Democracy – I Weep For Thee

This is Indian democracy and one wonders why we are proud of the same

Last few weeks in the nation have seen democracy being kicked on its back and made to look ugly. First it was Rahul Gandhi’s resignation drama and then the Karnataka government crisis. Both the unsavoury events had Rahul Gandhi stamped on the front and Congress on the back.

After the general elections results were declared on 23 May 2019, a sulking Rahul decided to resign and then locked himself up in his home. He refused to see anyone despite a bevy of leaders, comprising of who is who of Congress party, lining outside his house to placate him and asking him to withdraw his resignation. By itself a party president resigning after a rout at the hustings is fine and possibly an expected news item.  But as is Rahul’s want it was not so in his case. First, he absolved himself of all blame and made a general statement about local and booth level Congress workers not having done their job in right earnest in the interests of the party. A few days later he outlined two main reasons for party’s loss.  Firstly, he blamed three senior Congress leaders who had wangled nominations for their wards. Secondly, he blamed Mr Chidambaram for poor drafting of party’s Election manifesto. He conveniently forgot that as party president he had given approval for both before the same were finalised. Once Rahul came out of his self-imposed hibernation he continued to lay the blame on party workers for not having done enough to win the elections. Meanwhile, the resignation drama spread like wild fire with party leaders at all levels, barring the top levels in Delhi, resigning by the dozen on a daily basis. One can only surmise from these events that Congress subscribes to the belief that senior leadership is never at fault and therefore it should not take any responsibility for any reverses.

The grand old party talks of democracy all the time but does not practice what it preaches internally. It has a working committee that has no elected members. All nominated members are political sycophants who fall on their knees with folded hands every time they hear the Gandhi name irrespective of whether it is attached to Sonia or Rahul or Priyanka. The resignation drama is far from over and it has been nearly two months since the results were out and Congress is literally like a rudderless ship today. Old guard is bent upon Rahul continuing, not for his or party’s sake, but for the sake of their remaining relevant in Indian politics. The new guard raises a feeble voice once in a while to press its case for a more dynamic and younger party president, but only if Rahul cannot be coaxed into taking back his resignation. Captain Amrinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, was the lone sane voice who openly declared that the party ought to have a young leader to start the rebuilding process in right earnest. As expected there were not many takers for the same.

The Karnataka drama once again has its roots when Congress turned democratic traditions on their head by inviting JDS leader Kumaraswamy to form a government with their support last year. JDS had only 37 elected members as against 80 of Congress in a house of 222 members. Rahul did this for two reasons. Firstly, there were no takers for Congress as a lead partner in a coalition. Secondly, Rahul’s fixation to keep BJP away from forming a government irrespective of the price to be paid. JDS led government was shaky from the day it was sworn in. Independent MLAs supporting the coalition blackmailed the Chief Minister to secure lucrative posts for themselves at the cost of some Congress elected members whose ambitions were crushed by Rahul’s decision to give the lead to JDS. An Indian politician, particularly after he is elected, is not the one to care for voters or the state or his nation. His only aim is to secure power and make money. As expected sulking Congress MLAs threatened to quit from time to time and Mr Kumaraswamy led coalition had to oblige them with plum posts and cabinet expansions purely to maintain the coalition’s numbers in the house. The shaky coalition with a Chief Minister who seemed incapable of keeping his flock together was bound to fail. On one hand Congress’ Siddaramaiah played games to plot Kumaraswamy’s downfall and on the other BJP leader Yeddiurappa, who is not a novice to manipulations, was adding to coalition’s problems by constantly trying to woo some dissatisfied independent and Congress MLAs. Finally, it appears Mr Yeddiurappa succeeded and today the coalition is all but hanging by the proverbial thread that may snap at any time.

The sad part in both events is the quality of our elected members and political leaders. They refuse to take responsibility for failures but thump their chest at the fall of a hat even when their contribution is zero for any achievement. Immediately after the results, Rahul was happy to leave the party leaderless and directionless. Today with Karnataka crisis at its peak there is no concerted effort from Congress high command to save its government in the state because no one knows who should take the lead. In contrast BJP, after its landslide win, is going ahead in a planned and diligent manner to increase its membership drive to 100 million and planning for downfall of Congress led state governments. Congress workers in states and lower down are just wandering about aimlessly with no purpose in sight. Senior Congress leaders are biding time and hoping for some Gandhi to assume charge so that their positions in the party remain intact. Young leaders in the party are awaiting blessings from possibly Sonia or Rahul to stake a claim for a leadership role. The pity is no one, both from old guard and the younger lot, has the courage to say enough is enough and force the issue or raise a banner of revolt against Gandhi family, the inheritors of the party.

The Karnataka drama raises some very awkward questions regarding quality and character of our elected representatives. There is no problem if some want to resign from their original party or change their allegiance. But then the simple, honourable and democratic way to do this would be to draft a resignation and give it to speaker of the hose in full view of other members of the house. Instead rebels either go into hiding or seek protection from their new masters and get whisked away to five star locations and remain in their captivity. They let the new political masters do the dirty work on their behalf and then surface to grab plum posts in any new government that may be formed. In between they keep their choices open to see who offers more inducements or a better price for their support. It is obvious these rebel MLAs have no shame, no commitment towards the people who elected them and no concern for the state they belong to. As individuals they lack character, courage and integrity. They are only living for themselves and are on sale to the highest bidder. Congress may blame BJP for causing the MLAs to resign, but in any political environment and more so in India this is the norm and has been practiced since Indian democracy was born. It is for individual parties to keep their flock together. The pity is even if fresh elections were to be held, majority of these good for nothing politicians would still win their seats.

This is Indian democracy and one wonders why we are proud of the same. The problem is as Indians we are in love with the idea of democracy, what happens in reality does not concern us. It does not matter whether the voter is educated or uneducated, aware or unaware, politically active or inactive. We just go and vote and that is the end of our democratic duties since our democracy is formatted in that manner to suit unscrupulous politicians. The state governors, who are never apolitical, just sit and watch in their ivory towers while democracy is being murdered right under their nose. If today there was a mechanism for voters or Governors to force the resignation of MLAs who do not deliver or put themselves up for sale, then this would not happen. But our democracy is not by the people and for the people. It is by the politician and for the politician. That is indeed a sad story. The question is how do we correct it? Democ

Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.

Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.

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