That’s not Democracy!

‘That’s not cricket’ has become a way of naming anything that is unbecoming in our society.  It is an effective way of naming that which is deemed as unfair.  In the same way, these days something within us is crying out ‘that’s not democracy’. From the distribution of tickets, to the stitching of alliance, seat adjustments, and the conduct of election campaigns in Goa, something does not seem to add up.  The bad, the ugly and the dirty side of politics is there for all to see as friends and foes cutting across party lines have dawn their battle lines.  Though these crossing of political swords have been sometimes described as friendly fights (in some places), it has not been received the approval of the people. This desire to dress a vested interest with euphemisms stands naked.  We also saw the political discourse hitting a new low when the talks for alliance were tamed to become seat adjustments only to end as no alliance creating victims and villains in some highly explosive political camps. Those made victims have begun to draw the sympathies of the people. All this suggests that the crafty and cunning ways of some tall leaders have only scored several self goals. Besides, the leadership deficit of the ruling dispensation has begun flying a kite of probable and possible return of a central minister and is trying to vehemently woe voters with little success. Furthermore, the politics of intimidation of the right wing hardliners got enacted when the Chief Minister and one of his prominent ministers were ambushed publicly by their opponents in their respective constituencies. Moreover, the social media is flooded with unbecoming images and comments, video clips and even recorded phone calls that purport to sling mud on the face of those positioned as opponents. Although, some of this mud might stick yet we might have to humbly agree that the way things have unfolded around us only indicate the sad demise of several of best democratic traditions. 

 A dictum ‘that’s not democracy’ may aptly capture our precarious condition.  Though the notorious practices of some politicians, political parties and their cronies seem to have become largely anti-democratic, all is not lost till the last vote is cast in the ballot. This is because democracy stays alive in its enactment. It is the practices of the legislative, executive, judiciary, media and the citizens that create the social life of any democracy. Democracy is not static but is dynamic and evolving. This means democracy stays actively produced by the peformative acts of its institutions and citizens.  A perfomative act is one that produces its effect in the very process of it being put forth. Thus, for instance, in the very act of saying ‘I do’, a marital relation is enacted and established between a husband and wife. The same is true in a democracy. It is in the acting out of democracy that it is coming into being. This is why the declaration ‘I do’ becomes a performative utterance.  While, we may find fault with the major players in a democratic apparatus, the role of the ordinary citizens cannot be dismissed in the materialization of the same. The actualisation or materialization of democracy requires practices that are organised around regulatory ideals. The regulatory ideals allow and disallow certain practices that materialise or inhibit the actualisation of democracy. This means democracy stays always in the process of becoming and is often enhanced or constrained by the practices of citizens, politicians, political parties, executives, and others who man our legislature, judiciary, executive apparatus and media. When these players that make democracy functional do not play their role adequately, we have the situation that calls for course correction.  We seem to have reached such a state in Goa. Hence, such a situation has to be described with the dictum:  ‘That’s not democracy. 

Democracy is produced through regulatory practices like elections, legislative/parliamentary sessions, and functioning of elected government with its opposition. In several ways, it is the quality of these practices that produce or fail to produce democracy for us.  Here, we have tried to examine election as a site which becomes a regulatory ideal that organises a performative enactment of democracy.  A regulatory ideal is like our Goan sluice gate that allows and disallows the flow of water of the river and determine the quality of aquatic ecosystem of both the river and water bodies linked to it. In the context of elections, the regulatory ideal allows and disallows practices which cumulatively produce our democracy.  Our analysis seem to paint a grim picture since the electoral practices of several politicians, political parties and their cronies are found wanting.  Several politicians and their political camps seem to have followed logic of equivalence as they seem to strive to balance out the power of our vote.  We can notice how some political formations have actively fielded other candidates along with their own candidates to eat into the votes of their opponents. This means along side of their official candidates, there are other candidates who seem to have joined the fray only to ensure the victory of their masters. This taming of the power of our vote happens within the legal framework that electoral laws and cannot be construed as illegal practices.   We may describe these practices with our dictum: ‘that’s not democracy’.  But we certainly need to do more to recover the power of our vote and restore the quality of our democracy.  Perhaps, we will have to follow the logic of difference to achieve this goal. The logic of difference challenges us to vote ethically and decisively and make that difference to the outcome of the electoral process.  Although, each of us has a single vote, we must remember that it has an explosive power. To harness, its power, it is crucial that we carefully and critically analyse and discern the candidates and their cronies who seat only to neutralise the power of our votes to win by default. Such a critical analysis will restore the bite of our vote and make a difference to the electoral process and enact democracy for us.  But above all, we have to realise that we vote to give a decisive Government to give Goa and Goans a bright future.   


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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao