Published October 28, 2012 | 11:33 pm
By Amanpreet Singh Chhina
‘India: The world’s largest democracy’. Fallacy or truth? It is a phrase often banded around during the world’s political debates and frequently by those (enviously) discussing the growing GDP of the Indian economy.
Well, let us explore this statement and hopefully, the reader can formulate their own judgement as to whether India is the world’s largest democracy. Let us also establish whether political strategy is underpinned by the motivation to either serve or control the electorate. Are India’s leaders willing to create a flourishing socio-economic environment for their citizens or are they seeking to derive and abuse acquired power in the pursuit of status and money.
The first segment lives in a ‘Super Shining India’, which comprises nearly 10% of the total population, comprising leading politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and corporate global houses. This sector enjoys the ‘seven-star, red-carpet’ facilities from the new found economy of the country. The second segment is approximately 20% of the population, mainly comprising the service class, large holding farmers, medium-sized traders and businessmen who are able to enjoy the five-star comforts of the new ‘Shining India’.
The final segment comprises the remaining 70% of the population. These individuals are generally small-marginal farmers, labourers, contract workers, daily-wage workers and small traders, who without doubt hold the democratic political power of the ‘largest democracy’; and yet live in ‘Slum India’, isolated from the rapid economic growth that India has reaped in recent years. Regretfully, although this 70% segment possess the greatest electoral influence, this section of the voters struggle for basic amenities such as safe drinking water, a sanitation system, a constant supply of electricity and they often do not even have basic provisions such as food, clothes and housing: ‘Roti Kapra aur Makaan’.
The first key issue then arises – why is the ‘world’s largest democracy’ so deeply divided between an upper, middle and lower class. In addition, a democracy should facilitate the uniform right for every voter to participate in a corrupt-free ballot and democratically elect their representative to protect their rights and interests?
Is it not a tragic part of India’s democratic history that after 65 years of independence, many of ‘Slum India’s’ electorate have foolishly and often with vested interest, choose to elect corrupt politicians? These politicians are acutely aware that with the abuse of Power, Status and Money an election can be won. As such, they are continually ignoring their prime duties and responsibilities as elected rulers of the country, which has consequently resulted in nearly one-quarter of the country’s population to remain below the poverty line and continue their struggle against integral human development issues; poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
Is it also not hyperbole that India’s claims to be one of the world’s fastest growing economies, is clearly founded upon the concentration of wealth amongst a few. It is evidenced that ‘Slum India’s’ voters still earn less than 100 Rupees a day (Approximately £1.25). This elaborate façade could be claimed to be fronted by a cluster of` politicians and well-connected businessmen, who manage to earn multi-millions annually, as a direct result of abusing the distribution of public finances and resources.
In this prevailing ‘authoritarian political agenda’ it is sad that the most deprived voters are unable to rally and shift from these dictates to ‘issue and agenda’ politics. This is deeply rooted in their lack of education, knowledge or ability to formulate legitimate political pressure. The second question thus arises: ‘Which political party or leader will shift these voters from ‘Slum India’ to ‘Shining India’ and from authoritarian politics to issue and agenda-based politics?’
During the era of globalisation, liberalisation and the commercialisation of politics (post-1990s), the world’s largest democracy seems to be based on three shaking pillars: ‘Power’, ‘Status’ and ‘Money’. The country without doubt is currently controlled by ‘Super Shining Indians’: Political workers and leaders of the country who appear to be highly motivated by the enduring power of their political party, their status within the party and the opportunity to print ‘black’ money through the power of corrupt means. These money-motivated politicians or political parties have a two-fold agenda: Firstly, they are always willing to introduce policies that facilitate printing multi-millions of Rupees and secondly, by any means necessary, their black money and ill-gotten gains are utilised to protect their future power and status.
Such heavy financial ‘black’ investment in politics by all major political parties attracts multi-millionaire politicians, which serve as ‘political financers’ and who have the ability to purchase votes and distribute items including, liquor, drugs, foodstuffs, clothes and other gifts to win these alleged democratic ‘battles’. To enforce this point on political financiers, it is estimated that 48% of India’s MLAs and MPs are classified as ‘Crorepatis’; India’s Millionaires. The third question arising here is whether these political financers have the necessary integrity, attributes, ability, knowledge or qualifications to represent their constituency and to protect the interests of the electoral majority in the world’s largest democracy?
Elected members of legislative assemblies and parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) are required to swear an affidavit, before contesting an election, to confirm whether there are criminal cases pending against them. Alarmingly, approximately one-third of these elected representatives are under criminal investigation. Out of this group, 44% of the elected representatives (which represents 13% of all elected representatives) are facing serious criminal offenses like murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping, extortion and robbery.
The fourth and final question arising here is: which government institution, officer, leader or political party will protect the rights of ordinary citizens and state resources, in order to justify a more substantive claim that India is truly the world’s largest democracy?
I do not claim to have the answers to all the above questions. The truth that our voters must challenge and therefore must surely demand: How democratic is India? Nothing will be changed until and unless voters genuinely take their right to vote seriously and support issue and agenda-based politics and thus eliminate the ‘White Collar Political Mafia’ from the Indian political system. The sale of votes to corrupt politicians must cease forthwith so that the flag of democracy can proudly fly amidst the winds of change and vision across India.
(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Saanj News)