“We the people are the rightful masters of both Government and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution” – Abraham Lincoln
As we move towards 26th of January to celebrate the birth of world’s biggest democratic republic, the irony hanging in the chilly winter air of Delhi is more than palpable. A little over five weeks ago, people cutting across demographic lines celebrated Aam Aadmi party’s magical win in the Delhi assembly. Well, not a win, but their showing was no less than that anyway.
For a distant spectator like me, it was like a renewed faith in constituted democracy, the ability of people to decide who represented them – in representative democracy. In the power people have to reject an incumbent based on how he governed. And, it took a little over three weeks for a distant spectator like me to see through the fluff.
‘India’s Arab Spring’, someone said to me and my mind flirted with this thought for a while.
‘Alternative Politics’ another mentioned and I liked it.
As humans we have a tendency to play with extreme, volatile and even explosive ideas in our mind, no matter how perverse, illegal or even illogical it seems to discuss them loudly. Most of the time we do it because we are unable to think of an alternative way of fixing something, handling a situation.
Arab spring happened because people in Tunisia and Egypt ran out of options to improve their situation. That extreme, volatile and explosive reaction was what their minds must have toyed with for a very very long time. I drew inferences with India, the situation seemed dire enough but not necessarily that dire. We still had a constitution, the power of ballot. We still had that one long forgotten alternative we hadn’t tried yet – good governance.
I am not sure when was the last time I heard or read about anarchy. It seemed like a concept which only belonged in the past centuries, in times when masses were ruled rather than governed, when fundamental rights were still some ultra futuristic concept. But, what Delhi witnessed since AAP formed the Govt with support from (till recently) their persona non grata the congress party, borders on being anarchic.
With little regard for established institutions and methods of governance and less still for the rule of law, AAP has taken ‘being different’ a little too far.
The form of direct democracy that they are championing finds little credibility anywhere else. For a nation that celebrates and prides over its ethnic and demographic diversity, a concept like direct participative democracy is somewhat counter-productive. Throw into the mix ground realities of a huge population, education levels and vested interests and a direct democratic practice looks like an idea for a large scale mess or if you may, anarchy. Like many of their decisions till now AAP seemed to have launched into direct democracy without properly understanding it. The framers of our constitution decided against such a system because they saw a danger in majorities forcing their will on minorities and also because for a country of 350 million people, it was impractical.
I admire AAP’s effort of connecting with the people through mohalla sabhas and junta darbars, but fiercely against mobile phone referendums on where the chief minister should live and whether FDI should be allowed. It all just smells of good PR with hints of political gimmickry and notes of indecision.
Without going into the nitty-gritty of what led to this latest dharna by the Delhi Chief Minister, it seems like that he has a tendency to succumb to those extreme and volatile thoughts in his head or in the heads of the illuminati which advises him.
He has demonstrated a penchant for the extreme and in the process he draws support from section of the society which have been clearly and repeatedly repressed by the rotten governance our country was subjected to.
Extremes solve the problems, I agree they do, but they also comes with a lot of collateral damage.
Imagine a huge downtown building in a city, with a solid base but a leaking and falling roof and shattered windows. A good structural engineer would plan to reinforce the strong base and replace the old windows with new one and fix the roof. A bad engineer, especially one with too little time would just demolish the whole thing and build afresh. Both would work, but just that the extreme approach of demolition would come with a huge collateral damage, damaging buildings nearby and more importantly destroying the strong base the original building still had.
Now think of our country as that very building. There are many things which are in a bad shape here right now, but we too have a strong constitutional base, we have a constitution which gives us our identity and we have to protect it at any cost. The problems we have now could be fixed with careful and good governance, the lack of which actually led to them. We dont have to undermine our constitution for that. Not yet.
As a promise of a viable political alternative AAP attracted a lot of supporters, from people representing all walks of society to noted intelligentsia. The idea of AAP is tempting, and there are many takers. But their recent taste of electoral success has attracted another set of supporters, the opportunists.
From people pledging allegiance to Naxalites to luminaries supporting separatists in Kashmir, all count themselves within AAP now. I understand they are ‘aam aadmi’ too and free to support anyone but as a political party, no matter how unconventional AAP has to take a stand and that has to be more than just corruption free India, its has to be about India in the first place. We were never a nation until the British started ruling over the big swathe of land that we call home now, we are India only because our constitution makes us India. By threatening to disrupt Republic Day ceremonies and invite ‘lakhs of people to the dharna during the function’, Arvind Kejriwal has demonstrated a fearful preview of things to come. His disdain for anything orderly and governed by law was on display for everyone to see. Asking police to act without warrants, vigilante actions, lack of civility in public engagement are only a few pointers on how much his party upholds the law of the land and the constitution, the very things which empowered him to fight an election.
And, lastly what is with the black and white labeling of everything? Anyone who agrees with him is a saint and anyone who as much as tries to question him is a sinner, corrupt and colluding with either the BJP or Congress. Till recently, at least in civil society, acknowledging criticism and improvising were considered values. May be this was not part of the curriculum in direct democracy classes which Arvind and his team took.
Extremes are tempting and always a draw, they can win you elections and keep you on TV news channels day in and day out but they are no replacement for good old capable governance. Have you even tried it once Arvind? For a chief minister, its your failure as an administrator if you are not able to make the bureaucracy mend its ways and work. Arvind should know it, he was part of the same bureaucracy. My humble suggestion to him is to try that one alternative our country has not had the chance to be run with – Good Governance. Try it, may be it will fix the problems and if does not, try the extreme, the explosion. But, please do not and I stress do not make people who support you blindly, take the law and the constitution of India for granted. That is sure to create a bigger problem than corruption ever will.