Funny and hilarious things are happening in politics these days. The latest was the drama staged at hotel Lily in Guwahati. The BJP is teaching us a new definition of democracy.
Why the people in power are so boisterous and boastful? It is because once they are elected by people they think that they have a legitimacy to do whatever they wish to do. For them, democracy is only a number game and a majority marker. But this is an erroneous reading of democracy.
Democracy has certain objectives and it also entails certain processes. To understand the objectives of democracy we must know how it has evolved over the centuries. Here I would say that democracy follows the principles of enlightenment. In this context, I quote a portion from a book called “Enlightenment Now” by Steven Pinker.
“The Enlightenment principle that we can apply reason and sympathy to enhance human flourishing may seem obvious, trite, and old-fashioned. I wrote this book because I have come to realize that it is not. More than ever, the ideals of reason, science, humanism and progress, need a wholehearted defense.
“We take its gifts for granted: newborns who will live more than eight decades, market overflowing with food, clean water that appears with a flick of a finger and waste that disappears another, pills that erase a painful infection, sons who are not sent off to war, daughters who can walk the street in safety, critics of the powerful who are not jailed or shot, the world’s knowledge and culture available in a shirt pocket.
“But these are human accomplishments, not cosmic birthrights. In the memories of many readers of this book-and in the experience of those in less fortunate parts of the world-war, scarcity, ignorance and lethal menace are a natural part of existence. We know that countries can slide back into these primitive conditions, and so we ignore the achievements of the Enlightenment at our peril.”
Many things are said in this quote though the word democracy is not mentioned here. It has underlined the ‘ideals of reason, science, humanism and progress.’ It has further said that ‘sons who are not sent off to war, daughters who can walk the street in safety, critics of the powerful who are not jailed or shot,.’
And finally, it is mentioned that these are ‘human accomplishments, not cosmic birthrights’, means we have earned these by our toils and struggles. If these are not the objectives of democracy what are? We should remember that though democracy is a political process its fruits are not only confined to the arena of politics. As it is politics is an all-embracing concept.
Presently things are moving in the reverse direction in India. We are not following the ideals of reason, science, humanism and progress. We are just doing the opposite. The state in India, particularly at the Centre is controlled by a political party whose ideals are not reason, science, humanism and progress, rather it draws its inspiration from obscurantism. The BJP is basically anti-science. It is not guided by reason, but by certain worn-out beliefs. It does not believe in humanism but in religious divisionism. It wants to take us all back to medieval times.
How come then they believe in democracy? Who says that they believe in democracy? For them, democracy is just a political instrumentality devoid of its essence. Let us consider how democracy has evolved in India. The democracy in India has evolved through freedom struggle from a colonial legacy.
The ideals of democracy embody universal principles of liberty and equality which humanity has inherited from the principles and ideals of the Magna Carta, American Revolution, French Revolution and many other human struggles for freedom and liberty.
Indian democracy inherits all of them and also the aspirations of the Indian freedom movement. The ideals of Indian democracy are enshrined in the preamble to the Indian Constitution. If we refer to the preamble to our Constitution we see as if all the ideals mentioned in Steven Pinker’s book “Enlightenment Now” are written there so boldly. The BJP cares little about the objectives of democracy.
As mentioned at the beginning, for them democracy is only a number game. Actually, it is not even that. Because if they don’t get a majority in an election, they can manage it, means they can get the number by buying the elected members from other political party and bringing them to their fold. This political party has turned democracy into a perversity.
The BJP has turned democracy into a perversity by resorting to three things. First, they try to influence the voters with all kinds of falsehood and divisive propaganda at the time of elections. We have seen in the last few years how they do it through their propaganda machine.
Secondly, after the election, if they are not in majority they get it by buying elected members from the other party. Third, once they are in power they turn democracy into perversity by going against the basic tenets of our constitution.
But they claim legitimacy saying that people have voted them to power and as people have voted them to power and as legitimate representatives of people they can take any decisions affecting the lives of people and body politic of our society. Nothing is further from the truth. Therefore, we must now begin to question and challenge their legitimacy to power.