforms in accordance with the evolved system and not totally out of box.
Theoretically speaking, there are two forms of practicing Democracy. A > Direct Democracy – This is said to be practiced in the city states of Athens or some of the Ganas in the northern Bharat at the time of Alexander’s attack. The citizens directly participate in the governance process in legislature and they elect the executive, even the Judiciary in some cases.
B> Representative Democracy- The Westminster model that we have adopted as a legacy of British Raj. In this the representatives are elected by the citizens and they in turn ‘choose’ the Executive. Mostly the Judiciary is not elected but selected.
Both the models have their pros and cons. US has hybridized the two systems. It has direct elections for the executive heads in the states as well as at the Federal level. At the same time there is a representative houses for legislation primarily but it also serves as a regulatory authority on the Executive. It seems the Judiciary is also elected in most of the States in US.
We, in Bharat seem to have made a total mess of the democratic principles. The most important of which is the Rule of the majority. Whether in the direct or representative democracy it is the majority that should decide the policy. The elections should ensure that the winning representative of the citizens should have the backing of at least one more than 50% of the polled votes. Here, in Bharat the Decorative head, President, is elected by indirect elections. The more damaging constitutional provision is that the executive Head, Prime-minister, as well need not even be elected directly. Present PM is Rajyasabha member, where the election does not involve citizen’s vote directly. But to continue as the Prime-minister he must always have backing of Majority Members of Loksabha. There 1+50% is mandatory. But the MPs are elected by a process where they do not need to have majority vote in their respective constituency. So, we have MPs who won the elections by securing only 7% of the polled votes. There are hardly a few members who can claim to have got more than 50% of the polled votes in their own Loksabha seat.
This is systemic failure of the democracy. We do not have democracy in practice here even in the constitutional provisions, it is only notional. Hence the rise of elite ruling class and also the evolution of increasingly divisive politics based on all the possible fault lines of caste, region, language or religion. The only thing the politician has to make sure to win an election is to divide others into enough groups to make his group largest. This is inherent in the system.
We can not hope to have any reforms unless we change this basic flaw in the democratic set-up. Two basic demands need to be put forward.
1) Direct election of the head of the executive, Prime minister in present scenario. This will need constitutional amendment hence very difficult in the era of coalition politics in which even small regional parties have disproportionate importance and value. But we must start a discourse to create a demand for this. The other alternative is Presidential form of government with direct election of the President being the first step.
2) Demand for making 1+50% as the winning criterion in all the elections from Panchayat to Rashtrapati. This is relatively easier. It can be done by amending the Peoples Representative act. This can be done by simple majority. The major two political parties are expected to benefit most by this reform so it can be done with consensus. It is morally and logically very sound argument and no one ca deny that those who are denied support by the majority of the voters in their constituency have no right to represent people.
These are not the magic wand reforms which will cure all the evils of our system. Ultimately we need to go beyond the historical experience of just a couple of centuries. The present day system has evolved out of the British raj and has its Historic roots in the colonial period. But for the final cure we will have to go to root cause and for that we will have to still deeper in the Historical experience of the nation. We have known history of more than 5000 years with a golden era every second century. We led the world in economic prosperity, Education, Science and Technology and most importantly a peaceful socio-political system. We had variety of political experiments. We can not bring back the diverse political systems which existed in different parts of Bharat. Hindus have always believed in diversity of expression of the same principle. We followed it in political systems also. The Chakravartis respected the existing system of the conquered state and allowed it to continue. We had so many variations of political systems Gana-rajya with total direct democracy on one end of the spectrum to different forms of complex structures like the Magadha Empire. There were systems where only women ruled. But the basic principle of rule was Dharma. That was the common thread.
What we lack today is the Dharmik System. Today we have to accept the system that has evolved and apply the Dharmik principles to it. That is the Hindu way of digesting the alien. We need a fresh Smriti to interpret Sanatana Dharma according to present day society and to codify Yugadharma. This is our indigenous idea of constitution. We need a Smriti instead of this cut & paste document, that we call Constitution of India.
The parliament house has drawn inspiration for its architecture from the Chausath Yogini Temple in Mitawali, Madhya Pradesh in the same way our democratic structure needs to be based on the sound foundations of the principles of the Dharma of the land. The fractured Democracy demands a complete surgery not just cosmetic make-over.