Friday, December 20, 2013

The Unarmed Democracy

A friend of mine often disagree with me. He also thinks that I have disproportionate influence. Well here it is then, his opinion on something that I have great faith in. Bouquets and brickbats are welcome.

In my country, India, if you talk to the urban intellectuals most of the times they would cite the lack of education as the major problem of the country. Rarely, they would say that the huge population is the problem (which underlies almost every other problem in India). Many people –and this one is especially popular now a days- would say it’s corruption. Some would say it is lack of good laws. Others would point out failing to enforce them as the real problem.

Whatever the problem, most of us want the government to solve them. The idea is quite logical. The only entity with “legal” power to effect any change is the government. However, in India the government is structured in such a way that it could please all the ethnicities and castes. The constitution (which was supposedly designed to eradicate the infamous caste system) ensures that. Most of the Indians would agree that the government is limited in many ways while making decisions. It has to take into account the emotions of all its subjects. It cannot take any decision that in any way offends or hurts any ethnicity, religion, caste etc. This sounds like a heavenly arrangement; nevertheless there is something very sinister about it. If your country respects all religions and my religion is murder, you are in a problem. If your country respects every belief and my belief is in the caste system, you cannot even think of eradicating it. If your country respects all cultures and my culture is human sacrifice you are badly messed up. Well, these examples may sound too extreme, but they happen every day on a smaller level. The law says I cannot encroach the land belonging to the state, but my religion says making a shrine is the biggest service to God and the constitution gives me the right to practice my religion as it is; so the government, despite the existence of the said law, is impotent when I have encroached its land to construct my shrine. And that is what is happening in India every single second in one way or another.

Many “intellectuals”, or not-so-intellectual people, would agree that, depending on their ideology and political inclination, that some form of stronger government is needed. This idea has become particularly popular lately. They would say that unless that happens no change could be brought about. It is a very logical and correct thought. Very similar to the one that Germans had during the existence of Weimar Republic. An impotent government debilitated by “pleasing politics” cannot do much to change a nation of ethnicities so diverse that they could easily be different nations if not continents. Hence, recently the people have started promoting the idea of voting for the politicians that seem to be strong, ruthless and hardliners.

Unfortunately, that is a double edged sword. If you vote for a government that is too strong, it can effect changes undoubtedly, but there would be no way to let it know where and when to stop. One major reason that a powerful government can become too powerful is that the population that elects it is unarmed. It may sound insane, but a government that has an army at its disposal and is too strong about its ideas cannot be controlled by an unarmed population, no matter how long the history of democracy the nation in question has had. I will again take you to the rise of the government that seized power after Weimar Republic failed in Germany. It had very strong ideas, it made the nation grow very fast both financially and industrially and it produced changes when most other liberal governments would have failed. However, soon the government became unstoppable and it led a country of “peacefully unarmed” population to a war that would change both the country and the planet forever in many not-so-pleasing ways.

What I am trying to say is that a constitution like ours that advocates the civilians being totally unarmed has to champion an impotent government because both go hand in hand. The Indian constitution created by people much more wise than I am, ensures that the population has to forever wallow in whatever misery it finds itself in because it can never (thankfully and safely!) have a government that could bring about any noticeable change. If one wants a potent government, one that could overrule the constitution in ways that work for the greater good of the nation (for example, not pleasing every single caste, religion etc. just in order to keep the parliament functioning), one will have to think very seriously about arming the population which would find itself impotent in the face of a democratically elected government that becomes so powerful that it could produce changes and eventually crosses the line and goes beyond what the people electing it originally wanted.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Takeaways from Semi-Final 2013

So the carnival has come to an end, and the victors have been declared. The losers are in a deep sense of despair, trying to figure out the message that people of this country, particularly when it concerns states that add up to nearly 60 seats in the Lok Sabha. There are a few clear takeaways from this election, which I shall elaborate upon:

1. You cannot parachute leaders from Delhi in a country where sub-nationalism runs high
(Regional leaders shine all the way - courtesy LiveMint)
The Congress party's high command culture has been severely threatened by the rise of sub-nationalism in India. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have clearly shown that weak state leadership devoid of ideas and ridden with factionalism cannot work to the advantage of Congress or BJP. The BJP scored in all but Delhi where it exists only because it's regional leaders had been identified and were leading charge well in advance. Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Dr Raman Singh undertook massive campaigns of public outreach more than a year in advance. Parachuting of Modi was icing for them, unlike the disastrous guerilla tactics of sending in an Amit Jogi or a Jyotiraditya Scindia, both of whom were undermined by other leaders from the same state and where Rahul Gandhi's 'magic' was expected to wash out all these tactical errors.

2. Congress is almost out of the Hindi Heartland; stares at 1977 repeat.

For the first time since 1977 is the Congress nearly wiped out of the Hindi heartland. The UP 'miracle' will never happen; nor will the MP or Chhattisgarh revival take place. Except Himachal and Haryana, which give only 15 seats together, the Congress is out of power and out of touch with more than half the country now. Add to that Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal, the Congress is a demoralized force and stares at a 1977 repeat, where all its Northern bastions were stormed to the effect of exterminating India's Grand Old Party out of existence. Chances of revival are even slimmer till Rahul Gandhi continues to utter sheer nonsense during campaigns and Manmohan Singh remains Prime Minister. Another important factor is the Delhi election, where the Congress vote bank was dented by the Aam Aadmi Party, dramatically hurting them in turn.  Clearly, the Congress' traditional vote bank is searching for options.

3. There are no game-changers of elections except governance,effective implementation, and economic growth

Direct Cash Transfer, Food Security Act, Land Acquisition Act, Har Haath mein Phone Yojana, MNREGS and Right to Education were proposed by the strategy gurus of 10 Janpath as game changers for the Congress, hoping that this Dettol of largess can wash away gangrene of corruption, inflation and slow growth away. What has been demonstrated is that do whatever they can, nothing beats effective governance, fighting corruption and pro-growth strategies for poverty alleviation. Rights based, freebie based approaches are not going to work now, as the drubbing has shown to the Congress party. Rajasthan, the laboratory of Sonianomics, is testimony to it, where the Congress touched a new historic low for the state, winning less than 30 seats in a 200 seat Legislature.

4. NaMo is a factor

I know many will scoff at this by looking at the Delhi elections, but Delhi would not have seen the traditional Sangh vote base come out and support the BJP had Modi not put in so much effort. Selecting a terrible choice in the form of Vijay Kumar Goel was offset only by Modi's aggressive campaigning. Similarly, Rajasthan, the Congress' social laboratory, saw Modi steal the show from Rahul's antics by the sheer power of oratory and wit. The Congress lost all it could thanks to the lack of charisma, as Ramchandra Guha also pointed out on a news channel programme recently.

5. Dynasty politics has started to fade

Barring two candidates across the entire four states, the scions of stalwarts from either side lost badly to new candidates who were perceived to be weaklings. The people are now not going to be impressed by lineage - a sign of maturing democracy. More than 90% of the seats on which Rahul Gandhi campaigned were lost by the Congress in Rajasthan; same was the case in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi too. The charm factor does not hold a candle to the voters, who now vote with their feet.

6. Aam Aadmi Party is here to stay for only two decades - conditions apply

A new slogan will be needed soon
Why do I put twenty years? The only comparable for the AAP is the Telegu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, which is struggling for existence today. Similarly, the PDP has failed to go beyond the Kashmir valley in J&K. At best, AAP will be a regional or a metro-city party; however, if they continue with their socialist agenda they will see themselves being thrashed around like the Congress. Corruption is a major issue, but people will not just vote for clean leaders all the time if they fail to give them opportunities to prosper economically. Delhi is not Kerala, which survives on remittance. Delhi is a prosperous city that can talk about social welfare schemes, but there are bigger more complex states that AAP will never manage to dent like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra simply because people there are not closet socialists.

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