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Public Paroxysm & Political Parties In Democracy

Public demonstrations against democratically elected governments are regular occurrences in democracies globally. Why is it that the public gives vent to its paroxysm so frequently? Developed countries face public anger in the form of occupy Wall Street while others have protests like India Against Corruption or Movement against black money stashed away in foreign countries. One streak that is common in all protests is the total lack of faith of the people in their political parties across ideological shades. There are more politicians accused for corruption than those admired for their integrity. Political parties can stoop to any low levels for winning elections, capturing power or staying in power when threatened with no trust or no confidence motions. Money plays a decisive role howsoever parties may claim to be honest. The money is pumped by businesses and big corporations, who are a kind of  invisible economic government. The governments that come to power or stay in power on the strength of the money invested(?) by such corporations are obliged to recoup the investors by playing with policies. Everything is declared to be in public interest, especially for the poor, but actually serves the interests of such money bags. The desperation shown by the Manmohan Singh government to allow multi brand retail to foreign direct investors is a case in point. There is an unseemly haste in pursuing this proposal in the teeth of stiff opposition from most better informed people excepting the few running the government.

In any society, democratic or non democratic, the inventors, innovators, intellectuals and creators of wealth will always be a minority. The existence of different economic level people will always remain an unpleasant reality. The number of poor will always be huge, if the statistics of  the poor and those not qualifying for being called rich are any indication. The best countries, democracies or others can hardly boast of a millionaire for every 10000 citizens. That creates lots of opportunities for politicians to play politics with poverty, disease, hunger, literacy and employment. Politicians and their parties in democracies play all their politics in such a social & political environment. They promise people everything under the sun but deliver nothing. Because their failures make for painful disillusionment, politicians end up collecting flak from the people. They are liberally ridiculed, jeered, reviled, criticized and even hated. Added to this is their low score on the integrity meter. As political parties need a large number of workers to organize and run electioneering for several months, large funds have to be raised. In a country like India, the numbers of such political workers runs into millions. This new breed of “self-employed”, “political entrepreneurs & Managers” is largely drawn from the unemployed and unemployable youngsters. The political parties have to spend huge sums on engaging these battalions, not only during electioneering but later also. Many of them get paid from the political party, or businesses & companies patronised by the ruling party or even the opposition parties. The opposition party makes money by asking questions in parliament and outside and influencing policies in favour of its own protegees. In most cases, all the political parties derive similar benefits from the similar businesses and are aware of the mutual benefits, which they consider a small amount(?) for their “service” to the poor. The smart and really enterprising political workers devote their skills to doing a profitable business out of  black mailing officials, contractors, suppliers, police,  doctors, shop keepers, industrialists, builders and judges etc. They become very rich in a few years and display their ill gotten wealth to impress the people in their area and win their respect and support. They try to spend some of this money on local events like religious functions to earn the goodwill of the people, which they cash during elections by extending support to the political party or candidate or carve out a political career as an elected representative for themselves. This cycle moves very fast and the unemployed and the unemployable becomes the employer of hundreds of people by taking to several money spinning ventures as a side business. Most Indian politicians have become farmers, land owners, petrol pump or cooking gas dealers, miners, school owners, medical or engineering college owners. Several have gone to jail for serious crimes. They make a funny sight being accompanied by black Commandos for security, ridiculing the whole concept of the Rule of Law. The sight of such an elected representative of the people apprehended earlier in the day for destroying public property like burning public transport buses by the police constable being saluted in the evening by the same constable is terribly disgusting.

It rightly exposes the moral weakness of  democracy as a form of government. Democracy grants a licence to people to form a government based solely on numbers. It hardly matters if these numbers consist of illegal immigrants posing to be legitimate citizens of the country. It does not matter if these numbers consist of votes purchased by mass bribing of people like promising free laptops, mobile handsets, TV, gold coin, rice or any other deliverable; or their group leaders or every single voter individually. It also does not matter if the voters have been threatened to vote for a particular party’s candidates. Before the use of the electronic voting machines in India, the bullies of the parties used to freely stamp the voters after driving away all the legitimate voters. Finally, hardly 40% people exercise their vote in any election, and the winning candidate can register an electoral victory on the basis of  as low a vote as 29% of the registered voters in a constituency. What kind of a government can be expected from such winners? Can they provide a clean government? So while they act as the people’s representatives, they act under the directions of their “owners”, whether the Party High Command or the Investors. Promises made during electioneering apart, it becomes a genuinely non-functional, corrupt and even illegitimate government. The sale and purchase of Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies is common in India. If the news reports about sacking of a few thousand public servants or party managers in China are true, the ebbing morals are no different in a non democratic  set up either. America & Europe have been experiencing recurring instances of absence of morality in their parliamentarians in governance, policy formulation, legislation and even simple activities like claiming house rent or transportation allowances. Indian politicians and political parties are fast losing their moral authority. Idealism is absent and values have disappeared. Moral appeal has completely eroded. Assess the success of the India Against Corruption and the Movement against black money & corruption, which received huge  public support, to get an idea of the extent of public hopelessness with politicians and parties. What  enthusiastic and voluntary support these two received is indicative of  the sense of public censure of the politician, political parties and governance in India.

India has traditionally practiced a system of least governance. It lived happily under the institution of the village Panchayat or Village Government. The Panchayat discharged all the functions of an executive, legislature and judiciary. Mahatma Gandhi advocated revival and  strengthening the old institution. Instead the people have been subjected to over governance post 1947. The new democratic form of government, with all kinds of laws that the people neither understand nor get benefited, is alien to an average Indian. The fervour for drafting laws by the parliament and state assemblies is most confounding to say the least. What for are these laws? For whom are they enforced? Do the legislators want these laws to be applied to themselves or seek exemptions? People are not “partners in governance” in this new alien form of government, as they were in the Panchayat system of yore. Without going into the merits or demerits of the two systems, let us acknowledge the fact that this democracy robs people of direct participation in government. It makes two categories of people: the rulers and the ruled. So even if a crime is committed in front of the policeman, the victim gets no relief instantly, but must wait for the entire process to take place before any relief can be granted. It is nothing short of double whammy. It is atrocious. It is traumatic. It is corruption experienced. Hence the strong public anger. In less than 65 years, politicians and political parties have brought the country to such a pass that the people have to do what the Members of Parliament or State Legislative Assemblies were duty bound to do but miserably failed, which is to provide transparent governance without corruption. If the public perception of the politician and the political party is that they are generally corrupt or silent on corrupt practices, it is justified. There is no ground for anybody to take umbrage at that. Instead those honest practitioners of politics must take the leadership of the nation and set an example.  But tolerating a corrupt or illegitimate government is to become a partner in crime. Even one honest Member of Parliament can turn the course of history in no time. They refer to the venerated leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Jaya Prakash Narayan. Were these great men  not individuals? It means their achievements can be repeated by any individual who vows to act in total morality and honesty, sets high ideals and vision and acts to deliver genuine service to the nation.

Politics devoid of morals & high ideals is bound to face public paroxysm. That is what India is presently undergoing!

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