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

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Democracy Tottering between Deal and Dialogue


In the context of the recent political upheavals, one common perception has been that those who defected from the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) or the Great Development Front coalition government have allowed themselves to be illuded by self-interest. In the politics based on the plurality of group/sectional interest, it has always been extremely difficult to decide who is at fault. One could offer a common answer to this important question—both of them are at fault. However, the nature of their faults is different. For example, political parties with enormous resources and numbers have the moral responsibility to enlist on the basis of constitutional principles, corresponding party programmes, and the support of relatively smaller political groups. A party that is entrenched in numbers and resources has the added moral responsibility to put up the ruling combination or configuration in order to adhere to larger democratic principles, which will brighten the image of the country in the international field.

These parties, therefore, have the responsibility to take initiative in making smaller groups as equal partners in expanding the scope of democratic principles. Such principles should be the guiding force behind the reconfiguration or reconstruction of the ruling combination. Thus, it is the responsibility of the so-called national parties to refrain from misleading the members to political manoeuvres that tend to compel the members from smaller groups to cross constitutional and procedural boundaries. However, as the editorial comment in the current issue of Economic & Political Weekly suggests, the recent defection move causing the fall of the MVA government in Maharashtra shows that both the party with resources and those who were deceived by such resources have contributed to the violation of both the principle and procedures of constitutional democracy.

The political party with resources—albeit indirectly but eventually—encouraging the morally vulnerable politicians from the so-called Bahujan castes does measure up to a moral fault, but succumbing to such an authoritarian desire is the double fault. Convergence of such a fault line becomes morally more objectionable when it merges with the dominant desire of the authoritarian political party to rule over the mass of destitute people. The political party that has a desire to gain formal political power using whatever ways it adopts and enormous resources it controls only to rule over the poor masses who are reeling under the conditions of acute destitution is awful to say the least. It, indeed, is awful to come across politicians who, despite their humble background, become part of the power that desires to leave its stamp of domination over the masses, irrespective of the degraded quality of life of such masses. It does not matter whether they are hungry, poor, filled with anxiety, and so on. Thus, the ground of political power does become slippery, leading to continuous down-sliding, particularly of the Dalit and Bahujan politicians.

This puts into question the egalitarian conception of democracy. Since the early 20th century, social thinking has been endorsing the need for egalitarian democracy that would enable hitherto excluded social groups to participate in the governance of the country. Social thinkers from western and southern India have consistently argued that egalitarian democracy is more enabling than a democracy with an authoritarian agenda. It was also expected that those politicians—particularly Dalit and Bahujan leaders—would build on the advantage of such an egalitarian democracy. However, these first-time beneficiaries of democracy have not been spectacularly successful in augmenting this historical advantage by becoming democratic and making others more democratic. They are supposed to build on this democratic legacy by adhering to the procedures that are a help to them as well.

Recent political decisions and actions have rendered democracy as tottering between deal and dialogue. Arguably, their autonomy to form a ruling alliance with the majority party smacks of a “deal” that necessarily puts aside the need for dialogue with the electorate which elected these leaders at the first instance. But this does not happen in most of the cases where elected representatives cross over to a different party after getting elected. The process of dialogue would start from the internal critique of the disposition where the enslavers feel elevated when the slaves make a public acknowledgement of their master’s gesture of “generosity.” Generosity here is interpreted by its beneficiary as the crucial factor in putting the person in the seat of “power.”

As a part of internal critique, the legislators whose political as well as social credibility and career hinge on constitutional and democratic principles need to be sceptical about parties that undermine both democracy and the Constitution. These representatives should realise that a party with dominant ambitions need not treat constitutional and democratic morality as an infinite source of remaining responsible in their political practice. Dialogue has to necessarily take place within the framework of democratic principles and constitutional values. Democratic principles in general and parliamentary democracy in particular continue to offer us a unique opportunity to produce morally decent, politically attentive, and socially sensitive environment, both for the citizens and their representatives.


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Updated On : 9th Jul, 2022
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