Wednesday, September 5, 2012

India: A Democracy On the Verge of Failure?

For past 65 years Indian politicians, intellectuals, media persons, elites have been chanting the Democracy-mantra. Being accused of being un-democratic has been perceived as being worse than being called a rapist or philanderer, which incidentally many among the most respected in the present times are. The present write-up is intended more as thought-provoking rather than as a final word!

Let us take a look at the facts:

At the Center, Congress has been a Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Various factions emerged from it, bit the dust, and only the dynasty remains.

In states: In Tamizhnadu, MGR and now Jayalalita - AIADMK, similarly Karunanidhi - DMK. Bihar: Lalu Yadav - RJD, and RamVilasPaswan - LokJanshakti Party. Orissa: Navin Patnaik - BJD. Maharashtra: Bal Thackeray - ShivSena, Raj Thackeray - MNSena. Karnataka: Devegowda - JD(S). Jammu and Kashmir: Farookh Abdulla/Omar Abdulla - National Conference, and Mehbooba Mufti - PDP. UP: Mulayam Singh - SP Andhra Pradesh: N Chandrababu Naidu - TDP, YSR Congress - Jagan Reddy.

Political parties which have been accused of dynastic rule have been healthy and have survived longer! The only major parties than can claim non-dynastic status are the BJP and the commie brigade. The Congress which is dynatic at center, at states it has been more like competing dynasties within the Congress, though the dynasty component is not that apparent now.

The other notable thing is that in parties who claim to be 'democratic' there is what can be alleged as 'factional politics'. Thus Congress is always rife with factionalism in states. The BJP is rife with the same ay both the Center and the states. The CPI(M), the CPI are all similarly rife with factionalism. It appears that 'dynastic rule' unites and the 'democracy' leads to 'factionalism'. Also, this factionalism seems to end as soon as a dynastic leader or 'alleged dictator' emerges. For example: Modi in Gujarat, Nitish in Bihar, etc.

Why is it that the situation is as it is? Of course, the most often used explanation is that we have all these problems because we do not have a healthy democracy. But a counter question that can be posed is: Why can we not have a healthy democracy? If in 65 years we have not been able to make it a healthy democracy why are we persisting with trying to make ourselves democratic?

Coming to issues and policies, one can notice how 'factionalism' is being fuelled by Social Justice: Eternal and ever increasing demand and supply of reservation and quotas. It started with SC/ST for an initial period of ten years, and is continuing ad nauseum. Not just that, it grew to accommodate OBC, and now there is demand for Women and Monirity reservation Bills. Further, now there is an effort to amend the Constitution to implement reservation in promotions as well! Moreover, notice how states keep demanding 'special packages' and how Presidential elections are decided by promises of Special Package.

So we need to ask some relevant questions: Why is it that what works for political parties is considered bad for the nation? Also, if 'factionalism' within parties is considered bad, how can fomenting factionalism by granting reservations be good for the nation?

The answer is, universal-adult-franchise-democracy is fatally flawed. If a nation is governed using such a system, either the government or the nation or both are bound to fail! In 'our' democracy, while earning the right to rule requires winning elections, the right to vote comes for free (requires merely ageing!). It is not difficult to see that an aspiring 'representative of the 'people' would like to keep his constituency as much prone to manipulation by himself as possible. Also, various groups will quickly form 'vote-banks' to extract their 'pound of flesh'. This combination inevitably results in the formation of 'extractive elites' whose sole purpose is to cling to power and immense wealth, by hook or by crook! The concept of 'extractive elites' is also discussed in the book: Why Nations Fail. The flaws of Democracy are discussed in the book: Democracy: The God that Failed.

For long we have been foolishly patting ourselves on the back, priding ourselves in our vibrant democracy. What we have managed to do is to make for ourselves a system which every five years (or often oftener) conducts elections, congratulating itself in a self-aggrandizing manner for choreographing this 'dance of democracy'.  The fact that Indira Gandhi lost elections after emergency debacle is no sign of the success of Indian democracy. But the fact that merely 65 years after a bloody partition there are political parties who are promising reservations on the basis of minority-religions is a sure sign of impending failure.

We closed our eyes till 1991, for 44 years, until we were rudely woken up from Socialism by the shock of impending economic doom, but it has not taken us even 20 years to fall asleep again! Regarding civilizational survival, if we continue to remain asleep, the warnings by Rajiv Malhotra might well turn out to be a mere trailer of the things to come.

Whether democracy, no matter which form, is doomed or not is a matter of debate. However, the fact that democracy as being practiced in India is on the verge of failure, is surely emerging. A lot needs to done, but more than that a lot needs to be thought!


  1. Dear samAlochaka,

    Please allow me to say that this is a very nuanced analysis and completely on the right track and almost on the way to its logical conclusion.
    I use the term "almost" and not complete and this has nothing to do with your writing, but rather with respect to my world view.

    Coming as I do from an Austrian economic libertarian world view (a view which is the exact opposite of socialism and pseudo-secularism), we see the world from a perspective which many find hard to digest. In this respect I would request you to read a short book (60 pages) titled "Anatomy of the State" by Murray Rothbard, which goes one step deeper to what you have said above and explores the most fundamental questions "What is State?", "What is democracy?", "Why is corruption inevitable in a statist framework?" and so on.

    If you agree to this world view, a few things which hitherto seemed inexplicable would suddenly become clear (like the flash of insights our RRiShis used to get). As an Austrian Libertarian (as opposed to the Godless communists and "secular" democrats), it becomes apparent how 10% of India (which essentially consists of general category service folks and small businessmen) thru its taxes and "sacrifices" (in terms of reservation in education, jobs and now promotion) supports and subsidizes remaining 90% Bharat. It is this money of the middle class which helps political dynasties to stay in power, because this is the money which is used to provide free doleouts and sops to those who are already the beneficiaries of quota / reservations/ NREGS schemes etc. And these are the guys whose votes actually count as they are 90% of India's population. Politicians do not give a shit about middle class except when it comes to increasing taxes (both direct and indirect) and greater reservations/ quota at the cost of the middle class.

    And this phenomenon is not unique to India, it manifests itself in different forms in other nations - "weaker" countries like Greece and Portugal were effectively supported by Germany, Obama's New Deal to use tax money to give a "push" to the economy and so on.

    The upshot of this is that unless we see the world as it is, things would continue to remain the same. I find your analysis very relevant and very insightful. Please continue the good job.
    Thanks !

    1. Thanks. We consider comments from discerning readers, even when critical, as our reward. So, your kind remarks, are precious encouragement for our endeavor.

      Coincidentally, we have read a bit of Hans Hermann Hoppe and his proposals for Private Law Societies. His critique of Statist frameworks are very insightful. We have been trying to grasp it in light of traditional societies in Sanatana Bharat. Our misgiving about private law societies stems from the fear that it may be weak in its ability to defend against a united collective force, for example, like Islam.

      While we entertain our doubts on Austrian School (especially in relation to Civilizational Security), we completely agree with you that Modern Secular Democracies are much worse! In that sense, we appreciate the background of your observations. Given the immorality of state mediated wealth-redistribution, crony capitalism is the inevitable result, which is what we are suffering in India.

      Unfortunately, Indian politics, (possibly as elsewhere in the world) first relies on misplaced premises, and then mock debates are held to settle insignificant issues. For example, most discussions are held on the question of how the government can be made more efficient; however, no one suggests reduction in government or abolition of government.

      While it may take quite sometime for Indians (especially Hindus) to see through the facade of Democracy and Welfare, it seems to us that it is important that radical ideas be placed on the discussion table. Please take a look at our suggestion towards ending vote-bank politics.

      We saw your writing on 'Who is an Indian'

      Please take a look at our view on the matter

      Please keep up your good work too.


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