Whitewashing Democracy

Drinking Milk With Closed Eyes

Subhash Gatade

It was the early part of last year when the chorus of India as ‘mother of democracy’ gathered pace.

The summit for Democracy held in March, witnessed PM Modi in his virtual address sharing his pearls of wisdom as India being “indeed the mother of Democracy” citing reference to Vedas and Mahabharata.

Delegates who arrived for the G 20 summit in Delhi were similarly greeted with the slogan Welcome to the ‘Mother of Democracy’.

Rightwing think tanks were not behind to project India’s past experience in its very own Indic Democracy despite proofs to the contrary.

With the slow ebbing of G 20 rhetoric and the growing hiatus between this ‘mother of democracy’s claims and unfolding world reality, perhaps the chorus became redundant. One could even say that the Gaza conflict which witnessed unprecedented genocidal war against the Palestinian people–where the excuse was provided by attack by Hamas militants on civilian population inside Israel–perhaps exposed this highly inflated mother of democracy rhetoric to no end.

The news that India wants to devise / create / plan its own democracy index’ has rekindled this debate again.

Reports have appeared in a section of the media that India wants to develop its own homegrown democracy ratings.

As per reports the government approached a friendly think tank ‘The Observer Research Foundation’–which is supposed to be itself close to one of the biggest corporate houses in the country–to develop these democracy ratings which can show India’s situation in a better light.

One learns that the idea is to announce these ratings before the elections–which start on 10th April–so that they serve the dual purpose of countering the ‘Western Propaganda’ (as the government wants gullible citizens to believe it) and also ensuring them that things are not bad but better vis-a-vis these ex Colonial countries and how India is taking great strides under Modi led dispensation.

Unconfirmed reports even tell that The NITI Aayog (–which was created after dismantling the Planning Commission which was in force since independence–‘the government’s own public policy think tank’ has also been involved in this process of developing the rankings.

It is well known how it has been closely involved in defending India’s position on international forums whenever leading think tanks in the western world have raised questions on democracy’s trajectory in India or its downgrading in global rankings.

A cursory glance at the reactions of NITI Aayog, whenever such critical reports appeared in the world media makes interesting reading.

Right from the days when Freedom House–a US based think tank called India a “partially free democracy” in 2021 to India being classified as “electoral autocracy” by the V Dem Institute, based in Sweden, it was in the forefront to defend India’s image. It not only debunked these classifications as part of Western Propaganda or as part of the ex- colonial countries growing envy at the strides made by India under Modi.

In fact, the need to develop homegrown ratings was underlined during internal discussions within NITI Aayog and government functionaries, officials, after such adverse reports appeared in a section of the national and international media

The Economist Intelligence Unit was no less scathing in its own evaluation of India which had ‘ranked India 53rd in its 2020 Democracy Index, labelling it a “flawed democracy”.

It is highly debatable whether such homegrown index which basically strives to prepare an index which as per an analyst looks akin to a child ‘surreptitiously changing the marks on one’s report card in case of a poor showing’.

One would even say that its striving to whitewash its image resonates with a Sanskrit Subhashitam which says that ‘A Cat Drinks Milk with closed eyes and think that the world does not see it’.

With elections knocking the doors and the ruling dispensation displaying its increasing nervousness about the results–by attempting to stitch up alliances with unlikely partners or arresting of opposition politicians and usher into ‘opposition mukt India’ which have even attracted attention of the western world. It was rather unprecedented that not only Germany but a senior official in the US government recently raised questions about India arresting opposition politicians on the eve of elections.

[Source: Kafila]

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Vol 56, No. 44, Apr 28 - May 4, 2024