India had chosen to be a democracy and also maintained it while many nations being born of similar conditions indulged in dictatorial experiments. More than a choice that the people consciously wanted, it can be attributed to the desires of the educated sections of the country, and has often been credited with being the idea of Nehru and the Constitutional Assembly.
The direct democracy of the Swiss type would be too difficult in a nation that is comparable to the size of Europe as a whole. Therefore, the form of democracy that we chose was feasible. Since the time of Nehru, the political class was identified with the ones who brought us freedom, even if it meant some lost fragments and some lost hearts. The larger than life personalities of people like Nehru, Azad, brought an aura of incorruptibility to their persons, and justly so. The creator of mass movement, Gandhi, was obviously instrumental in this. Anything Gandhian couldn’t be bad. (Anna Hazare has shown that even in the 21st century, the people haven’t been able to come out of this view). And therefore we had created our loyalties towards these men who had promised to build the nation.
As the concept of democracy permeated into the minds and hearts of people, ironically it also reduced itself to a game of votes and offices. Of course, the fault is not only with politicians. It’s just that we now are so comfortable with democracy that we have taken its presence for granted. Therefore, the higher ideals of the system are somewhere consumed or lost amidst a rat race for appeal to votes. Politicians now can appeal to vote banks based on communal or casteist lines because we the nation are too much aware of our narrower identities. I remember going to a birthday party when I was in fourth grade, and a girl asked, ‘what are you’. I couldn’t comprehend and therefore fumbled, and ended up saying that I am a Hindu. That did not satisfy her. She specifically asked for my caste and then was content. Asking about one’s community isn’t where the problem lies. The problem shall ensue when we not only identify ourselves with our own communities, but also deny others their identifications with their communities. And this isn’t in conformity with the democracy that our freedom fighters envisaged.
However much we call ourselves the citizens of India, our loyalties are fragmented. Some loyalties lie with the politicians, some with the ideologies, some with economics and most with sustenance. Had all our loyalties rested with the idea of India, we would have been greater than what we are.