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Political leaders' actions are causing decontextualisation of democracy

By Harasankar Adhikari

In India, does democracy become a matter of prescription, i.e., to follow the footpath left? Isn't it, in some ways, the adoption of certain prescribed procedures and mechanisms, such as timely election and populist schemes for the poor, etc.? In some cases, acts of government and governance turn democracy into a myth. It is full of political party-based agendas.
This continuous hegemonic practise creates a conditional situation for the people of India. People elect their representatives who are not their representatives. They are only representatives of a particular political party that nominated them in the election. Democratic decentralisation of power is undoubtedly a unique step towards the grass roots. But a Panchayat member has no free will to act without the party’s instruction and approval.
Michael Saward, a political philosopher, defines democracy as a matter of correspondence in state-society relationships. But India’s parliamentary democracy is unable to establish liberal democracy due to its hegemonic position. The liberal democracy ‘endorses the maximisation of individual freedom to pursue his/her interests in order to achieve what he or she perceives as the good life.
In this regard, the state’s intervention is expected to be minimal as any state’s intervention is considered to potentially infringe on an individual's freedom. This situation leads to two trajectories of democracy : one with specific objections and the second, an outright rejection of the idea of democracy. The former indicates the need to specify the application of democracy in specific historical moments, while the latter indicates disillusionment with democracy as an effective mode of governing public matters in a polity’.
Therefore, the notion of ‘good governance’ and ‘democratic governance’ is only a mouthful of a slogan. And two fundamental democratic principles, liberty and equality, have taken on theoretical dimensions. The continuous tension between equality and liberty, that is, between individual freedom to pursue their interests and the collective pursuit of the common good, becomes more apparent in present day democracy, characterised by a multiplication of demands and identifications hardly reducible into the conventional surface of democracy.’
The state-society relationship has transformed into a consumable product, which is usually determined at the time of the election. Multiple promises are restricted and limited within some populist schemes. This is to make the gap wider between the poor and the rich. The poor have no liberty and equity. At least a democratic government has failed to establish it after about seventy five years of independence. Here, people have to work to meet their hunger on Independence Day and Republic Day. But the government presses its report of progress in the colourful celebration.
In fact, schemes like MGNEGRA are an example of exploitation of the poor because they have to be satisfied with 100 days of work in a year with less than minimum wages (even if the government does follow the norms of the Minimum Wages Act). So, where is the equality among the people of India? It indicates the government has no ability to provide jobs for all and has failed to ensure the basic right to live. Some of the states, particularly the government of West Bengal, feel pride as the highest achievers of this scheme. But the government denies it as a shame to all. It never strengthens the face value of the government.
Is religious identity a prime issue in a secular democratic nation? But it has become an issue of much consideration. Hunger, unemployment, and other basic issues do not get priority from the government. In addition to this, the price hike is not an issue. The heads of governments have come from another planet. They have no lack of aristocratic life because they are the elected representatives and they have some extra qualities for which they enjoy a good life on the revenue of a beggar. Price hikes and financial emergencies are not getting priority.
Corruption has become a right for political leaders and their associates (even officials of different hierarchies). Here, we refer to the state of West Bengal. Corruption has entered into all wings of society. However, the TMC-led government regards it as merely a political conspiracy.
Political leaders and their actions are the causes of the decontextualisation of democracy. Will they be attentive to strengthening the state-society relationship?

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