The recent Delhi University Students’ Union 2018 elections, like most elections held in the country in contemporary times, were indicted for EVM tampering in favor of the organization backed by the ruling party at the center. Even though nothing can be said about the allegation as of now, the repeated episodes of the opposition doubting the fairness of electoral process in India makes us wonder if India, the world’s largest democracy, is facing a democratic crisis.
With four of the senior most judges of the Supreme Court categorically warning that Indian democracy is in danger, the question of democratic crisis becomes even more compelling for both the academia and civil society.
Democracy Ki Esi Ki Tesi – Who Did It?
Contrary to the mainstream liberal propaganda that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were the turning point for Indian democracy, and since then it has been in danger, I would argue otherwise. Indeed , an extreme right, cultural nationalist party, securing a thumping majority cannot be a good news for the liberals and the way they theorize democracy. But even before the 2014 elections, people at the periphery of the country failed to acknowledge the eminence of this grand democratic setup and remained largely isolated.
Even with its huge electoral collage, the Indian democracy- ever since its inception- failed to be inclusive for everyone. The democratic assertions of the marginalized have not always been taken positively by the flag bearers of liberal democracy. The struggle of the indigenous in defense of their motherland is one such assertion.
So why are we brainstorming about this apparent crisis now? If the democracy in India had its fault lines since outset, what makes us so eager to save these institutions now?
The plans taken up by the foundation administrators of the independent India in their desperation for economic development provided the material conditions for a particular class to have major share of power in the politics of the country. And even till the imposition of emergency, no one would have imagined that fascism would arrive in India riding on the back of religious fundamentalism.
The politics of Hindutva was not entertained in the era of Nehru or Indira. But since the 90s, and the demolition of Babri, the order of things changed. Other significant event in the 90s was the advent of neo-liberalism. In coming years, neo-liberalism in India merchandised the entire electoral process of the country. The big corporate houses fund the political parties and invest millions in their electoral campaigns and advertisements, and in turn seek benefits from them once they gain power. The governments for these corporate are like businesses, and for the business to be profitable, the governments are to run with a market mentality.
In such a situation, the factors like popular parliamentary representation, ideologically defined political positions, non-partisan media etcetera, that form the core of the liberal representative democracy appear to be deteriorating. The bias in journalism that is more or less evident, is just an aspect of this nexus of capital and governance. It was this synthesis of neo liberalism with the politics of Hindutva that shepherd India to this crisis.
Also, in the age of social media, where most of the political indoctrination is being done by a handful of inadequately informed propagandists, with absolutely no accountability for the content they share, the crisis in representative democracy is inevitable. The social media activism, which is seen by some as a democratic act is perhaps doing much harm to the democratic fabric itself.
We must not forget that the institutions that provide democracy its basic character are to be protected by the embellishments of democracy itself. One person’s idea of a democratic act might be viewed by another as counter democratic or as a contributing factor to crisis. Thus is the paradox of democracy, and to prevent this crisis, we need to stop being tolerant towards the intolerant, as to borrow Karl Popper’s argument from The Open Societies And Its Enemies, “unlimited tolerance would lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”
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