Dance of Democracy

Masood’s post on Indian Democracy brought about this post.. It just reminded me of all the ways in which we take our democracy so much for granted..

I have heard comments, as long back as I remember, about how India needs a dictator to make things right.. How one dose of dictatorship will set right all our problems! Have we started taking our democracy for granted? Have we stopped valuing our democracy? Today, as we are in the process of voring in our 15th Lok Sabha, a brand new government, I really wanted to pen down, how I view the democratic process..

From what I have read, from the time India , as we know it today,came into existence, there have been dark and pessimistic predictions of how quickly the ‘democratic setup’ will dissolve and India will slip into total chaos. Initially it was the West which were predicting its decline and then we ourselves picked up the chanting, but miraculously, despite all the problems, all the flaws, and the short foray into dictatorship during the emergency, India has continued to function as a democracy.

Yes, we have our problems, but why do we forget that we are just 60+ years old.. That is surely very young, if you compare,for instance with England.  Despite being a monarchy – they had a parliamentary system in place as far back as 1295 . That is a lot of  years to iron out the issues and fine tune their system.. Add to that, the fact that India’s cultural diversity adds another element which brings a different take in our parliamentary system..  According to the wikipedia – ‘At least once every five years, India’s Election Commission of India conducts one of the largest, most complex elections of the world. India’s elections in the 2004 involved about 581 million voters who travel to nearly 800,000 polling stations to choose from some 11,680 candidates representing roughly 221 parties. The elections reveal much about Indian society.’

We talk so much about regionalism in politics and it’s harmful effects. But can we totally do without regionalism? Will that ever work? The way I look at it – in the UK, such a tiny country, especially in comparison to India, still has 2 countries within it – Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.  They have their own sports teams and there is a very intense rivalry between these ‘countries’ and yet they remain a country. So in a ountry like India, these regional feelings are quite normal and expected.. What probably, needs to be done is that any sense of alienation, needs to be tackled by governments in a positive and encourahing manner  – as opposed to a patronising or ‘votebank’ style as is being practised today..

Yes, our democracy has criminals representing us – but isn’t that because of our own apathy?

Yes, our democracy has the caste card and religion based votebank politics being played – but isn’t that a reflection of our society, where which caste and religion you belong to, seems to matter ?

Yes, our media might be biased, but atleast we have the freedom to speak our mind. Google does not need to modify/alter searches for our country – we are free to look up what we want in our country.

Yes, we do compare with China quite badly, but really, do we want the government to take our personal decisions for us? And the truth is that we do not even know the whole truth behind China.. If some reports are to be believed, the villages are in as bad shape.. In India, we can, at the very least, question, our

Yes, our secularism has its flaws – but do we really want to be a Pakistan?

Yes, we have people like Narendra Modi and Madani in politcs, but we also have the right to question them.. If found guilty, Modi will not be able to contest elections. Yes, we have a slow judicial process – but isn’t it better than no judicial process? Or a judiciary which is totally controlled by the government?

Yes, a lot of us do not vote – but we have the option and the option to not use it.

I have heard of people dismissing news channels and freedom of press saying – oh they just debate the same things’! But at least, we can discuss, debate and question our leaders.. Today, even though there are criminals in politics, I do think that parties are aware that they will be questioned about it.. And even if it is a slow process, it will take effect.

Yes, we have a lot of problems, but are we not part of it? Are we all doing what we can do.. I especially feel this whenever I read some of Manju’s posts.. There is so much we can do, we can express ourselves, we can disagree with our political leaders, we can even complain that we have a democratic system which does not work – because we have a working democracy – however flawed it might be…

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30 thoughts on “Dance of Democracy

  1. we are actually supposed to be a stable democracy!!! and it is right in many ways…………. we are flawed in many ways and that is also right……….

    we have issues, real issues that we need to address and hopefully, we do it in the coming years or the people will surely revolt……….

    miles to go before we sleep!!!!


    Yes, we are now considered a stable democracy – but there are still a lot of poeple among us who feel that it just does not work.. I have actually met so many people who feel totally disconnected and say that they will never vote – simply because they don’t see a point in it..
    I just wanted to say that while there are a lot of things that need correction – we are also better off in so many ways.. And yes, miles to go before we sleep- definitely, no two ways about it… I am not saying all is rosy – just that its not all bleak- as some would have us believe…

  2. Well I don’t have any opinion on it as it doesn’t affect me directly. BUT I do agree with a lot that you have said and also what Ajit said.

    Hmmm…. I found this post very educational. 🙂

    Yes, you have a much more evolved democracy. I am always amazed when I see Question time.. Things are handled so professionally.. We, in India, have a long way to go…

  3. In kerala,there is actually a voting station on a hill-top(i am not quite sure if its in Idukki…) for a SINGLE voter!!!!He is the only crazy guy who lives on that hill…But that booth is set up as meticulously as any other booth and he comes to vote for every election,unfailingly!!!!Thats the spirit!!!And that shows how much we care about who rules us…Whether you are on top of a hill,or what not!

    Yes, I had heard of this too – not sure of where exactly though.. Isn’t it amazing that this person votes so religiously! As all the news channels have been reporting, rural India is definitely more keen on using their right to vote than urban India..

  4. “Yes, we have people like Narendra Modi and Madani in politcs, but we also have the right to question them.. If found guilty, Modi will not be able to contest elections. Yes, we have a slow judicial process – but isn’t it better than no judicial process? Or a judiciary which is totally controlled by the government?”

    The fact is even when we know that our politicians are corrupt, we won’t see them behind bars. The evidence vanishes into thin air. Justice delayed is justice denied in almost all cases.

    Yes, Solilo, this happens, unfortunately. But the point I am making is that, we can still protest, we can still appeal to the SC – which thankfully does not seem to be controlled by political parties. Yes, justice delayed is justice denied, but it is still better than some of our neighbouring countries where there is nothing in the name of justice. Where judiciary is totally controlled by the party in power. Today, there is talk of fast-track courts.. the Jessica Lal case was brought to justice – albeit late.. Things can happen – if we, as a people demand it. I feel sometimes, things don’t work , because we, on the whole, have stopped demanding too.. At least in our democracy – we can voice our opinion – one day, I am sure, that it will start to count, as well.

    • Smi, I am in agreement with you and everyone here. We are definitely better when compared to neighbors but still I believe that judiciary is controlled by ruling party at the centre. Which ever party comes to power, it dances according to that party’s whims and fancies.

      I still love the optimism in your post. That is why even though I know that it will result in a coalition govt. still wish educated independents make it to parliament. Hope that sets a precedence and we don’t see criminals getting nomination.

      Yes, I totally agree with you in everything you say.. We really need to go a long way and the independant candidates certainly make me very optimistic.. Even if they all fail to get elected – it is clear from the reactions of the major parties, that the entry of independant candidates has made them jittery.. I certainly hope that this in the long run forces our major political parties to try and ensure that their candidates are more worthy.

  5. Yes, we have our problems, but why do we forget that we are just 60+ years old..
    A post after my own heart 🙂
    loved it 🙂

    So in a ountry like India, these regional feelings are quite normal and expected.. What probably, needs to be done is that any sense of alienation, needs to be tackled by governments in a positive and encourahing manner – as opposed to a patronising or ‘votebank’ style as is being practised today..
    yup! my thoughts too Smitha!

    ANd especially after voting I feel amazing today 🙂
    so yeah democracy it is despite the doomsayers 🙂

    Me: So you voted! Fantastic! I really wish I could! Do you know, that India is one of the few countries that does not allow ex-pats to vote! I do hope that changes.. As for our democracy – with all it’s problems – I still think we are better off than being in a non-democratic nation…

  6. Fantastic post!

    I just couldn’t help agreeing with what you’ve said…
    What is now needed is a more responsible approach and involvement in Politics by the common man…
    We need to pull up our socks and make sure we vote for the right people and try to make things work as much as possible without handing out bribes or threats….
    It’s a slow process of improvement, but it’s happening and our generation is a witness to this.

    Thank you Pixie! Yes, I do believe that our generation will be witness to this 🙂 I think one of the reason our politics is the way it is – is because of our own apathy.. You know, once in Bangalore, someone asked for a bribe – and we refused and he just walked away – we still got our work done – without the bribe..

  7. A very fine post Smitha. You have very logically brought up the issue that shame us and those which make up proud. Yes 60 years for a country is nothing…we are still infants. Infants need to quickly learn and adapt. Therefore I believe that while we should be proud of this remarkable achievement, we should be equally alive that there are many shortcomings in this model that is a cut-and-past job from the model that the tiny country you live in follows. Clearly this is not suited for a large country like India.

    Unfortunately, there is a lot of inertia along with positioning on political lines based on the present strengths of political parties, as if these are going to remain unchanged forever. This is making impossible any attempt to bring in much requires changes. And as you know, stagnation can only lead you towards decay.

    Vinod, You have brought out a very pertinent point about our political model’s suitablity to our country’s needs.. There is a lot of opinions about this and apparently even the British felt that the American system might be more suitable for us – but we still had that colonial hangover of British being superior, higher pedigree than America.. I did not bring it up – because I do not know enough about both the systems.. You should probably do a post on this – I am sure you will be able to bring out the pros and cons of both the systems and which could be most suitable for our country and why…

    Stagnation certainly leads to decay – and it is already visible in states like UP.. We certainly have long , long way to go…

  8. Smitha: Great post. Warmed my heart. I am a patriotic like none other and a die hard optimist as far as my country is concerned. I am actually preparing to do a presentation on India for my 4 year old’s pre-school. And the process is so revealing…we take so many things for granted about our nation and how qucik we are at times to criticize. We should for a change talk about responsibilites versus rights. Do wait for my post on this presentations and the questions from the Americans 🙂


    Chrysalis – Waiting for your post ! Am sure you will bring out a lot of pertinent points! There are so many aspects to a democracy.. and it is really easy for us to be cynical.. I am so waiting for your post 🙂

  9. Very well written post.

    I sometimes feel this great frustration with our democratic system, and wish for something drastic that makes our politicians care more for the people that elect them to power. But i guess it has to come from within the people. We need to be aware and raise our voice against injustice.

    Like you point out, we enjoy a lot of liberties in India. Ask the Chinese people how much they would value something similar.

    Indian democracy may be flawed, but if we get a billion people mobilized it can be set right.

    Amreekandesi – Yes, you are right! Change has to come from the people.. You know, to a large extent, I think our silent majority who does not vote – is responsible for the state of politics.. Clearly the politicians will go to the people who react – who vote… We certainly enjoy a lot of liberties in India – which we take for granted…

  10. Great post, Smitha!

    You’re right- we are lucky that we are a Democracy- even if it does not work in an ideal way at times.

    When we see people who view issues with blinkers on their eyes, I feel that one of the most important things we can do is keep an open mind. Sometimes I think that people are simply too lazy to think for themselves, that is why they just ‘go with the flow’…

    Solilo has mentioned Narendra Modi and delayed justice. I sometimes feel that those in power who oppose Modi are trying their best to delay justice. They get more political mileage by continuing to “suggest” that he is guilty.

    Personally I feel that a swift trial would be beneficial to Modi himself ( he would be cleared once and for all if he is not guilty) and also for the general public ( he would be punished if he is guilty).

    Delayed justice is one of the greatest drawbacks of our political system.

    Manju, I agree with all your points. Justice delayed is definitely justice denied. And yes, maybe, it might have been better for Modi, himself, to have a swift trial too.. But even so, we have a comparatively uncorrupt judicial system – which I am thankful for.. Lots of nations do not have even that..

  11. Thats a nice positive outlook on how democracy works in our country ! After a lot of rants about it in the blogs, this was a pleasant read. Brilliant write up. And I dont have anything to comment.

    OMG, I DONT HAVE ANYTHING TO COMMENT !!! somethings wrong with me!!! Btw, Im coming over for 4 days, do I still get that pink cake????

    You don’t have anything to comment????? Whats happened to you 🙂 When are you coming over? Sure the pink cake offer still stands – absolutely!

  12. You, said it all…yes, we have a democracy how ever flawed it might be. We just have to look around at our neighboring countries to know, how fortunate we are. Slowly yet steadily we shall trudge around to our Ideal Democracy. Nice positive view on Democracy. Really appreciated it.

    Thank you – I really feel that things will improve – but only if we really want it.. We just need to be less cynical and more participative 🙂

  13. You’ve written down exactly what I had in mind when I put that piece on my blog. We have problems but atleast we know that. And we are trying to work them out. Optimism is necessary for change.

    Great post 🙂


    Thank you Masood – your post inspired me to write this post. I was so moved to read it.. That was really positive!

  14. I think the reason we have existed despite all the flaws is because of the “swalpa adjust maadi” (adjust please) attitude. Sure, too much of it is harmful but if we didn’t adjust, we could never be together the way we are.
    Imagine when India was a group of royal kingdoms that waged war against each other and the dynasties changed every century of two and look at how far we have come. It is amazing that none of the states are demanding to be “liberated” from India so that they can be soverign nations.
    If anybody else in this world can embrace our diversity and do even half as much we have done, it’ll be great. I’m sure they’d fail.

    And there are always two sides to a coin. Our diversity is our essence. That is our identity. And I wonder, having come so far, can we exist if the diversity was taken away from us.

    Shilpa – ‘Swalpa Adjust maadi’ so reminds me of Bangalore 🙂 Welcome here 🙂

    I totally agree with you, especially with ‘If anybody else in this world can embrace our diversity and do even half as much we have done, it’ll be great. I’m sure they’d fail.’ And I agree – we may not be able to exist so peacefully – if our diversity is taken away – because it would mean – for a lot of people that their identities are lost.

  15. I totally agree to what you have written….

    Now a days things are improving at faster pace…All politicians are scared of media…if somebody really want to expose any corrupt politician/govt officer …you can easily take the medium of press/news channel….

    Infact sometime govt.grevience website also work…i have this incident in near by colony where new road was constructed and after a week time telephone deptt came and dig the entire road up..one of my fren raises issue with this govt website and they actually sent the workers again for road constuction and also put penalty on phone dept.

    Rashmi – It is so good to hear that some thing works – we are so used to hearing about everything that does not work – this was a delight to hear.. Yes, I certainly believe that things will improve.

  16. Nice post smitha.
    We always have this tendency of comparing to the better working systems and always complain about the flaws in ours, but we fail to realize that we are better when compared to many other nations. I don’t know whether it is the RDB effect or not but i do believe that we build the system and when all of us start doing our jobs responsibly, we would build the better nation we hope for.

    Mystery – You said it! ‘ i do believe that we build the system and when all of us start doing our jobs responsibly, we would build the better nation we hope for.’ !

  17. That is surely very young, if you compare,for instance with England. Despite being a monarchy – they had a parliamentary system in place as far back as 1295 . That is a lot of years to iron out the issues

    gee… that makes it sound better… means we have a bright future.. ?? some times I get very cynical… !

    I do think that things could change – but we have to stop being cynical first 🙂

  18. no wonder krishna aradhis’s blog is titled “Indian Demockracy”.

    i wish they had polling by mail — considering the fact that a large percentage of the youth are overseas with the IT sector.

    the fact is we have a democratic form of election ( like the pace maker ) to elect a dynastic ruler.

    Demockracy 🙂 Lol 🙂

    I wish they had postal vote too – I also wish they allowed ex-pats to vote. Yes, as of now, it certainly looks like, ‘we have a democratic form of election ( like the pace maker ) to elect a dynastic ruler.’ – But I certainly think it could change, if people get more involved in politics..

  19. no wonder krishna aradhis’s blog is titled “Indian Demockracy”.

    i wish they had polling by mail — considering the fact that a large percentage of the youth are overseas with the IT sector.

    the fact is we have a democratic form of election ( like the pace maker ) to elect a dynastic ruler.

  20. I am in complete agreement to what all you have written. Sometimes I wonder why as a Indian we have this habit of finding laws in everything and ignore all the benefits we have.

    Yes we have certain flaws and problems but then who doesnt have any problem? If instead of cribbing we spend that time in doing something constructive we can remove those flaws also, after all what is country….people in aggregate.

    Yes, Renu – completely agree with everything you say…

  21. I so agree Smitha, and we need to remind ourselves not to give up on ourselves so soon. We are a young democracy and we have managed to stay one nation despite all our diversity and despite our politicians…
    Any talk of India needs a dose of dictatorship gets my goat.

    Yes, IHM – agree with everything you say.. ‘Any talk of India needs a dose of dictatorship gets my goat.’ – me too!

  22. This is a great post, Smitha. I still remember so many leaders praising our electoral system – the way we conduct the elections for such a huge country with so many diversities. I think the admiration was when Seshan was the Election Commissioner. I heard praises from everywhere.

    As you said, one booth was kept on top of the hill for a single voter (I too remember reading about it). And our voting machine! The quality of our machine is better than even American Machine. Rigging is everywhere – even Bush did that. Still when compared to other countries, our system of conducting elections is the best.

    Yes, I think Seshan brought about a big change in the way we perceive elections.. As for rigging – yes, even Bush did it! We have a far more challenging task of holding elections – thanks to our diversity and various other factors.. I was reading about how Sukumar Sen, our first Election Commissioner prepared for our very first elections and how huge a task it had been! It was truly an eye opener.. It was/is no cakewalk.

  23. Pingback: The World This Week - 10 May 2009 | amreekandesi.com

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