Blackmailing Democracy

I wish to make it clear right at the outset that I do not, I repeat I do not, condone the police action early morning today at Swami Baba Ramdev’s congregation at Delhi. That action was uncalled for, and is now unnecessarily and unfairly being likened to the Tianenmen Square agitation and its unfortunate aftermath.

This incident and the earlier on-again, off-again kow-towing of the government to Anna Hazare on the Lokpal matter, demonstrate clearly two things in the evolution of the democratic system of government:

1. The function of an elected, democratic government is to deliver a high quality of governance and rule the country on the mandate and policies that have helped elect the party/coalition in the first place ;

2. Unparliamentary blackmailing of an elected government and its rather shabby manner of dealing with fasts/hunger strikes, demonstrates that an elected government and parliament are being held to ransom by civil society members who have not contested elections but rather are unhappy with the governance of the government.

I have written about these topics in the past. I would point out again in this context, as I had written before, that India is not Egypt. Egypt had an autocratic ruler – while being a democracy, Egypt stymied all opposition to Hosni Mubarak’s rule. On the other hand, India is truly a functioning and that too, a large democracy. It has its multitude of limitations, no doubt. Black Money and Corruption are two major issues, but both issues have been present all through the history of independent India. These are not new stuff, the only difference now is that the scale has multiplied to huge proportions.

As civil society members, we should express our dissatisfaction against problems in governance and the inaction by the current government to effectively prosecute economic offenders. But we should not bring down the government, which has been elected to office last year for a term of five years. We should not create chaos in the country, that will only be counter-productive to our economic and political aspirations on the world stage.

Government should be told to take action in a representative manner – meaning through our elected representatives in each parliamentary constituency. Simply blackmailing the government will lead to a mess as we are seeing now. There will always be vested interests on both sides, but all should think about India’s position on the world stage as the biggest functioning democracy which has repeatedly demonstrated to the world that in the midst of all our problems we are still able to conduct elections, defeat the non-performing and corrupt incumbents, elect new representatives to the parliament, and install a new government every five years at the centre and the states. Is this not a wonder of sorts ?

Both sides need to think carefully and strategically and come to a discussion table without any insidious agenda. Announcing a fast or national agitation would bring the government to its knees especially if the twitter and facebook generation joins the struggle. And, the government needs to know that as well.

Let us carefully think before just acting. It is important to an emerging super nation that India is fast becoming. India is no ordinary country. The world is watching how we handle the current agitation.


Vijay Srinivasan
5th June 2011


One thought on “Blackmailing Democracy

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