Populism is the energy drink of the present government. The lure of votes galvanized it from its torpor. The government took more than 30 decisions in the space of a week and a little more. If only it had shown this kind of decision-making energy earlier in the high noon of its power. But at that point it was not confronted by the immediate prospect of winning votes. Thus now, to woo the Jats, it extended reservations to the Jat community. What is even more remarkable is the speed with which it set up the Seventh Pay Commission. The last pay commission was set up eight years ago. Previously, the gap between one pay commission and the next was 11 to 13 years. The reduction in the gap, the government’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, has only one explanation. The government wants to win the votes of some eight million Central government employees and pensioners. There is something very crude and obvious in all this. In another spurt of activity, the cabinet committee on investment cleared proposals worth Rs 6.6 lakh crore. Such was the enthusiasm to do this that even some environmental regulations were ignored. The prime minister presided over the meeting. Populism knows no conscience.
There is another person who in the season of votes appears to be liberated from the awkward pangs of conscience. Rahul Gandhi, from all accounts, is in an unseemly hurry to have some bills passed through ordinance. What needs to be recalled in this context is Mr Gandhi’s track record in the Lok Sabha in terms of attendance and in terms of participating and initiating debates in Parliament. His record is extremely poor. In fact, Mr Gandhi has treated Parliament with scant regard. Therefore, he disregarded one of the fundamental principles of democratic decision-making: discussion in Parliament among the elected representatives of the people. Having ignored that process, he is now in a haste to take the ordinance route, a singularly undemocratic path. There is some irony in this. It is revealing of a mindset that is driven by the desire to try and win votes through any means even if it implies the undermining of democratic processes. It was only the reluctance of the president that poured cold water on Mr Gandhi’s eagerness. This reluctance shows the importance of checks within the democratic system and therefore the robustness of democracy in India.