emocracy, widely acclaimed to be the best form of governance that civilised society has, till now, discovered is facing some odds. This is not just in India but also in the United States and the UK – from where India took its early lessons. The problem, per se, is not with democracy, but the way it is shaping or re-shaping itself. A former judge of the Supreme Court Markandey Katju has stressed this past week that this democratic system of governance is not suited to India. His objection is not to the sacred tenets of democracy, but to the way it is practiced. The question that automatically comes to mind is what alternative can be a better option.
Justice Katju is known for his nutty observations. He based his submission on one prime aspect, namely, the sway of divisive forces like religion and caste on the electoral plane. On the one side, the Sangh Parivar outfits, including its political arm the BJP, are seeking to polarise the society on religious lines, and this is having a serious bearing on election outcomes. On the other, casteist forces, including the Mulayams, Mayawatis and many others are on a roll not only in the Hindi belt but across the subcontinent. The BJP and the Congress are also accused of pandering to whims of the casteist forces. The result is that elections are increasingly becoming a play of the casteist and communal cards, with merit of a candidate being overlooked in the process. This, many consider, is unacceptable.
The scenario is contrasted with China where, as Justice Katju cited, the only concentration of those at the helm of governmental affairs is simply on national growth and betterment of the people across all barriers. It has no claim of upholding democracy; rather, the government works on the directives of the party leadership. The scope for dissent there is little. While such subjugation might suit the Chinese mentality, the beauty of India is also the scope for dissent, which helps people see both sides of a matter or issue. A person like Katju would have minimal idea of how an average Indian looks at life’s problems. It is assumed that as a judge, Katju would have had enjoyed, throughout his working life, minimum contact with common people of this country. That kind of secluded yet a life of plenty is not for a man on the street to relish.
For governance, the only option other than democracy is dictatorship. A look across the length and breadth of the globe points at all dictatorships either collapsing or already collapsed under their own weight. It would be a grave danger allowing one or another leader to run roughshod over people’s interests and sentiments. No one can gauge in advance as to what extent any individual bestowed with absolute power and authority could or would go to. Emergency was but a short bitter experience which, thankfully, did not last long just because the overwhelming attraction of freedom and democracy drove the average Indian to vote that setup out. Similarly, since many like Katju complain about failures of democracy, they are unwilling or incapable to point out a viable alternative. There probably exists no single individual in this subcontinent whom all could accept or admire. Every individual may think s/he alone can run the nation in the best manner but when problems at the practical level descend on her or him, the true mettle gets exposed. In India today, every institution is facing odds, and its aims are compromised. This goes to mean the people’s interests are compromised at will. Examples could easily start with the judges and include the CBI, the RBI, NGOs, Armed Forces, Universities, Bankers, Industrialists and one could name everyone else. Now, once again there is talk about Lokpal. Question is, where is this ‘ideal judge’, an individual, any individual for that matter, who may head it with all balance and integrity with an unblemished record and retain her/his honesty and transparency over a period of time that will be considered the tenure?
This lack of individuals of extreme integrity and high level of humility is something amiss not only in India but across the world. The events unfolding in the US under the Donald Trump era and the chaos-like situation in the UK on the issue of Brexit are worth noting. In the UK, this touched comical proportions when people went voting on the issue and then displaying ignorance about what the voting was all about. Such situations are new challenges to democracy in this new world order. The system took a hit, and those leading the nation were found wanting. Similar dramas are enacted over the funding for the Wall proposal from President Trump, even as this was part of his election agenda. The government ran into a state of paralysis. Democracy is all about consensus, not confrontation. In India, too, it was more of a confrontation between the ruling BJP and the Opposition over several issues in the past five years and its culmination witnessed not just in Kolkata a week ago over a CBI raid and the chief minister raising a wall of defence but in so many events that have, on a daily basis, taken their toll not just on governance but also our social and economic existence. Indian democracy has its problems, just like other democracies. The way forward is not to write it off and ask for an idiotic despot to sit on our heads but to change it for the better and rid it of the flaws. This is no easy job. In this morass of democracy, Indians have to slog their way to clarity and furthermore clarity as an ongoing evolution of the system. That is what the Free World is struggling for, everywhere. This is a huge task since we, the human resource, are at the root of all these evils and are unwilling to actively participate in this transformational process. The fault does not solely lie with our politicians, judges, bureaucrats, business honchos or such but with us citizens. The moment we change, events will start taking a different course. Question is: Are we prepared to look into ourselves first, before blaming others?