Who to Blame

Democracy without education is hypocrisy without limitation. Every election demonstrates how farcical this much talked about adult franchise is. Yet this is the biggest show-piece of what they call functional democracy. Unlike Pakistan and other authoritarian states, electoral politics, rather over-enthusiasm about elections that sometimes reaches feverish pitch, has made India acceptable to the international community as a success story of parliamentary democracy. For all practical purposes election is big business in India today. Even small parties gamble with their luck by spending millions, mostly ill-gotten black money, to remain in the fray. Man-Money-Gun! That is how one may sum up the essence of this functional democracy. Contrary to the image that is portrayed in the media party-bosses who never get tired of talking about democracy and people’s rights do not really represent the vast mass of the Indian people. Their sole purpose to champion democracy is to loot the exchequer in the name of democracy and democratic rights of the people.

For one thing national politics does hardly play any significant role in shaping the outcome of national referendum or general elections. And the 16th parliamentary poll beginning from April 7 is no exception. Parties that still somehow manage to project themselves as national parties, thanks to propaganda blitz by public relations firms, never raise any national issue with international ramifications. Barring left parties, no political party, big or small, does ever think to agitate over international issues that affect national interests. In truth international issues never figure in poll campaign.

Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as a policy to maintain equidistance from major global players is now dead. It is now the policy of how to align with big powers, even by mortgaging national sovereignty. They shamefully dance to the tune of the mighty. Even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a rising star in vote market, has nothing to say on India’s foreign policy orientation that has been a disaster since the days of Nehru. But at one stage NAM was a growing platform to dissent against American bullying, notwithstanding its short-comings. That the former superpower—Soviet Union—tried to utilise it as a counter-weight to American hegemonism is another matter.

No party is interested to protest against overseas corporate tycoons, not to speak of American dominance in every sphere of economic and political life.

Foreign investors in this country can violate national laws with impunity. This, of course, is the general scenario in almost all third world countries. So Anderson, the main accused in the Bhopal Gas leak tragedy that continues to cripple even the second generation of the victims was allowed to leave the country. The party in power did it while the main party in opposition did nothing to mobilise public opinion against the government’s abject surrender to American pressure. These democrats representing the biggest democracy in the world have no national self-respect. True, judicial activism sometimes goes out of its way to summon energy to show the spirit of national self-respect. The apex court has recently asked Samsung Chief Lee Kun-hee to appear before a Ghaziabad court in a 1.4 million dollar cheating case filed against him. Samsung is one of the largest corporations of South Korea with a strong presence in India’s burgeoning market of consumer durables. So Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma was shocked because he saw in the court order a negative message that would adversely affect the ‘business and investment climate’. The Sharmas are actually protecting the interests of Andersons and Samsungs, not those of the people.

These corporations are really giants who could influence government’s policy formulation. No party talks about it in their poll campaigns as if this government-foreign corporate nexus is no threat to national security and integrity. All are busy to woo them at any cost, even forcing the people of the country to get cheated and feel humiliated. In reality these transnational corporations take advantage of investment treaties they enter into with the host countries. These trade agreements are heavily biased in favour of foreign investors. As many countries have, of late, been asked to pay large compensations to companies under the treaties, some countries, South Africa and Indonesia in particular, are reviewing their investment treaties, to protect the interests of their people. But the Sharmas in India are working overtime to protect the overseas cheaters, even by urging the judicial authority to rethink their stance. And such sensitive issues don’t figure in election campaign.

Why India has no good neighbourly relations with any of South Asian nations is not being asked by any party in poll rallies as if it is a closed chapter. India’s self-styled big brother attitude that has isolated it completely from the people of the region, is taken as an accepted policy framework by all, ‘secular’ and communal forces alike. Patriotism is just defined in terms of jingoism while Pakistan and China foot the bill for all seasons. No party takes pains to explain to the voters why their government has so far failed to improve bilateral relations with a small country like Bangladesh. In many ways Bangladesh is still being treated as another Pakistan—instead of one New Delhi seems to be dealing with two Pakistans. Globalisation has not made movement of people easier in this part of the globe. Without improvement in people to people relations it is next to impossible to remove the age-old mistrust the sub-continentals have been nursing for decades. This election is all about realignment of casteist and fundamentalist forces while to some it is an occasion to highlight as to how to make Income Tax Law simplified.         6-4-2014

Vol. 46, No. 41, Apr 20 - 26, 2014