Is India really a democracy?

All our politicians make tall claims and rash promises

Just the other day, I was sitting in front of the television with my parents and watching some white garbed, unshaved and seemingly unbathed guy screaming hoarsely into the mike (FYI they are called politicians) about how he is going to turn around the country, like the country isn’t an administrative behemoth but rather his ambassador car! And just then my father commented with irritation that this politics is all a hoax and it doesn’t matter who you vote for, ultimately the votes that matter are all bought, directly or indirectly. Upon hearing this, I wasn’t sure whether I should agree with it or disagree…that was a difficult choice, so I settled with analysing this instead.

Decades of administrative lethargy have led to disillusionment

The disillusionment that the so called middle class has with politics is commonplace enough to be acceptable as well as legendary in the world’s biggest democracy. I wonder what the reason is for this. The Economist and the reader in me believes that this has roots in the socialistic license raj times that our country went through prior to 1991, where the same party retained power for almost forever and even when a part of the masses felt that they needed a change, they neither had a choice nor a say. So the intellectual class, that believed in the free market and saw the harm that “the party” and its ideology were doing to the country, started getting alienated from the political system, i.e. they gave up on it. As the intellectual class (by this I mean the educated middle class) has flourished in the country post-liberalization, they have increasingly turned towards MNCs in a quest for jobs, towards foreign accredited schools for better education and towards English as a language for better global connect-what are all these if not proxy institutions to what the government should ideally have provided to its citizens. Most people see the failure of the political class in the absence of these institutions and therefore feel more irritated towards politicians.

Little improvement in the lot of the common man, even as parliamentarians continue to enjoy their ever-increasing privileges

Union Minister and Maharashtra Cricket Association chief Sharad Pawar gestures during a news conference in Kolkata

As a lifelong resident of Delhi-NCR, I can tell you another reason why people might not exactly love their politicians. You see, when on a searing hot summer afternoon, your auto is stopped in middle of nowhere alongwith ‘n’ number of other vehicles, because a minor politician’s not-so-minor cavalcade would be passing through the road, I am sure you will resolve to not vote for that politician ever. And I believe this is indicative of how things are in our country. People are totally disconnected from their so-called leaders. It’s almost as if our politicians aren’t human but some sort of walking golden statues that need to be protected from the very same people that they represent, the very same people from whose taxes their salaries are being paid! I also wonder how much does a Harvard/Oxford/whatever-great-college graduate who was born in a political family really know about the problems that the citizen at the bottom of the pyramid faces. If this disconnect should not miff people then I don’t know what should.

Nepotism in politics subverting our democracy?

Another thought that bubbles in my head regarding this subject is the ‘barriers to entry’ in politics. Say for example, I had to write god-knows-what number of examinations to get through a business school and it is only post acquiring my MBA degree that I will be eligible to work in some decent firm. But what about the Gandhis and the Scindias and the Pilots of the world…I don’t think that they had to prove their mettle in anyway apart from the accident of birth, to lay claim to the thrones they so proudly wear on their heads. I am not contesting the fact that they may be competent individuals, but their surnames give them an undue advantage over someone who has no political pedigree and wants to enter this field. As a product of meritocracy, this leads me to have serious reservations about most of our existing politicians who happen to be heirs/heiresses of erstwhile politicians.

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The reasons that I propose above are neither exhaustive nor are they definitely true. There may be better and more ‘reasonable’ reasons for the scorn that the so-called ‘common man’ has for the political class but the fact that there is scorn does not bode well for the future of our country. I was never good in Social Science in school, but I remember one lesson from my Democratic Politics book- A democracy is participative by definition. I guess, if a democracy does not remain participative, it will cease to remain a democracy at all-this thought makes me feel very uneasy.

– Anonymous

– The author of this post is an MBA graduate from one of the top ten B schools in the country. Views reflect the opinion of the author.

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