Thursday, June 16, 2011

This is a test of Indian democracy

The Indian political system is a bizarre drama. Rather than having a sensible discussion about topics, the politicians are involved in a showy, dramatic world that looks like B-grade movie plots.

Currently, one supposed holy man is carrying out a great fight against corruption in India. He has many followers, to whom he is a fearless leader, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. He claims that yoga can cure cancer, AIDS, and oh, homosexuality. I posted about this person earlier, so I would advise reading that if you need a primer.

The other guy raising some dust is Anna Hazare, a social reformer who has taken it upon himself to rid India of corruption. This person isn't an elected official, and the way he intends to fight to rid corruption is to, wait for it, fast until death. Unless his demands are met, in which case this person will deign to eat something and save himself the plight of death.

We have a non-elected person threatening to kill himself if India doesn't enact legislation of his choice.

Right.

This isn't a way forward in a democracy. This is madness: the emotional blackmail from a father-figure who refuses to eat something unless you do exactly as he asks. Why do we bother electing representatives if we can have one man who can change public policy by threatening death? Isn't this terrorism of a subtle nature? Isn't this a hostage situation? A democracy is made of people, where each has an equal say. And suddenly a man comes along and threatens to die unless you do exactly as he says.

A democracy is the rule by everyone. Not by a single man, no matter how well respected and well loved he may be. Allowing a single person to dictate public policy sets a dangerous precedent, especially if the mechanic of enforcing that policy is emotional threats.  Free India had no leader bigger than Nehru, and he often cautioned against letting Nehru be a dictator.

I don't like the current crop of politicians, they are inept, corrupt, and they look for personal gain rather than general good. But this emotional blackmail is not the answer. The answer is to turn corruption into a political issue, to have politicians and citizens debate on the specifics of how we will remove corruption.

This is a test of the Indian democracy, a rule by the people. Citizens, every one of them, should be involved. Not just one man, no matter how morally outright.

I have great respect for Anna Hazare and India needs many more people like him. But I have greater respect for a functioning democracy, and India needs a functioning democracy even more.