The Indian political landscape saw yet another extraordinary cliffhanger as the elections were down to the wire in an episodic battle. The whole country had their eyes on the Bihar election because of its predictable repercussions in the upcoming swathe of elections. The ECI must be lauded for pulling off this gigantic exercise. Though the counting was overstretched because of the pandemic, the situation still resulted in a global election slowdown.
There was public anger against the incumbent, but many were apprehensive about the opposition coming to power, lest they want a return to the “Gunda raj“.
However, many envisaged transmutation and were less bothered about what happened fifteen years ago, as they were more concerned about their precarious present and their grim employment situation after the reverse migration. Due to the treatment meted out to them in the metropolitans, they were looking forward to opportunities being created in their home state.
Unfortunately, debates on youth employment didn’t gain much traction either among the politicians or the electoral population. The cataclysm of unemployment which has the potential of turning India’s demographic dividend into a demographic disaster is a crisis which gained public attention to the required extent only after COVID-19 resulted in the migrant crisis.
The situation was similar to the NPA mess that was on the cards for long, but the public was appalled only when big names started coming out of the jar. Demonetisation, faulty implementation of GST and the banking system crisis had sent the economy into a downward spiral much before the COVID-19 disruption.
Bihar has failed to create jobs due to its ineptitude to attract private investment. However, Bihar, like most states, can provide jobs in the public health and education sector, in the police and judiciary. It’s an irony that the courts and the police, which are endowed with the task of maintaining law and order, lack appropriate staff. Education is a source of human capital and investment, and it creates durable assets by increasing productivity, and hence better salaries.
But what if there is no or marginal growth in jobs? The number of unemployed educated youth is surging as they are less likely to accept low-quality employment now. Fertile alluvial soil and abundant water from a multitude of rivers can make Bihar a perfect destination for India’s second green revolution and also be the fountainhead of prosperity as many in Bihar are still involved in the agricultural sector.
As per an ADR report, in Bihar, 89% Assembly constituencies have three or more candidates who have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits for the ongoing elections. Well, the situation is reprehensible at the union level also. So how can one expect law and order to be maintained when those who are entitled to make laws are lawbreakers? There is no point lamenting about abysmal law and order situation unless this criminal-politician nexus, whose corollary is often the criminal-politician-police nexus, comes to an end.
“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representative of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament.” -Lenin
Given these facts, it is difficult to believe that anybody who merely has a burning desire to serve the public can ever aspire to become an MP or an MLA unless parties sponsor candidates on their merits rather than their financial status or their charisma.
“India is still a procedural democracy, rule of money and muscle power supersedes the rule of law in India.” -Christophe Jafferlot
It is an unfortunate paradox that in a country where Gandhi’s ideas dawned, who believed in the continuity of ends (Ram Rajya) and means (Ahimsa), many politicians have espoused Machiavellianism and that too in the most draconian modus operandi possible. Having a “utilitarian” view towards religion, they deceive people rather than adopting religion as a source of ethics, which Gandhi had desired. More directly, the intertwining of religion and government is also considered as an early sign of fascism.
“He who distinguishes on religion miss-educates the members of his own and opens the way for discord and irreligion.” -Gandhi
It will take a while for India to become a substantive democracy, as here, many still choose to vote on caste, religious and ethnic lines or keeping the charisma of the central leader in their minds. Taking a cue from the status of education, the electorate of BIMARU states are more vulnerable to such voting-styles.
“‘Bhakti’ in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, ‘Bhakti’ or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and eventual dictatorship.” -B.R. Ambedkar
The leader of the opposition party had put up a high total score for the incumbent to chase in Bihar, which was conspicuous from the nip and tuck competition. He has indeed emerged from the shadow of his father (darkest age in the history of Bihar) and made a mark. Consistent in his focus on local issues and his promises of jobs to the youth, he has maintained a dignified silence on the personal barbs. Albeit, one can argue that the opposition at the union level has been debilitated due to its inability to confront the government whenever it gets sidetracked.
However, expressing exultation due to the demolition of opposition represents the sad state of affairs. TINA (there is no alternative option) and democracy are oxymorons. Even elitist (procedural) democrats like Robert Michels who believe in the “iron law of oligarchy” propound their multi-party tenet in response to the socialist critique of western democracy.
Vesting power in a single party and being a campaigner of a single-party State (for example, the CCP) often translates into authoritarian trends in the long run. Invoking TINA in a democracy is like embracing totalitarianism with open arms.
Every government has its flaws; after all, they consist of humans who might be wise or foolish, benevolent or selfish, virtuous or vicious – but, in no case, divine and infallible. Otherwise, what is the difference between God and government? Hegel, who was hired by the Prussian State to convince that State deserves unquestionable obedience, said, “State is the march of God on earth.”
So taking the government’s word as “gospel truth” or “in the interest of the nation” without fact-checking would implicitly encourage fascism through unbridled authority. Even Plato’s theory of philosopher-king, who he made absolute, when criticised by his pupil Aristotle (the theory of laws), made him renege on his approach. Start taking things with a pinch of salt!
BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states are often held culpable of exacerbating India’s backward situation. These states have the highest population, which can be deduced due to their high fertility rates (Bihar has a fertility rate of 3.4) and the deploration situation of their public health system (one allopathic doctor serves 43,788 people in Bihar, against the WHO prescribed standards of one doctor/ 1000 persons). Due to the inflated population and abominable economic performance, these states play an enormous role in bringing down India’s per capita GDP.
India is developed but only in pockets. We can see engineering masterpieces like Bandra-Worli sea link in Mumbai and also bridges getting extirpated in Bihar. Rather than voting on religious lines, one must vote vis-à-vis issues like employment, health, education, which indeed will bolster India’s path to development. The Hathras rape case reminds me of Marx’s “Base and Superstructure model.”
No matter how much a state prospers in terms of superstructures (if there are any), the change has to be in basic structure – gender vulnerability, casteism and economic status.
A state’s demeanour will alter only then. Bihar must identify impeccable models within the country, comprehend them, appreciate them, replicate them and scale up the good work.
It is despondent to know that the poorest states in India are the most corrupt. Citizen’s vigilance is inversely proportional to corruption. The more subservient you are to your government, the more you invite corruption at your doorsteps.
“The man who asks questions is a fool for a minute; the man who does not ask is a fool for life.” -Confucious
Being on the lookout is a prerequisite to keep a check on corruption. Amartya Sen, in his work on famines, argues that no famine has ever taken place in a democracy. But he also argues that it would be a mistake to believe that democracy is a panacea for hunger, illiteracy or poverty. Here, an essential component of good governance comes into the picture: accountability.
If we put labels on dissenters (or intellectuals or experts) by believing in narratives, then we are doomed to be subjected to the mammoth of corruption. Rampant corruption is also considered as an early warning sign of fascism. One must see the government’s performance on accountability and transparency parameters while voting rather than being impressed by a brand of rhetoric or charisma of a leader.
Hannah Arendt propounds that power is people acting in concert with each other. Therefore, we must work in a cohort rather than being fragmented, to put our democracy to fair use.
A lot of people, considering news which is a facade in our “Republic,” were able to delude themselves as they chose to seek “justice” in the name of “murder mysteries.” Making someone’s suicide as a tool for election campaign and many citizens joining that lot paints a very gloomy picture about the source of news for many in the state.
It’s arduous for a politician to express dissent within their party because they are bound by their party’s whip (under the anti-defection law, they will be disqualified if they abstain or vote in contrary to the direction issues by party). But why has this been the mundane job of a plethora of journalists too?
“The Hathras rape happened because we forgot “Nirbhaya” in the din of cacophony masquerading as news in our “Republic” that made us believe that nation-wants-to-know only what was being dished out in the idiot box. My problem is not with a few that spit venom and vitiate social harmony. There have always been such deranged men and women in any society. The real concern is about a growing number of those that unabashedly support and promote such hate-mongers and the silence of the saner elements.” ~Anil Swarup
Weaponising media is an existential threat. There are many today whose diet is propaganda-based narratives and fake news. How do you get out of the matrix when you aren’t aware of being in it?
Controlled mass media is also an early sign of fascism.
Every monsoon when Bihar comes to a halt due to its dreadful drainage system, unplanned cities and its geography, we mourn it, but we need to act all around the year not to let Bihar get subdued by deluges. The citizenry has to be more concerned about their state. Bihar is in an immense need of an intellectual revolution which must precede a political or economic revolution.
It is not as if nothing has been done. But still, Bihar continues to be the “Gangotri” supplying unskilled labour to the rest of India. It is a sad refrain that still rings true: “a Bihari must leave Bihar to make it.”
I say this because we must have confidence in the government’s doings and hold them accountable when they are lackadaisical or go off-track. Suppose Bihar has not been able to achieve its desired potential hitherto. In that case, the credit goes to its feeble civil society, and those who incessantly say that “nothing can happen in Bihar.” I can guarantee them that yes, nothing can happen.
Any government works on a “feedback mechanism,” as per David Easton’s “General System Theory.” Therefore, if any government is not able to bring efficacy, more or less always, and is still able to attain popular mandate, it shows that the majority of the people are content with whatever the government has achieved. An ideal government is what people make of it, but a government “in practice” is generally what the “majority” of the population make of it. Any developed society has robust interest groups which sought to influence public policy by articulating their interests exhaustively.
People denigrate politicians on account of their “vote bank politics.” But if we ruminate, then aren’t all humans working on incentives/kicks? So, if politicians seek votes by doing something in the interest of the public, then how come they are exhibited as “monsters?” So if your impulse demands a change in the politics, aren’t you supposed to focus on “issues” while voting rather than ridiculing a politician’s image?
Our constitutional makers championed the cause for parliamentary democracy because they felt the nation would deliberate and hold the government accountable, for India to burgeon in the decades to come.
Let us deploy our democracy in a way which will make their vision turn into reality. Bihar needs to cash in on the reverse exodus of millions and light “diyas” this Diwali to decimate darkness in their life. It is time that Bihar comes out of its ages of tenebrosity and enlighten our country and the world, which it did by being the incubator for the ideas of Ashoka and Buddha. This election, many voted on issues of unemployment, law and order, and public infrastructure, which makes Bihar’s inception of development promising. India can achieve Atma Nirbharta only if development is democratised.