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Indian Democracy or Monarchy of Politicians

Posted by Admin on May 2, 2014 | Comment

To define democracy in simplest terms, it is a form of government in which people choose their leaders by voting. A country, which is ruled by democracy, will necessarily have a political environment where everyone is treated equally and has equal rights. Although Indian constitution has enumerated and confirmed the democratic functioning of the government, there are aberrations which make us believe that the nation might be gradually slipping into disguised monarchy.

Indian Democracy or Monarchy of Politicians

Lack of Internal Democracy in Political Parties

As far as the general sentiment goes, Indian Congress is the first political party that ignited and implemented the idea of dynasty-based politics. The party is often looked down by the critics for having preferred lineage over merit. Internal scrambling for power and an inclination to choose family members as the successors to important positions is a widespread accusation.

In fact, most regional parties have started to follow the suit. It is not uncommon to hear the rumblings of discontent party cadre who is refused the portfolio he/she deserves. Political infighting and factionalism are all the direct impact of nepotism and preferential treatment to a select few, like in the pre-independence days. While Communist party is an exception to this trend, majority of regional parties has become a victim to authoritarian leadership that has bred a tribe of disgruntled senior leaders in the party.

Reason for Growth of Dynasty Politics

Long back, Indian politics had earned the distinction of putting candidates’ lineage at a higher footing as compared to their track record. Despite its inefficiencies and non-performance dynastic politics has hardened and expanded its ambit over the years. Tamil Nadu has Karunanidhi’s family prowess; Orissa has the BJD and the Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are among the most influential people. These parties are all bound by a common string – a public perception, which is encouraging. They confidently echo what William Cowper had said: “I am monarch of all I survey.”

These regional dynasties are individual power centers in themselves. In absence of any challenging authority, these political empires gained unrestrained control over media and social institutions. Be it putting a gag on media or enforcing unlawful restrictions on government machineries the political dynasties have often been accused of tailoring their agenda to serve vested interests.

Impact of Hereditary Politics on Democratic Set up

According to one of the political observers, Indian polity is almost behaving like the hereditary monarchy of Britain. One cannot offset the fact that narrow political interests of political parties are compelling them to reject contrary opinions and constructive criticism, which is the essence of democracy. The decision-making power is vested only on the party’s top leader or the one who is second in command. The rest are just a herd of cadre having no right to oppose or propose.

India is not alien to the practice of using lineage as the ‘launching pad’ for a candidate who becomes a rightful politician after winning democratically contested elections. A curious study of the MPs in the parliament will reveal that at least one-third (if not more) of the parliamentarians had a hereditary or family connections. The problem runs deeper. Idea of passing on the political legacy to the heir apparent doesn’t take into consideration the importance of choosing “worthy candidates” or local talent who can serve people better.

Why Hereditary Democracy a Concern for India?

Hailing from a political family naturally bestows an individual with resources that enable him or her to have easy access to power. He or she is treated as someone above law and someone who can bypass democratic structures within a party. Above all, the concentration of power in a handful of families they gain impunity to flout party discipline and institutional norms.

Regional political families such as the Thackerays in Maharashtra and the Badals in Punjab have been able to create a cult status for them by focusing consistently on the local issues. They have gained local patronage, which continues to stay by their side. The problem is not the popularity they have gained but the tendency of these influential political families to jump the queue of democratic framework and take unilateral decisions to play it to the gallery or trade national interest for the regional one. These regional satraps have prompted the birth of growing intolerance for mass dissent as well as differences of opinion at an individual level. That is degenerating democracy and it’s a matter of national concern.