The experience of democracy is usually an ennobling one for the people who are, and must remain, the greatest beneficiary of that experience. It was not without sufficient reason that the legendary American President Abraham Lincoln had glorified democracy as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. He was a democracy optimist. His universe of democracy imagination was perhaps too idealistic during his time too, when America was passing through a crucially transitory phase in its mutation into a mature and functioning democracy. But, then, it was an ideal that he wanted democracy votaries to try to actualize by being public servants in the true sense, and not public masters. The theory is like this: you serve people, you then serve democracy eventually too. It is service that matters. And when we talk of service, there cannot be any overarching self-interest and self-aggrandizement. But this is precisely what is happening in our country even as it grapples with issues confronting the essence of democracy head-on and as public representatives – MLAs and MPs, with a few exceptions of course – trample over people’s mandates and have no qualms at all about displaying their unquenchable greed for power flagrantly without an iota of shame. The Karnataka power theatricals in the wake of an indecisive mandate, even as the BJP emerged as the single largest party but fell short of majority, are proof enough.
Take it this way. It is true that the BJP has been up by 65 seats in the Karnataka Assembly this time, reflecting on factors ranging from its persistent winnable-ness in the absence of a credible opposition force to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s increasing acceptance as a statesman who holds promises verging quite near the aspirations of the 21st-century youth of the country earnestly looking for a knowledge economy and society to happen. The party, however, failed to manage the magic number of 112, while the main opposition, the Congress, led by a ‘young’ leader who is still pitiably short on homework and vision, had to be content with a mere 78, down by 43 seats. In that situation, the best course of action for it could have been to send out a message that it had no issues in being the opposition in the Assembly if the Congress and the JDS were to form a blend, however bizarre, in order to be power wielders. As the single largest party in that State, it could have let itself to be obliged selflessly to play the role of opposition in the wake of two erstwhile rivals – Congress and JDS – coming together just in order that the saffron surge could be stymied, and for no other justifiable reason. On the other hand, both the Congress and the JDS could have easily welcomed the decision of the Governor to invite the single largest party to form the new government; after all, if the BJP had failed to prove its majority, the post-poll alliance, however hastily done just to respond to power imperatives (to indulge in intensified money-minting business?), would always be behind to prove its majority and thus rule the State. Both were not to be. Reason? Well, it is the avaricious outlook on power, not any democratic enterprise of public service, which guided both the BJP and the Congress-JDS combine. No one had time, nor the willingness, to analyse the mandate and think of the people who had cast their precious votes with dreams in their eyes for a better order. It was self-interest that reigned supreme. Everything else was secondary and tertiary.
Therefore, in the run-up to Election 2019, when Modi will face the greatest acid test of his political life, the country has had a very disappointing experience of politicians endeavouring to wrest power by hook or by crook, without having to bother about the people and the nature and intent of their mandate, nor about the vitals of democracy – which is, and must be, of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is an ominous portent.
Guns and Roses
As we reported last week, the tendency of militants in the Northeast to desist from surrendering and thus remain out of the mainstream of society has made the Union Ministry of Home Affairs raise its monetary grant to make it more profitable for militants to throw away their guns for roses aplenty. According to the revised surrender-cum-rehabilitation scheme, a surrendering militant will now be given Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit for three years and a monthly stipend of Rs 6,000. There are other incentives as well. While one may argue that the government is at its discretion to choose policies that may stem the rot of insurgency-turned-terrorism in the Northeast long held to ransom by violence of varied shades with a crippling effect on its economy and thus growth, the counter-argument is as to what message the government has sent out in its peacemaking effort. Is it not that one fine day a frustrated youth, unable to find employment avenues or be employable because he is not skilled as he has not been able to find any avenues for skill development in order to be employable, may choose to pick up a gun as a career option and indulge in loot, murder and mayhem only to surrender one fine day again and then be rewarded with incentives as to enable him to flaunt a Rs 4-lakh fixed deposit overnight?
The point is this: In a State still trapped in the tangle of unemployment, and with far-flung areas in the region still having to endure chronic poverty and backwardness, would not such incentives also turn out to be an encouragement for the unemployed and the unemployable youth of the region to see in militancy – nay, sheer terrorism – a classic career option? This is perilous.