Indian Democracy – the Punishing Force of People Power

Many a time people (Indians and others) wonder whether Indian Democracy works and if it is all a farce at the end of the day, allowing unscrupulous politicians to milk the citizens and the state. Witness the series of corruption scandals which have rocked India of late……..

What surprises me is the resilience of the Democratic form of People Representation in governing themselves – they might have no choice but to elect one or the other party candidates who stand in a particular constituency. Obviously someone needs to get elected, but the cumulative power of Indian democracy with over 700 million voters in returning and or defeating a party still astonishes the world – election after election, the Indian people have proved that democracy does indeed work as a form of government, notwithstanding its shortcomings and problems.

In the recently concluded State Elections in 5 states of India, people again proved the point of democracy and the huge impact that they could collectively exercise to dislodge corrupt politicians and political parties. In the Southern State of TamilNadu, the governing DMK party was routed by the Opposition AIADMK party just on one factor – the weariness people get when they see a predominance of corruption, overtaking all other aspects of life. The DMK party’s minister Telecom in the Central Government, A. Raja, was responsible for what has come to be known as India’s biggest corruption scandal almost counting to some USD 40B of government money lost out in the 2G telecom spectrum auctions by totally unscrupulous manipulation of allocation to out-of-turn newbie telecom companies. With evidence mounting every day, and the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) under the strict control and directions of the Supreme Court of India, the Central Government could not save the minister from being charge-sheeted and subsequently jailed.

In the other large State of West Bengal, 34 years of Communist Rule ended on Friday last week. The Communist Party of India was defeated by the upstart TMC party led by the fiery Mamata Banerjee. Gone finally the non-performing communists who wasted away the intellect of the Bengalis by poor governance, violence, corruption, and lack of industrialization. They frittered away the confidence reposed in them repeatedly by the people and survived because they had no serious competitor till now. Mamata deposed them finally.

Instances like these elections again go to prove the criticality and centrality of democracy and elections in India. When the whole world seems to somehow think that how can rural Indians and illiterate Indian population make changes in their government, here goes again the Indian population throwing out political parties from power, even after those parties in power used their muscle power and money power to cajole and bribe the voters. The Election Commission of India came down heavily on such activities though, and political parties found it very difficult, if not impossible, to hand out cash to voters this time.

The complexities of democracy in action cannot be disputed, especially in the Indian context. Given also the fact that the elections in India are the largest in the world, the combination of factors which make democracy meaningful is in full play more in India than any other country. The world should now allow India to represent its large humanity at the United Nations Security Council, instead of just listening to China and the U.S. all the time.


Vijay Srinivasan
14th May 2011


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