Reject The ‘Messiah’ And Reclaim Democracy: Moving From Conventional Governance To A Smart One

Posted on March 28, 2014 in Politics

By Bikram B Vidhata:

The Satyamev Jayate episode aired on 23rd March makes me want to earnestly thank everyone – the entire team behind the show, the viewers who have kept the viewership buoyant enough for them to keep rolling, and of course the TV channels for lending their space to it. Also, the fact that someone is voicing your thoughts (so brilliantly) makes you feel contended with the world, and motivates you to broadcast your comments on what’s still whirling in your head. For those who have not seen the show (you should at no cost miss it, and should rush to your internet and watch it!), it talks about reclaiming democracy, bringing power to the people, the instruments of RTI, social auditing and participative governance, and about the people who have used these instruments to fight all sorts of malice they’ve encountered, which is why their stories deserve to be heard. These are the issues that affect the social rights of the citizenry – the essentials that constitute our environment in democracy. But I would like to share my thoughts about the current state of the environment itself, the umbrella under which all these talks happen – our politics.

Picture Courtesy
Picture Courtesy

“God is the gift of desperation, and there’s a lot to be said for having really reached a bottom where you’ve run out of any more good ideas or plans for everybody else’s behaviour; or how to save and fix and rescue; or just get out of a huge mess, possibly of your own creation.” I came across these lines by Anna Lamott while browsing the internet recently. Thoughts like these, apart from being effortlessly brilliant, strike a chord with your own plight. To me the huge mess being referred to, of course, is the Indian politics (the potential intellectual discourses on social media tell me that). Obviously this isn’t a recent discovery. I have been listening to such comments right from my childhood. It has been part of my extra – NCERT education, fed to me by electorates belonging to almost every generation. But why has it hijacked nearly every public discourse today? My guess is that there are three reasons for this:

1. Prolonged incumbency of the present elected executives is not able to yield measurable and admirable results (especially in terms of economy).

2. Rising awareness among the electorate + Exposes of serious big ticket corruption + Anna Hazare’s agitation for Lokpal + Activism of media in highlighting various important issues e.g governance (in the face of anarchy), inclusiveness (in the face of communalism), visions and credentials (in the face of dynasty-politics), and

3. Approaching Lok Sabha Elections – with 10% of voters likely to be first-time voters.

For people like me (in addition to the 10% first time voters), what we see is a very sorry state of affairs. I don’t think it’s politics per se, it is the other problems that we can’t ignore any longer – price rise, feeling of insecurity (especially among the women), farmer suicides, honour killings, Supreme Court’s verdict on Section 377, regional aspirations not finding priority (the Telangana movement), all sorts of chauvinism exhibited by the majority- sons-of-soil, communalism, and racism – the list is awfully long. Then there are issues that did not amass a popular movement – like the ridiculous debate on how much does a basic meal cost, defining poverty line, rehabilitation of riot victims, in fact rehabilitation in practice in any event, and many other such issues. At the same time, all of these problems eventually are rooted in the politics of this country. And thanks to the disconnect and insensitivity of the administrative machinery (statements like ‘no one dies of cold’) boosted up by the high-handedness of the political elites, the anger among the youth is justifiably ferocious. This is also the reason why we are so desperate for a solution. But the way we are looking for the solution is to me, not only worrisome, but unsustainable.

The social media has exploded with the debate about which leader will pull us out of this mess. Is it going to be Mr. Narendra Modi (NaMo) – having proved his mettle already, the four  times CM, a man of actions and not only words, his manifesto is the ‘Gujarat model’? Or will Mr. Arvind Kejriwal (ArKe or AK-47/49 or whatever), the rising hope of ‘aam aadmi’, a fresh face, be the new alternative? (I think it’s a safe assumption, that to the reader the option of Mr. Rahul Gandhi is already out of the window). This biggest exercise of democracy (and that too parliamentary democracy unlike the US Presidential elections where this is the way it has evolved) is being turned into a camp-fight. Knowing fully well that both parties, the BJP and the AAP, cannot possibly provide a solution to all the problems discussed in the previous paragraph. They are the ‘gray’ knights and are supported by their own priorities and their own history of public service – drawing mixed reactions, and the fact that these two are just individuals who are endowed with human potential comparable to any other Indian, they don’t have and cannot have solution to the problem of every Indian up their sleeves. Yet the AAPtards or the BJPtards (as labelled in the social media), it appears, are ready to exterminate each other to prove their point, that their man is ‘the messiah’ of this age and no one dares point a muck on their records. Debates on real issues are a sign of a healthy democracy, but the on-going trend seems to have transcended into clash of personality cults. The worrisome part is that it is unyielding and that this expense of energy is not going to solve the problems highlighted above, or at least increase one’s knowledge or insights into the issues, making it unsustainable.

I think the solution is not NaMo or AK or any front. The solution is you! It is our time to steer this new opportunity in the Indian politics to address the real issues. Demand from the potential servants if they acknowledge the problem, if yes, then what is their approach. Of course, it is not expected of them to come up with a magic wand to solve the problem (if they claim to attempt to do that, they are misguiding you), but let them share their approach with you, what do they think are the causes, if they don’t know about it who are they going to get on board for redressing the problem. Because honestly, we see our future rid of those problems, not stuck with a potentially-problem-solving-messiah.

Let’s all campaign in favour of smart Governance viz.:

S – Simple: Simplification of rules and procedures of Government making it user-friendly.
M – Moral: Infusing ethics and morals into officers again, the anti-corruption and vigilance agencies are already improving.
A – Accountable: Set standards of performance and efficiently measure it.
R – Responsive: Efficient service delivery and government that is in tune with the people.
T – Transparent: Information confined to secrecy is out in the public domain bringing equity and rule of law in public agencies.

This is no innovation, it is sticking to basic principles. Let’s all reclaim true democracy – of the people, by the people and for the people. In a democracy, we get the kind of government we deserve. Let us make ourselves worthy of a good government.