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Democracy in India=Lumpen elements+extra constitutional authorities


Many years ago, Paul R Brass while studying Indian Democracy opined that the main driving force of Indian democracy were the thugs and goons that rich politicians used in order to take over the agenda of democracy itself.  More recently Amartya Sen made an observation that Indian democracy has little to do with people and their aspirations and that it was something which was run by pressure groups.  The statements emanating from both Brass and Sen have the same content; the difference being that while the former was starkly calling a spade a spade the latter was using a euphemism to describe the same phenomenon.  The creeping in of lumpen elements into the system of democracy is a pretty old phenomenon but what merits some attention now is that while in the past it was something very clandestine, in its latest garb it is out in the open and very proudly so. 


In one of my previous posts I had argued that Indian democracy was actually a legitimating facade for plutocracies.  I still argue the same but I will say that the thin veil of legitimacy that it wore has started tearing and giving insights about the truth of how democracy in India functions.  To explain this position of mine I will take two examples and the use of one of the examples is actually a reneging on my previous position that I shall stop writing about the Telangana imbroglio since there was nothing to gain by it. My retraction of the position has nothing to do with the necessity or the lack of it for a separate Telangana state.  But it has everything to do with the fact that it brings into the open certain disconcerting realities of what democracy and governance have become in India.  The other example pertains to the Great Side Show of Indian Politics that is enacted by Babu Rao Hazare and his cohorts.


Let me start with the latter.  For more than a year now Hazare and his little group of merry men and one woman have been trying to grab the headlines of the news of the country with their agitation for the passage of the Lok Pal bill, which they somehow want us to believe is the panacea for all the problems that this country is facing.  Everybody with an iota of sense will know that the idea if looked at very generously is naive and if seen in a more sinister light is draconian.  Hazare, Kejriwal, Ramdev and Kiran Bedi have no mandate of any sorts from any people to hold the Central Government at ransom however corrupt it maybe.  Ultimately there is no denying that the people have elected this government for right or for wrong (the answer will have to for wrong actually) and it is they who have the power of sending it out the next time out when elections happen in 2014.  That is in fact the logic of having elections at regular intervals so that people can show the way out to those who do not perform up to the expectations of the people (that any alternative to the present government is also likely to equally corrupt is a sad issue that faces the country today).


Despite knowing this Hazare and his group (which is most definitely dwindling from the original half dozen to about three now) persist with their demand for a Lok Pal who is not elected by the people and periodically carry out "Gandhian" Satyagraha methods.  It is a tragedy of epic proportions that in the country of Gandhi his methods which first called for "moral rectitude" before being implemented are freely used by all and sundry, including local goons and anti social elements.  It is not an exaggeration to say that Gandhian methods are now the exclusive prerogative of those type of people that the great man abhorred.  


Now to come to the issue of Telangana.  A year or more ago the "Million March" which comprised of a few thousand people some or most of whom were hired had destroyed the Tank Bund on the Hussain Sagar lake.  Again a few days ago the same strategy of a "Million March" was announced.  Again some thousand came and this time since they had no access to the Tank Bund they vandalized a few vehicles and burnt some.  But the point of this post is not that.  It is about the complete lack of governance in the State.  The Convenor of the Telangana Joint Action Committee is a government servant and yet he publicly not only criticises the government but also gives it all kinds of ultimatums.  What is intriguing is how did the government fall for the assurances that this will be a peaceful Gandhian march when there is enough history to suggest that it would be anything but that.  The timing of the march itself was amazing.


Every year Hyderabad is witnessing a growing nuisance in the form of the Ganapati immersions. The idols are getting bigger and bigger and increasing in number with political parties and religious groups pumping more and more money into the festival.  What used to be a one day peaceful festival has now taken on gargantuan proportions with immersions now exceeding two days sometimes.  On a daily basis idols are brought onto the tank bund and the necklace road disrupting traffic and life for nearly two weeks. So when the march is coincided with the immersion procession, how did the government even believe that the processions would be peaceful?  The poignancy of the whole thing is heightened by the fact that the very next day the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity was set to begin and a number of dignitaries from across the world had reached the city.


Why cannot the government restrict the size and number of idols of Ganapati?   Now the Ganapati pandals are no longer removed.  In a few days the place of Ganapati is occupied by Durga and the process begins all over again.  More processions more immersions, all conducted by gangs of youth who are drunk and throw various things on public who are travelling on the roads.  


So in India a legitimately elected government can be held to ransom by a few individuals like Hazare or by Government servants who have the backing of lumpen elements who number a few thousand or by religious groupings who will show one upmanship by defying the Government and doing the opposite of what it wants to do.  Governments cannot do anything because there are no leaders with rectitude, integrity and honesty in the country anymore.  Everyone has come to be where they are using the same methodologies that are now being used.  Some of them have even forgotten that they have become legislators and therefore feel free to break microphones in the Legislature.  


The picture is grim and those who think that life will go on could be making a big mistake, since increasing lumpenism only signifies a sick society that can collapse.  New festivals like Hanuman Jayanti how have youth on motorcycles marauding across the city with saffron flags and so to counter this youth belonging to the other religion do exactly the same with green flags on the birthday of Prophet Mohammed.  People cannot look for some divine force to come and set things right. They too will have to take some initiative to make their sane voices heard over the din of this insanity.  But I do not see that happening.  Therefore what lies in store for this country is anyone's guess.