| by N.S.Venkataraman
( April 28, 2014, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) In a country of over billion people, millions of people exercising their franchise to elect the government in an orderly way is certainly an impressive and extraordinary scenario. India can certainly be proud of it‘s ability to conduct such massive election exercise and the largest exercise is presently under way .
However, there are sceptics who are of the view that such massive election process by itself are not an indication of the quality of democracy now practiced in India. Inspite of the elections being conducted at regular intervals, some quarters think that there are grim possibilities of the democratic form of government getting derailed in India , if it would not be nurtured in a responsible manner by those who happen to occupy positions of power in the country. This would particularly be so in the present scenario , when number of political parties on the regional and casteist basis have multiplied and a number of persons with corruption and criminal background contest elections and quite a number of them get themselves elected and enter parliament.
Family and personality centric political parties:
The weakness of Indian democracy are reflected by the fact that several political parties in India today are controlled by families with sons , daughters and other family members having a strangle hold in conducting the party affairs and one family member succeeding the other in the party hierarchy like dynasty rule.
Except a few parties like BJP, communist party of India and marxist communist party, several other political parties including congress party are really centred around one family or one personality. This has created an undesirable situation , where there is no scope for individuals to move up in the party ladder even in a limited way , unless they would pledge their loyalty to a particular family or a particular leader. Dissent is not possible in these political parties. On the other hand, they are run and managed like a tightly controlled group. While these political parties contest elections in a democratic system, there is no democratic procedure in these parties themselves.
Role of money power :
The money power has now come to play a big role in the election process, with massive campaigning by all political parties becoming the order of the day. Several political parties now own TV channels , employ advertising agencies to launch massive advertisement campaign and organise expensive extravaganza in the name of public meetings and conferences, to draw the public attention and get public support. It is often heard that several political parties bribe the gullible voters , particularly those belonging to lower income group to “buy” their votes.
A situation has now arisen where in the absence of money power , an individual or a political party cannot hope to win an election at all.
With the money power becoming so important, almost all the political parties collect funds all the time to build resources for contesting the elections. This has resulted in high level of administrative and political corruption in the country and also coercion and threat to small. medium and large business houses by various political parties to extract money from them. Thus, electoral process in India has become an expensive and costly affair, leading to several malpractices including generation and circulation of black money.
The critics think that such electoral process will really derail the quality of democracy in India and can tell upon the long term harmony and stability of the society itself.
Politics is now a business:
There are several politicians in India today who have never taken up any jobs, but have huge wealth and assets and live in luxurious life style . Many people wonder as to where do they get money from. Obviously, such wealth amongst the politicians have become possible only due to the extensive corrupt practices in which they are involved and by way of getting huge government contracts and patronage. The dividing line between business men and politicians are also becoming thin, as one often compliment the other to their mutual benefits.
Every political party or political leader maintain a large group of political workers, who have no worthwhile jobs but are enabled to make money by the leadership of the political parties, using the political clout at regional and local levels. Their political masters enable them to amass money by providing them government contracts and patronage at local and regional levels in variety of ways. Such political workers really often behave like thugs, who constantly harass the people around. Some sort of gang have emerged in each political party , where the people at various levels from top to bottom work together for “common good” of making money , contesting elections and seeking to get into power by fair or foul means.
Whither Indian electoral democracy :
The contest between political parties in India are no more based on principles of economics or sociology but mostly on the basis of alignment of various self interested and family controlled political parties, who align themselves before the elections with the objective of winning . It often happens that number of political parties who align themselves and contest in the elections together, fall apart immediately after the elections and quarrel bitterly for ministerial positions, if they happen to win the elections.
While anybody would be impressed at the massive electoral exercise while viewing them at macro level, a deep and careful analysis of the electoral process would only highlight the rot that is steadily setting in.
In such scenario, critics are of the view that the future of Indian democracy may remain a question mark , if the present trend would not be checked. Perhaps, the present show of Indian electoral democracy may be deceptive.