Representative Democracy is surely better than no Democracy at all. But what we saw being played out recently by the elected representatives of Legislature in Karnataka left many of us wishing that we had no Democracy at all.
One is now left with the basic question of ‘what is the will of the people?’ Are we as citizens, merely instruments meant to elect our representatives and move away to the background? Or should we take on more proactive and sustained roles in ensuring that these elected representatives continue to serve our interests? Based on our own understanding of the political parties and their stated manifestos, we elect our MLAs and expect them to further the interests that they have publicly declared earlier. It is an unstated commitment from their side to not only represent the majority interest, but also to serve everyone within their constituency. They are not expected to sell out their interests to the highest bidder, ignoring the interests of the people that they represent.
But then, one also wonders, why shouldn’t they? We did see most of them spend unbelievable sums of money to get elected. I have personally witnessed the buying of votes and loyalties both in rural and urban areas. When democracy comes so cheap and votes can simply be bought in the electoral marketplace, how can citizens turn around and question what these MLAs have done. Rumour has it that each MLA was bribed huge sums of money and offered positions of power to either stay within the party fold or to switch allegiance and cross vote or to simply resign from the assembly itself. How can people living in glass houses throw stones in this scenario? How do we rescue ‘Democracy’ from a corrupted citizenry and from a set of so-called ‘leaders’ who can put dogs to shame in their fight for power and supremacy? What are the alternatives?
On one side we have a silent group of people (mostly middle class and literate) who consider ignoring the political process and elections as the best way to cope. On the other side, we have a large number of people who increasingly have started to believe that they need to ‘encash’ on the situation and have become willing participants in corrupting the entire democratic process. How do we navigate through this difficult but much-needed change process in not just educating the people who stand for elections but also the people who vote for them? How does one bring together all like-minded people who are now sitting on the fence and get them to shed their inertia and tear through their middle class veneer and participate in this change process? Would it be possible to usher in a political process based on ethical considerations, true democratic principles (both within and outside the party), a genuine desire to serve the citizenry and one which is not driven by money, caste and a senseless desire to stay in power forever? How do we eliminate the barriers of entry to the political arena and make it feasible for well-meaning people to give it a shot? Can we look to creating such a force by bringing together such people who can throw away their own individual ego needs and coalesce to form a critical mass, large enough to get the ball rolling?
The time could very well be now or never to rescue Indian Democracy…