Why western criticism of Indian democracy is flawed
Democracy is a western concept, invented by the westerners, modified by them and supposedly also being preserved by them. It is the westerners who get to decide what is democratic and what is not and how is democracy to be sustained. Being the inventors and sustainers of practical democracy and with democracy being the major form of governance in the world today, these western nations have become the unwanted mentors for the developing democratic countries.
Post-Cold War people realized that communism and socialism were not the right forms of governance and that only democratic capitalism could bring about progress and prosperity for the people. The illusion has lasted for around a couple of decades but with the rise of global population and scarcity of resources, democracy too seems to be failing. The worst effect of this fallout is bound to be on the western democratic capitalist nations which have been slurping all sorts of profits from the developing world by the means of democracy. Thus, the westerners are leaving no stone unturned in their attempt to sustain liberal capitalist democracies around the world.
Countries which tend to deviate from the stated norm are criticized, internationally shammed and forced to re-align to the western idea of democracy. The western world has such vested interest in sustaining their form of democracy that they dare not miss out criticizing any event in the developed countries which could possibly sway that nation away from the profitable norm. These criticisms have proved to be quite fatal and have in fact successfully managed to prevent leaders of developing and underdeveloped world from taking crucial, innovative and revolutionary steps.
The wind of change seems to be blowing in India right now, the most important castle of democracy. Indians in 2014 elected a strong headed and fearless man (Narendra Modi) to lead their nation out of smothering crisis and stagnancy. What followed was a string of innovative reforms which not only helped the country move forward but it also somewhat established the validity of majoritarian form of democracy as a form of governance where the government might seem to represent the a majority community but the policies designed by this government are such that they impact all sections/communities equally and similarly.
The tweak in democracy received excessive criticism from the western world and also from those nationals who think the way the westerners do. The support from citizens because of visible results of reformative policies helped the leader bear all criticism and continue his march towards progress.
The recently concluded state elections in our country yet again established the supremacy of the leader his party received unparalleled support from the masses. Procedure and protocol was followed and the party elected one of the elected members as the Chief Minister of the state. This time the western media went crazy and criticized Modi for appointing a religiously colored (Yogi Adityanath) man as the head of a state.
Douglas Busvine working for Reuters even wrote an article titled ‘Hardline priest Yogi Adityanath’s elevation a sign Modi is moving towards ‘Hindu India’. The most interesting part of the article was that its promo did have a question mark while the article did not. So it was actually a statement which was cowardly promoted as a question to attract readers. The pictures of the promo and of the article are given at the end of the post.
Let us for an instance consider that Modi is actually trying to convert India into a Hindu India and that the elevation of Yogi as the CM is a step in that direction. Let us even consider that at instances he tweaked conventional democracy, not constitutional democracy, to give way to development. Even in such a case, the alien westerners do not get the right to publish such lethal and insensitive statements which can potentially lead to chaos and civil strife in our country. Moreover, cloaking such statements as questions to attract readers and mint monetary profits is the lowest any writer could stoop.
Leaving the lows of journalism aside, let us address two important questions that arise at this juncture in the essay. First question is, is democracy/conventional democracy a virtue, the only and ultimate form of governance? And the second question is, why does the world expect us to be democratic the way they are, to bear the burden of conventional democracy and compromise on development?
The universally acceptable description of democracy is the one given by Abraham Lincoln who described it as ‘government of the people, for the people and by the people’. This description led to the evolution of democracy that we see today. And, democracy that we see today is undoubtedly full of loopholes which are impossible to plug by a liberal constitution, yet another requisite of conventional democracy. Thus, the modern liberal democracies that we see around us are not free of vices like political opportunism, political hypocrisy, communalism and various other evils.
In fact, those who claim the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as a murder of democracy by the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) must understand that the appointment was possible only because of democracy and the blame, if any, must be on democracy and not on the BJP. This gives us the answer to our first question, democracy is not virtue and many political vices that we see today are a result of democracy and the inability of a liberal constitution to plug the loopholes. It is time we start questioning the golden, decorated and conventional system of governance and think of other ways.
China came up with its own unique form of democracy; Israel too is not a conventional democracy yet the world aspires to achieve the kind of growth that these nations have attained in an extremely short span of time. I do not say that we need to copy their form of democracy but yes deviation from conventional democracy can probably initiate the much needed process of growth and development in our country.
The world has burdened us by appreciating our ability to keep the world’s largest democracy functional. World leaders have called us an inspiration for the developing and underdeveloped nations which despite being less populated are still struggling to establish democracy. Our country has been struggling to move ahead with this burden and it is time for us not to think of what the world would say about us if we deviate from what we are but of what legacy do we plan to leave for the future generations. The world does appreciate us for being democratic but at the same time there are departments in their government which ponders upon the amount of aid to be sent to us.
Conventional Democracy is neither a virtue nor a burden for us to bear any longer. We need to look for alternatives and we need to come up with a form of governance which the world may or may not find fancy but one which could make every Indian (irrespective of their religion) proud of their country. I do not call for an overhaul of the existing system but yes we must not be too possessive about democracy and we must welcome policies which would boost our growth and lead to equal and similar growth of all citizens of all religions even if the policy challenges the principles of conventional democracy because conventional democracy is not a virtue but a burden for us.