The slogan most bandied about throughout the world by the Indian Government has been that “India is the World’s Largest Democracy”. A democratic country of more than a billion people. In common parlance there is a very well-known definition of democracy. It is the government of the people, by the people and for the people! The main pillar on which the democratic set up is supposed to rest is the people. Equality for all is another important pillar. All are equal in a democratic set up. The most important aspect of democracy recently highlighted by Mohan Guruswamy in his article, “Democracy is Dead, Long Live Democracy!” in the online newspaper, the Citizen, is restraint. According to him, “The democratic way of life depends most upon one human quality – restraint. From restraint flows the spirit of accommodation, which leads to the path of reconciliation. Democracy is the only political system that seeks to reconcile diverse aspirations and demands to maximize their fulfilment”.
However, the democracy in India seems to be going in the reverse gear. It is assuming a mob mentality. In American English a “Mob” is a gang of criminals and gangsters are also called the mobsters. Indian democracy judged by recent happenings is turning into a mob rule or what may be called a “Mobocracy”! The indiscipline among peoples’ representatives initially started from some state legislatures. There were instances of scuffles, throwing of chairs, pulling out of mikes and many unruly incidents. The very basis of democracy, the “restraint” was given a go by. Then there were incidents of moral turpitude when some legislators were caught watching adult movies inside the House. Debates in such houses are supposed to be decent exchanges of views and civilised discussions on various topics. However, these became slanging matches and the houses were turned into fish markets. In addition, it was also revealed that many of the peoples’ representatives were facing criminal charges. In that sense, they could be called the representatives of the “Mobs”!
Finally, this degradation of the representative houses of the people reached the ultimate and the top most house, the parliament. Not only was there a continuous brawl preventing holding of any worthwhile business but there were scuffles and clashes worse than those seen on the streets. Members walking into the well of the house and raising slogans and tearing various bills had become a routine. However, the climax was the use of pepper spray, brandishing of knives and strip-tease by some members during the passing of Telengana bill. Parliaments in civilised countries are famous for lively debates and enlightening discussions. In fact, the British Parliament, called the mother of all Parliaments is what the original Parliamentarians in India wanted their house to be like. They could never imagine that the house created by them will turn into a “Mob” house! Mohan Guruswamy in his article has mentioned this in these words: “The great leaders who founded our democracy, men like Jawaharlal Nehru, BR Ambedkar, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel and Maulana Azad would not recognize what is happening in the Lok Sabha these days. The house hardly meets. Good and qualified people no longer want to be part of a leadership that has made loot its prime purpose and does not care for political niceties and social courtesies anymore”.
One sometimes wonders whether the British model of the parliament or even the main democratic set up is suitable for India. Democracy’s prime requirement is election of representatives by the people periodically through general elections. In India these elections have become a big business sponsored by corporates and managed by criminals and hoodlums. In many parts of India votes are purchased. Money and muscle power play a big role in these elections especially in rural India. Corporates also control the media which caters to rich only. According to Guruswamy, “Even worse is the limited focus of the national media, particularly the English print media and television on the concerns of a small and self-centred elite that propounds the so-called market reforms and the so-called liberalization only to help itself even more”. Arundhity Roy has called India, “An Upper Caste Hindu Corporate Republic!”
The general masses in rural India are swayed by the personalities as the personality cult has been promoted by almost all political parties. The personality cult combined with nepotism has revived the ancient system of kings and queens ruling India. Indira Rani, Jaylalitha, Mayawati, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Akilesh Yadav and so on are presented as political stalwarts but basically they have come into politics because of their family connections. Having been ruled by Kings and Queens for centuries, it is difficult for the Indian public to come out of the personality cult. Rulers continue to come from the select dynasties generation after generation!
There had been one positive aspect of Indian democracy and that was the setting up of some upright institutions which could guard a democratic polity. These included the Highest Judiciary, the Election Commission, and the Central Bureau of Investigation. However, even these have now been infiltrated and prejudiced. Judgements have been passed in accordance with the “collective” conscience of the society.
In view of these stark realities it is debatable whether India can still claim to be the “Largest Democracy in the World!” As Mohan Guruswamy says, “Democracy is Dead, Long Live Democracy!"