Holi is upon us and winter is beginning to make way for spring. The best time of the year will be spent in having to listen to wild promises and rhetorical speeches from a range of rostrums because those seeking a berth in Parliament will be fighting to win their seats. India will be compelled to listen to and see the charade unfold, as men and women jockey for positions of power without fresh ideas about the structure of our democracy, its faultlines, and what needs to be done to address crucial questions. For instance, how does one align Indian democracy with its inherent cultural ethos? How does one ensure that an alien, awkward system, one that was superimposed on a complex and layered polity, works in a transparent manner?
The ‘alternative’ — the Aam Aadmi Party — has already shown that it is similar to the other political parties, indulging in the same predictable practices. As with the other parties, the AAP’s financial needs too are being met by corporate bodies. Its leaders are as susceptible to the perks of power. Everyone in the political arena speaks of the need to abolish corruption. The AAP has promised to deliver a corruption-free India. What is the definition of corruption? Is not the acceptance of freebies an instance of corruption? Is it not corrupt to live off the doles offered by businessmen? Is this not an example of ‘sponsored politics’? Are these the kind of values that should be inculcated in the young generation? The natak, the collective entertainment that is being played out, shames us all.
The rot in centralized politics had set in earlier. The deviation from established norms that should have been protected by the rulers of a federal democratic polity had begun after 1971. The fact that not a single political dispensation undid these irregularities speaks volumes about India’s ruling class that has broken the tryst and betrayed India. A rapid decline in political commitment and morality led to the transformation of this energetic country into a banana republic.
India could have led from the front, embraced its immediate neighbour and the region, and implemented modern processes to extricate its people from the depths of poverty of mind, body and spirit. Instead, human failings such as succumbing to personal greed and the need for aggrandizement overwhelmed the political and administrative classes that fed off those who generated the nation’s wealth.
India was conceived as a federal democratic republic. Devolution of power to the states was the mandate. States should have been competing with one another six decades down the road. Delhi should have completed that exercise and held responsibilities concerning foreign affairs, defence, the economy and the environment. States should have been partners on their own terms, respected and competed with one another, generated wealth and growth, helping India become a formidable economic tiger.
It is easier to arbitrarily dictate from the top, centralize governance as much as possible and deliver short-term results. However, history has shown that dictatorial operations nurture sycophancy and corruption, destroy the base, and alienate the people in a multidimensional and pluralist society. To put in place a federal and democratic process is a tough task that requires intellectual agility, commitment to diversity in the broadest sense of the term, an ability to understand what is unfamiliar in order to become inclusive, inherent honesty of purpose to build faith and trust, and, finally, transparent governance for the sake of the people. These basic tenets of democracy have not been followed in India.