Has our Democracy Lost its Salt?

Image Source: Hill Post

We have often heard a rant that says Hindus Katre mein Hai. Is it really so? It does not seem right. Maybe such slogans are hiding something important. What is in real danger is our democracy. It has become fragile. Democracy is in retreat almost all over the globe. Our constitution and our freedom and equality seem to have been broken-down. Democracies have violently died in the past in several societies. Today their death is less dramatic. They are killed silently in the hands of elected leaders who subvert the very process that brought them to power. Hence, we may ask: Are they cutting the branch under their feet?  It does not seem so. They are certainly cutting the branch under our feet. Often some leaders ride on  high idealism and promise us authentic democracy by freeing from rule of corrupt elite that angers us.  This makes us think that they stand for us and shout out our concerns and aspirations. They seem to bring salt to our democracy. Indeed, they give us hope. They appear to be an answer to the question: Tere democracy me namak hai ?  Of course we feel the lack of salt in our democracy and quickly think that they will add it for us.  We fail to spot their crafty populisms and deceptions.  The propagandist Media also does not come to our rescue. We fall for the deception and backslide of our democracy begins with the ballot box.  What we are left with is unfortunately empty democracy without much substance and without salt.  

Maybe we have to follow the slippery slope that takes the democracy on a downward ride. Such a slope kills democracy slowly and softly. In the beginning there is an afterglow of the electoral victory of puplist leader who is often bigger than his/her party. Media becomes a cheer leader of the Government that took office. With the end of this surreal period, things begin to look gloomy and real. The rulers then bully the media into self censorship that sees that no real questions are raised against the ruling benches. Those citizens who interrogate the Government are silenced through law enforcement agencies or some non-state actors who play the politics of interception for their political masters.  It is at this time, we hear the ringing alarm bells of our dying democracy though its condition still remains imperceptible to a sizeable citizenry.  Next sign of the downslide of democracy is in the weakening of our democratic institutions.  Those institutions that appear strong are reduced to a state of being political weapons of the ruling benches. Such a condition manifests that democratic institutions, bought media and the corporate cronies tilt the political playfield against the opposition. The downslide of the democracy now becomes visible. Anarchy crosses its limits. It is at this time that dissatisfaction and anger sets in. The electoral promises of the Government then begin to look like bounced cheques. We seem to have reached this point in our country. 

How are we to revive our dying democracy? From where are we to get the namak/ salt back into it?  Certainly, we have to rise beyond the tukde tukde politics of BJP as well as find ways to respond to the tukde tukde journalism that keeps us mad. Such a divisive politics and journalism of bits and pieces only enacts a tukde tukde democracy for us. The tukde tukde politics that separates the national from the anti-national has to be shown the door. Maybe an old Hindi Movie, Kissa Khusi ka might be illuminative. It presents rat or Chua as the enemy of the nation. Maybe we have to critically view the Chua, the enemy of the nation presented by the ruling elite.  How can our great nation be weakened by a chua, the minorities, JNU students, beef eaters, the so called urban naxals? This tukde tukde politics has to go out like the politics that shouts: go to Pakistan.  What we need is affirmative and therapeutic approach to politics.  It is not just electoral defeat of the ruling elites   but more radical democratic reforms that are required to save our crippling democracy. The fight to save our democracy has to begin with the fight against those who have put it into perils. Therefore, political drama that is being played in the name of democracy needs to be brought to a halt. This requires that the political leaders of the opposition, their parties as well as voters see through the sugar high populisms, divide and rule strategy and ache dhin to the cronies of the present ruling dispensation. 

Besides the electoral politics, we need radical reforms to transform our democracy.  This would require us to ask real grounded questions.  Some people have already raised them. The vulnerability of our electronic voting machines to manipulation has to be accepted and we need to go back to the ballot paper.  The back of the criminal and politician nexus has to be broken and new laws to keep criminals out of politics have to be enacted.  Citizen have to promote alternate media and shun away what has been called the godi or paid media  that has become nothing more than a shameless propaganda machine.  The circus of social media circulating fake news has to be critically addressed with legislative as well as educational measures. We need to resist this brainwashing employed to convert every one into a bhakt or anti-bhakt.  Besides these, we need to push democracy out of the present representative mode and move it towards participative mode. To achieve this we need to empower the NOTA option and give it the power to disqualify every one sitting for elections in the event that it wins. Next is a retirement term for the politicians that have to be fixed. Moreover the voter has to be empowered with the right to recall if one is not happy with the work of his/her elected Panch, Councillor, MLA or MP. The mechanism of recall can be designed that may be like a referendum that happens every two years. We need to think hard. There is more to do to save our democracy. We need to add namak to our democracy. It is not about making our democracy great again. There is no space for such retrospective slogans that eulogizes our past. What we need a radically envisioned future for democracy in our country. 

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao