Guest post by Milan Gupta
Yesterday (on 28th December, 2015) Santosh Desai ( @desaisantosh ) published his opinion column titled “2015: The Empire Strikes back” in TOI(Times of India) Delhi edition newspaper. Mr Desai has often expressed optimism in the future of Indian democracy and has been a keen observer of the historical political trends especially of the last 4-5 years. I have often found him amongst the few rare writers who are very forward looking.
When I did read his statements in the column yesterday which were courageously frank like :
“ There is much deeper question here. Is change of a meaningful kind at all possible in India…”,
“Is there something inexorable and deep in the way the polity functions that makes change a virtual impossibility”
“For a brief period, it looked as if the impetus for change would come from a new vision of a more participative form of democracy, but those hopes lie in tatters.”
I do think that a pessimism has grown in the intellectuals class and that predictably hope is being questioned by them again. The world belongs to the new and the young. The ones who have a stake in the future have a responsibility to shun such pessimism how so ever well intentioned it may be from the intellectuals.
I respond to Santosh. He is much older to me and I seek his forgiveness if ever I do sound disrespectful.
The future is bright, Santosh.
Over the last few years, the political discourse has changed so radically that the fear of politicians at least in the metros has almost disappeared. You find Radio jockeys taking such digs at senior political figures which was unthinkable even till 2010. An Anupam Kher in 2010 was issued a privilege motion by Sanjay Nirupam in the Maharashtra assembly for questioning the political class. Such digs at political class are a common place now.
Pilots, least of all Air India’s, never refused entry to late coming VIPs in their planes. But now , we have all heard of how the Kerala governor, a lazy retired Supreme Court judge, was snubbed by the national carrier’s pilot. I couldn’t have called the Kerala governor “a lazy retired Supreme Court judge” in public, a clear disrespect to his post from me, and not be scared of a witch hunt.
Things have changed radically and irreversibly over the last few years. This is the decade of change. The change by the end of the decade will be of gargantuan proportions. Perhaps because we have such a very open social media that its not possible to control any individual now. Yet the credit for the change must go not to the technology but to the Indian people. The Arab Spring has totally misused the social media and the revolution there has turned violent. Pakistan and other countries too have the same tool, but its only in India that the change is happening rapidly and non-violently.
I must take your much deeper question head on where you questioned existence of something inexorable and deep in the way Indian polity functions.
Yes. It exists. It is deep. And very well hidden from common discourse. But its not inexorable at all.
Democracy means not only the right to elect, but it also means right to get elected to the eligible. Dictatorships are controlled by giving the eligible the right to vote but not the right to get elected. Go deep in the direction of how the right to get elected for the legally eligible is curtailed in India, and you would find where that deep problem (and not an insurmountable one) lies.
It is of course not possible for me to briefly show here what that deep rot is which can be easily removed. However, I would briefly point where an answer would lie to one of your question on the Parliament logjam.
If the government is in minority in the Rajya Sabha, why should the leader of the house be from the government at all? Why should the government at all be able to have the final say in the conduct of business of the Rajya Sabha, even what bills and motion to be moved in it? Identify the reason for that contradiction and the log jam in Rajya Sabha can be resolved.
Answers to our questions and the deep rot can be found only if we promise not to give up on hope. We have achieved a lot. The youth are as responsible as any other time. Hope, achievements and debates remain their quintessential characters. The hope must remain unquestionably alive. That’s what has brought us so far.
We’ll have the good life within our life time. The empire is already crumbling.