Monday, May 17, 2021

Unfettering political shackles

These are days, they say, of undermining constitutional and government institutions. But is it so? At least in India, undermining such institutions is not really a new phenomenon ~ this problem is said to have started sometime in the early 1970s and have continued unabated since then. Needless to say, the primary cause is the proclivity of the political class, particularly those at the helm of affairs, to control constitutional and government institutions and make them acquiescent to their political agenda. This phenomenon started slowly and subtly in the second decade of Independence and over time, it became blatant ~ as is being witnessed in the country with the RBI, CBI, and now the National Statistical Commission (NSC), to cite a few examples. These days, no one even talks of the undermining of institutions such as the Police and administration, which is also described as “politicization”. As for much of Government Departments, especially in the states, the less said the more it signifies. Two most glaring fall-outs of undermining constitutional and government institutions, which is also the undermining democracy and the rule of law, are mis-governance (or the absence of good governance) and corruption. These two fall-outs are rampant across the country in varied degrees hence it is not surprising that India remains constantly “emerging” but is yet to fully “emerge” ~ as a developed economy and a developed nation. It is not that the political class of other countries do not try to, or actually undermine, constitutional and government institutions ~ they do ~ therefore the varied degrees of their development index ~ and, accordingly the categorization and ratings of each country in several aspects, especially in economy and corruption. So India has moved up two notches in the corruption list ~ nothing to celebrate because it is neither here nor there, especially considering in whose company the country is in. True China and Pakistan lags behind India in terms of corruption but that too is nothing to write home about seeing that they are not democracies. In any case, why should India perceive China and Pakistan as the benchmarks for our achievements and failures? While the most convenient and comfortable way out for any country is to blame its political class and individual political parties and politicians for all its woes, is it possible for them to single-handedly “achieve” the feats of mis-governance and corruption? Undermining democracy and the rule of law by undermining constitutional and government institutions can be “achieved” only when a people give up their powers to someone else ~ the political class and individual political parties and politicians in this case ~ which in a country like India happens due to numerous cultural, religious, economic and social factors. The kind of democracy our Founding Fathers envisaged and laid the foundation of never really materialized because all the biases and prejudices of the traditional societal dynamics continue to defy what is broadly understood by the term “scientific temper” ~ a term coined by India first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. And these very same traditional societal dynamics are deemed to be the culture of a community, a people, a society and a nation ~ and with much clever colouring, this culture is then turned into “nationalism”. There are several dimensions to the discourse of culture, nationalism, constitutionalism, etc., but suffice it to say that when we dig deeper, we find the continual clash between making the past current and the struggle to make the future the present. It is very interesting that those who promise a bright future cannot resist keeping the past alive and have not an iota of will to discard the past. It is equally ironic that those in power and in the helm of affairs can only think of the past as their principle crutch to hold on to power. And this scenario plays out unremittingly at the wider national arena as much as it does in the nooks and corners of the country. If the larger “national” vision of peace, progress and prosperity is to materialize for India and resonate in every brook and hill of the country, constitutional and government institutions must be unfettered from political shackles. And this only the people have the rights and the power to do. But first the people must unshackle their own hearts and minds from the traditional societal dynamics that immure them.