ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Prospects of Optimising the Margin


The discussion of political margin particularly in electoral democracy can be seen to be paradoxical. From the point of view of theoretical reason that is routinely made in defence of parliamentary democracy, making a case for the margin will appear incongruous. The principle of rotation which is at the core of parliamentary democracy through its dynamism is expected to constantly circulate leaders in the institutionalised power. As a result of such dynamism, those at the margins, in the formal sense, can rise up to the centre of power and those on the top can be pushed down the ladder. The electoral aspect of democracy is supposed to achieve this transition. To put it differently, the margins in the life of a democracy are never stable or frozen; they have the elasticity to move to the centre. And yet, Indian democracy has achieved this distinction of having its own margins; margins that exist in asymmetrical relation to the centre that has become stronger and wants to be stable in power at least for some years to come.

The centre in politics revolves around the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which seems to have been setting the terms of political discourse in India. This is evident in the fact that in the contemporary scenario, the opposition is reduced to becoming a reactive force. Within this scenario, the smaller parties or the parties at the margins seem to be working in two modes. These modes apparently seem different, but are essentially one and the same. The smaller political parties that are a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have already given up the agenda of moving to the centre to take an independent position on some of the critical issues that the margins are facing, in particular and the country is staring at, in general. Those parties that claim to be the representatives of the margins seem to be taking a careful position, keeping in view their particular interests that can best be safeguarded by remaining in provincial politics. Let us turn the table around and ask: Are these parties really at the margins? These parties, in terms of sheer electoral politics, may be at the margins, but in terms of substantive politics they should be at the centre. The advantage of being at the centre has to be understood in regard to the hermeneutic backing of legendary thinkers such as Jotirao Phule and B R Ambedkar that these parties have and second, these parties are in a better position to orient the political force of the masses of the marginalised in accordance to the intellectual backing of these thinkers. Put differently, the rich section of the society would have no transformative ­interest in the ideas of Phule and Ambedkar. Thus, the normative content of their political mobilisation is rich but awaits cross-fertilisation. These are quite compelling conditions for moving from the margin to the political centre even in electoral terms. And yet, these parties fail to optimise the margin which at its normative core is the most creative in thought and transformative in politics. It is true that the hegemonic forces use all kinds of manipulative and coercive means to thwart attempts aimed at producing counter-hegemony. But it is equally true that these parties find purpose in remaining relevant at the provincial level.

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Updated On : 4th Oct, 2019
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