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Politicians: Inevitable Curse In Democracy -OpEd

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It is well recognized that amongst various forms of governance such as monarchy, military dictatorship and electoral democracy, the most desirable is democratic form of governance , where people participate in elections and select their rulers for specific period. Democracy is considered as the most progressive method of governance, since it recognizes the right of every individual for freedom of thought and speech.

At the same time, democracy is also a very civilized process, as it recognizes that liberty of individual cannot be unlimited and it need not be considered entirely as personal affair and has to be subjected to social responsibility.

However, viewing the present shape of democracy in several countries including western countries, many discerning observers occasionally wonder as to whether benevolent dictatorship can be a better form of governance than a chaotic democracy that often happens. In any case, all said and done, there seem to be overwhelming recognition that concept of democracy for governing a country is the best thing that can happen.

The experience shows that In a democracy, the quality and standards of the governance depends more on the politicians (political class) rather than the people (common man). While the people exercise their franchise to elect the rulers, in most cases, people do not have a say in the governance beyond a level after the elections and they largely remain like spectators from the gallery. While section of people do agitate and protest against any happening not to their liking, their final say in the matter is extremely limited, until they get their next opportunity during the election time to reject or elect the people to rule the country. Meanwhile , between the periodical election period, several developments can take place due to the decisions of the rulers that may not be desirable but on which people have no control. Several examples for such happenings can be readily pointed out.

The ground reality is that the success and quality of democracy in any country depends on the standards of the politicians, both in the ruling and opposition parties , from the point of view of their social commitment , service oriented outlook, adherence to truth and principles and courage of conviction. When the politicians do not measure upto such needed lofty standards, the democracy inevitably weakens.

Indian case study

In India, in the pre-independent days, when Mahatma Gandhi provided towering leadership exhibiting lofty personal standards and discipline and principled policy approach, quite a number of people entered politics, who had nothing to look forward by way of personal gains but were only motivated by the desire for national good and India’s independence. Many people were known to have made sacrifices and left lofty jobs and well paid profession to fight for the national cause without any expectations. There were many people from poor families who suffered for the cause of the country and without any desires for personal benefits.

While such standards of politicians were maintained for a decade or so after India’s independence, the deterioration and decline in the behavioral standards and public conduct of politicians in India started subsequently and it appears to have reached an alarmingly low level at the present time. Many people even wonder whether further new low level would happen in the coming years.

In the recent past, individuals have been becoming politicians solely with the objective of accumulating money for themselves, to benefit their families and to enjoy power , without any particular commitment to provide quality governance that would lead to overall betterment of society. Politicians do not anymore have entry barrier. There is visible collusion between politicians at various levels and business men and their involvement in corrupt practices have all become too evident.

In short, politics has become a self seeker’s profession for politicians today, far different from the standards of politicians that India has seen in the pre independent days and a decade or so after independence.

These days, number of political parties are springing up controlled by families. These parties crowd themselves with so called party workers at different levels, by providing them opportunities and positions to make money for themselves. Several politicians at various levels have become millionaires in short span of time by indulging in activities contrary to law and ethical practices.

The politicians think that they have to necessarily get into power by winning elections by hook or crook and they go extra mile to please the people by extending freebies and preferential concessions based on caste and other narrow interests. Several state governments are facing huge debts due to deficit financing and misuse of resources by the governments in power. While the larger interests of the state are hugely affected by such financial conditions, politicians do not seem to care and they continue to spend state finances for extending freebies and in unproductive projects with partisan motives. For them, it seems that personal interests are of greater priority than the state or national interests.

In such conditions, for the forthcoming 2019 parliamentary elections, the manner in which political parties align themselves without adherence to any principles or policies purely with the objective of cornering votes, clearly highlight the low standards to which politics in India has declined. By forming such alignments, people are denied the choice to vote the particular party or the individual as per their desire and they are forced to vote for combination of parties (alliance parties).

With politics becoming a game of one upmanship, the state of democracy in India appears to be slipping down

Conditions not much different in other democracies

Even in the so called developed democratic countries like USA, UK, Germany and France, the standards of politics do not seem to be distinctly better than the developing democratic countries like India, from the point of view of adherence to principles in practice by the politicians. While there may not be multiple and family oriented political parties in these countries, the behavior and standards of politicians remain considerably suspect.

Need reforms

There is no doubt that democracies in developing countries like India, Sri Lanka and others suffer more due to the deficiencies in practice of democracy compared to the countries like UK and USA. Obviously, the reforms in democratic practice in developing countries has become a matter of utmost urgency to ensure that people would continue to have faith in the concept of democracy.

Obviously, democracy as a concept has to be further reformed and evolved, even as many people think that basically democracy is the best form of governance. Such people have to wage relentless movements to achieve such much needed reforms and remove the fast spreading view that politicians are becoming a curse in democracy.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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