Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fragmentation of Polity and Empowerment of Small Groupings

People have varied views on fragmentation of Indian polity. Industrialists, who have no other goal than to see their business flourish hope that single parties strengthen and the myriads of smaller parties loose influence in the policy making. Well this trend is well in sync with the global industry trend, even 60 years back when industrialist backed Hitler for a strong government and bolder policies which allow them to make most profit. Recently the captains of industry, flattered by Modi's policies of quick land acquisition and low interest rate loans (which are not available to farmers), openly proclaimed that Modi should be the PM of the nation. No wonder he may introduce a loan waiver for all the big industries.

Next come to the political analysts and psephologists. Some rightly feel that government looses direction when a motley group of parties come together to form the government. But they all agree that multiple parties have made the roots of democracy even deeper in our society. Also it makes the prediction game so much more fun. Sadly it also reduces the elections to a game of alliances and cold arithmetic.

In view of the Small groups, multiparty system has proved to be a boon. These days where there are triangular or more contests, the margin of votes polled for the winning party and the next in line is very small. This empowers the minorities (not just religious minorities but any group with small numbers but different demands). Also it makes the party more receptive to the needs of a larger section of people. Before they could easily neglect a group with 3% vote share but not today. The must take into account the demands of every section of the society. This is a very welcome development. Also the government formed is viewed as their government by a larger chunk of people. Though due to a disparate vote base the direction of the policies of the government and its stability may be shaky but such a democracy is very strong where every one has a stake in the government making.

I often wonder that when we wonder for more decisive governments are we actually indirectly craving for an autocrat to sit on the top of the government if not a dictator. Many praise Indira Gandhi for her decisive style but was it democratic and did it help the nation in the long term? much of the decay in Congress and subsequently in the nation is attributed to her dictatorial style. She started the system of nomination in Congress replacing internal democracy. She started giving rewards to bureaucracy based on their loyalty towards her rather than upmanship starting the royal rot of Indian babus. Is this what we want? Can we call Nehru or Lal Bahadur Shastri a strong leader in terms of what we today. Did they not bow to popular demands many times, whether it was the issue of the first president, linguistic re organisation of states or the issue of Hindi as a national language? Every time these leaders held the public opinion superior to their judgement the nation was strengthened beyond imagination. The only trick is when to bow to the public opinion and when to go against it? Had Nehru bowed to pressure against Hindu Code Bill, today would have been a very different one. Case in point is Rajiv Gandhi who did not uphold the principles of secularism in face of public leanings to the other sides. Whether is was the Shah Bano Case or the unlocking of the Ram Mandir ghost. Both cases he proved to be wrong.

It seems like that certain principles should be held more dear to the public opinion and personal whims should always be crushed under the weight of democracy. But who shall differentiate between principles and whims? Gandhi's Talisman is one device to help one out. Also if one recognises the need to conserve the diversity of the nation as a principle, many things are sorted out. Anything against this principle should be debated against in our minds and only after intense debate if it passes the Gandhi's Talisman one can be bit more sure that the idea may not be a bad one.

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