DO YOU TODAY IS THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DEMOCRACY?

I am sure not many would be aware of this day though it is a United Nation’s calendar day and one of the most important UN observances.

The UN says of the day, “The International Day of Democracy provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world. Democracy is as much a process as a goal, and only with the full participation of and support by the international community, national governing bodies, civil society and individuals, can the ideal of democracy be made into a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.”

So, how do we perform on all these parameters even if most of us are not aware of the day’s observance?

India is the world’s largest democracy which is also the robust one in its weaving. It is performing exceedingly well on some parameters but at the same time, is dragging on many others.

The UN website page dedicated to the day further says, “The values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy.”

Yes, India’s credentials in holding free and fair periodic elections is a marvel that the whole world must look up to. We are, in fact, the world’s laboratory in electoral practices, that in spite of being the world’s second most populous nation with the most diverse set of cultures and ethos, has been able to set and hold a gold standard.

What adds more to our impeccable record is that we are still segregated – on caste and community lines – on class and social lines – and on affiliations and ideological lines – yet India holds almost every year free and fair elections in every part of the country – be the national level polls – or polls in the insurgency hit states like Jammu & Kashmir – or polls in disturbed areas like the North-Eastern states. Our universal suffrage mandate and practice is technically flawless.

But when it comes the elements like “values of freedom, natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights and an equitable distribution of wealth, and equality and equity in respect of access to civil and political rights”, it is clearly a mixed bag that makes us a flawed democracy, even if we are too robust, large and naturalized to fail.

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©SantoshChaubey  

CONSTITUTION AND CORRUPTION

No doubt, the Constitution of India won today, when the Supreme Court of India announced the results of the floor test it ordered to be conducted in the Uttarakhand assembly yesterday.

A democratically elected government that was forced out of the state assembly, thanks to the machinations of the BJP led NDA government, was forced in today with the Constitutional remedy effected by the top court of the country.

We all, who care for democratic norms and India’s federal structure, must be thankful for this moment in our contemporary political history.

But, what about the worrying symptoms that don’t leave even these moments of trust?

Judicial intervention to uphold the Constitutional sovereignty comes with its natural by-product in the prevailing political circumstances of the country – willingly or unwillingly acting as a shield to the corrupt practices going in the backdrop – like we all saw in these months – all that happened in Uttarakhand.

Obviously, whenever such a condition of political uncertainty prevails, horse-trading or selling or buying of legislators becomes the norms of the day. It’s an open secret that all know – be it Uttarkhand or Arunachal or even in case of a minority Union Government.

It went a step ahead in Uttarakhand.

The open secret became bare here.

Congress legislators were caught on camera involved in horse-trading attempt. The whole nation saw it – twice. Even then, Harish Rawat, whose Uttarakhand government has been facing allegations of corruption, looked taking high moral ground today after the apex court made the result of floor test public.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

INDIA IS OF EVERY INDIAN. INDIA IS FOR EVERY INDIAN.

The basic tenet of ‘being humane and being civilized’ says – what is wrong will always be wrong – and can never be justified.

And like every other ‘basic tenet’ of humanity – such norms – a must for the humankind universally – must be followed in letter and spirit.

That is the ‘ideal’ situation.

And is a rarity in the prevailing political circumstances – not just in India – but in many countries across the world.

A direct corollary of that is the ongoing or the ‘raging’ political debate over ‘tolerance and intolerance’ in India.

Yes, we need to react on incidents of ‘intolerance’ if we are proud of our shared culture over the years. India is probably the only country in the world where major populations of two major religions live in relative harmony.

Yes, in harmony – because we have no other word to explain that – given the fact the country has stood together even after 68 years of independence – and is a robustly functional democracy – with a transparent electoral process.

Yes, there have been religious riots and other incidents of communal strife – but if we have stood together, as a coherent unit, even after that – it directly conveys where the priorities of the ordinary folks of these religions lie (or people of every religion in India).

And that squarely puts the political class and the opinion leaders in the dock – if there have been incidents that go against this spirit – like this atmosphere of intolerance and the debate over issues like beef politics and religious polarization.

We have lived in communal harmony for so long, for centuries – that – it is impossible to think India as a standalone nation for Hindus. Generations in India have experienced it and have assimilated it. India is of every Indian – India is for every Indian – irrespective of his or her religious affiliations.

That is the basic idea of India.

And every Indian must react to preserve this pillar on which the nations stands and grows. It is a social must. And we need to work to see until it becomes the cornerstone of our political prerogatives as well.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: OUR SYSTEM IS BUSY COMPARTMENTALIZING US..

Ideally, politics of democracies like India which have mixed cultural environment (socialist + capitalist), strives for a class-less society – at least the political rhetoric largely says and still tries to go (though the corresponding acts do not support).

But we live in an environment, in a society, where class is a reality, where sub-classes are seen as natural as the human existence, where society is layered between caste, religion and income disparities.

Yes, a capitalist transformation of policymaking and economy was indeed the need of the day to address the innate problems of the world’s largest democracy and the second most populous country that was also home to the majority of poor in the world.

And it has helped people to transcend barriers of caste and thus social status to graduate to any category their capacity allows them to. But the share is still small like the share of inter-caste and inter-religious weddings – almost non-existent when seen in the context of around 1.25 billion people strong Indian community.

Alternatively, it has caused deepening of the layered structure of our society – based on income disparity – based on the sociological slicer – the widening gap between haves and have-nots.

And the easiest way to realize it is having a look on how our modes of public transportation work – in terms of handling passengers.

Start with buses – and you have buses poorly kept and managed that carry the largest number of people from our society – people who can afford these buses only. Graduate many steps higher and one can see some air-conditioned buses plying on the roads. These buses, though internally as shabbily managed as their poor non-ac counterparts, are much less in number because authorities know very few people can afford them or prefer to afford them. Then come at the top the luxury air-conditioned buses – like the Volvo bus services. Very few, from well-to-do class of society, who cannot manage a train ticket or who still cannot afford a flight ticket (for different reasons), opt for these.

Similar is the story of India’s lifeline – trains run by Indian Railways. People from the lowest strata of the society fight for an elusive berth or some hard-earned place in general class, unreserved compartments of trains. Those who are still financially weaker enough to afford the ac-class tickets (including Gharib Raths), choose for some relief in reserved tickets of the sleeper class. And these two categories of coaches carry the maximum number of people – in the overall passenger traffic of Indian Railways.

Then comes the ac-class. It has classes and sub-classes. It starts with Gharib Raths for the poorest of the lot who opt to go for an ac ride. Then comes the numbers of ac-3, ac-2 and ac-1, in increasing scale of cost and therefore comfort levels. Most ac-preferring guys go with ac-3 (three tier air-conditioned class). Types of trains also discriminate here. Express trains cost less than super-fast trains while Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains are considered cream of the bunch. In fact, ac-1 of Rajdhani trains proves costly than an economy flight ticket when taken well in advance.

But the class story extends to airlines as well – most visible in segregation of budget airlines from full service carriers.

Budget airlines or no-frills airlines have made it possible for people to consider flying who can afford ac train travel. But customer satisfaction and customer comfort are the last items on priority list of these carriers. How passengers are cramped in these aircrafts is an issue of global debate.

And even many full service carriers behave insensitively towards the needs of the economy class passengers. Although they make the bulk of the bookings, the crew is more leaned in catering to the needs of the so-called premiere class or executive class or business class or first class passengers. Normally, these tickets are priced almost three-times to an economy class ticket.

Then there are sub-subclasses within the economy subclass. Many budget airlines and full service carriers segregate passengers based on their paying capacity or preferences into different categories – those paying for a lower package – those paying for a higher package – and those paying for an even higher package. And this one is worse than all because the discriminated passengers are made to sit a larger unitary space that is more or less uniform.

Our system is busy compartmentalizing us – based on our income status.

And we have no other way but to be and to become part of this system.

Yes, every type of exception does exist – but then – an exception is always ‘exceptional’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NDA GOVERNMENT MISSED THIS OPPORTUNITY

Sushma Swaraj says she won’t resign. Vasundhara Raje Scindia says she won’t resign. Pankaja Munde says he won’t resign. Smriti Irani says she won’t resign.

They all say they haven’t done anything wrong. They all say they did, whatever they did, was in good faith. They say opposition is gunning with empty cartridges.

Their party is defending them.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has maintained a stoic silence on related developments. Expecting that he would word his opinion on these matters during his monthly radio talk programme, Mann Ki Baat, was just an expectation. As expected, he did not speak anything even remotely related.

Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitely and other leaders and spokespersons are busy proving innocence of the leaders in question. Yes, they know they have a tough job to do but they also know that they will get through in the prevailing political situation.

Yes, the kind of response Narendra Modi got on his electoral promises did qualify for a changed course to look the norms of political probity, something that is the normal course as the humanity defines, but the first test-case is now a missed opportunity.

The ministers in question should have resigned much earlier, taking the exit route on their own, till they came clean. Contrary to the perceptions that it would have emboldened Congress and the political opposition to charge the government even more, the move would ensured more points of political credibility for Narendra Modi.

Public’s trust in the new political entrant Aam Aadmi Party is an example of that. Yes, the AAP has come in a self-destruct mode within three years, but it won because it promised to change the course of politics to what we have forgotten – targeting corruption and following a life of probity.

Like Rahul Gandhi has missed it – like his delayed visits to farmers in Maval – like his ‘reaction’ on the Lokpal Bill – Narendra Modi, too, missed it this time. He and his government would have out stronger in both cases – if the ministers would be guilty – or they would have proven their detractors wrong – deriving strength from following what ‘is morally correct’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NO PLACE FOR ETHICS IN TODAY’S POLITICS

It is true there is no place for ethics in the politics of the day.

Had it been so, Sushma Swara, Vasundhara Raje Schindia, Smriti Irani, Vinod Tawde and some more BJP members would have resigned or would have apologised for their roles in the alleged controversies related to them.

Had it been so, Congress would have come clean on Robert Vadra and other scams and controversies related to the party leaders.

Had it been so, some politicians would not go so berserk in different Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal among others.

Had it not been so, we would not be talking about the ‘practical norms’ of the politics of the day where ethics have no space left, where every political outfit is seen on the same platform when it comes to follow the value-system.

Had it not been so, the elector would not have gone with a new political entity, the Aam Aadmi Party, with no history and credentials. Unfortunately, that experiment has started losing its steam within few months only and the deterioration looks ‘planned’ and irreversible. Before the assembly polls this February, the BJP had eight months to deliver but couldn’t gauge the mood.

Had it not been so, the dynasty politics would not be a debatable issue in Indian politics.

Had it not been so, family-bias, nepotism and political corruption would not have become so routine, like it has become now.

Had it not been so, politicians would not consider themselves in a different, higher class than us. Had it not been so, we would not have such a common VIP culture.

So, unless and until it becomes too impossible to ignore, unless and until it becomes too corrosive to hurt electoral prospects, the leaders named in the Lalit Modi controversy would not step down. Yes, the BJP is at the receiving end this time, but it knows it is in the government and even the opposition has many weak spots and it knows next parliamentary elections are four years away. The BJP strategists know the political opposition is trying to squeeze in the maximum political mileage from the ongoing episode and they are ‘focused’ at minimizing it.

So, Arvind Kejriwal didn’t ask Jitendra Singh Tomar to step down when questions were first raised about ‘fake degrees’ of the law minister. Ideally, Arvind should not have made him minister because the row around his degrees precedes his electoral victory. Probably, he feels he is safely home for at least five years.

So, Indian politics is dominated by personality cults around political parties and political parties evolving and revolving around a person or a family.

So, a norm sans ‘ethics’ – in the name of being practical – has become the political pragmatism of the day.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

EULOGIZING GODSE, DEFENDING RELIGIOUS CONVERSION: MODI NEEDS TO REIN THEM IN FOR 2019 RE-ELECTION

Whenever Narendra Modi talks about his vision of India, he talks long term, of continuing governing India at least for the coming two terms, till 2024.

Modi’s reputation on governance and the promises he has made would need that much time and the country and its voters who voted for him would rationally and logically give him the window of these ten years, provided he performs regularly, coming out with report cards on regular intervals that talk of real, solid development.

The political opposition looks nailed and in disarray at the moment. The positive atmosphere for Modi is complemented well with the factors like low international oil prices and healthy inflation rate. His foray in international diplomacy is marching handsomely ahead with Barack Obama as the chief guest of the Republic Day 2015 function.

So, it’s a good harnessing ground for him — except the internal factors of his party, his party’s coalition and the elements of ideology that could potentially derail the show, denying Narendra Modi re-election in 2019.

The country and the voters would expressively reject any attempt to eulogize the likes of Nathuram Godse. Eulogizing a Nathuram Godse is akin to the evil intent to kill the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, a direct affront on the Indian democratic institution. And that eulogy coming from a member of Parliament from Modi’s party is ominous. It doesn’t matter if the person retracted or not.

The country and the voters don’t need mass religious conversion ceremonies. The country and the voters don’t need the ministers and politicians defending such moves and doing politics over the issue. It leaves most of us, who are looking for development, in bad taste.

The country and the voters don’t need debates or extensions over headlines like ‘India a Hindu nation’. It is simply not acceptable, going by the reality of the India of the day, and its realpolitik of the future.

Narendra Modi needs to rein them in. He must rein them in.

The country and the voters who voted him in have given a mandate in the name of development. The large and ever expanding middle class and the huge youth base vote basically on the priorities that can make their lives better, can ease the basket of monthly burden most of the families have to carry. With majority appeasement and polarization, this was the other major factor that gave BJP majority on its own.

This vote base is demanding and reacts actively. Perform or perish is what should be in government’s mind.

If it slips away, it will be difficult for Modi to come back in 2019.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

A TRYST WITH POLITICS: AFTER 67 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

Yes, it cannot be compared and it is nowhere near to the history-defining moment of 1947 when Jawahal Lal Nehru delivered the epoch-making midnight ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech 67 years ago on India’s first Independence Day.

It is another history-defining aspect of India, Indian politics and Indian democracy that Jawahar Lal Nehru’s run as India’s first prime minister that continued for many years went on to establish a political dynasty in India, something that should never have been the case.

Remember, the Mahatma, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had said to wind up the Indian National Congress in 1948 – “My suggestion is that, in so far as the Congress was intended solely to achieve Swaraj and that purpose has been gained – though I do not think what we have gained is full and real Swaraj – this organisation should be wound up, and that we should put to use all the energies of the country.”

Yes, that should never be the case. We cannot undo the past but we can think of the future based the day now. And we can hope so with a prime minister who has no family and who has willingly and honestly kept his separated wife (with mutual consent and in harmony) and his extended family away from any possibility of political patronage.

And the tryst with politics this year on the Indian Independence Day was about this man only and the sort of political changes that India has seen with him after the results of the Lok Sabha elections 2014 were declared on May 16, 2014 giving an absolute and overwhelming majority to a non-Congress party since the Independence in 1947.

The other time when a non-Congress political outfit had got clear majority on its own was in 1977, the watershed elections after the Emergency that sent Indira Gandhi packing, but the 295 seats of the BLD (Bharatiya Lok Dal) also included some 28 seats won by Jagjivan Ram’s Congress for Democracy (CFD). Janata Party had contested the election on BLD’s symbol and in alliance with CFD. And that makes the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) tally of 280 on its own in this election the largest ever for a non-Congress political party.

And that person played the central role in it. His intense campaigning, his direct approach and highly commendable and successful governance record coupled with his nationalist and pro-Hindutva branding, aided superbly by the sky-high anti-incumbency against the Congress-led Manmohan Singh government pushed the BJP from some expected 200-220 mark to 280 seats in the final tally.

No one had expected so, not when no single party had been able to win clear majority after the 1984 elections, not even Congress.

And the political tryst this year has made that possible. The turn of political events this year has given the world’s largest democracy a prime minister in Narendra Modi who began his life from the weakest socioeconomic layer of the Indian society, worked hard, rose steadily and gradually and ousted the most powerful political dynasty of the country from the seat of power. It was an impressive win and a humiliating defeat.

A required tryst in Indian politics after 67 years of Independence! Hope it delivers.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

INDIA, THE POSITIVELY ORIENTED DEMOCRATIC EXPERIMENT

Yes, its governance is still in experimental phase with some pretty rough hands given the charge to run the social laboratory.

Yes, its democracy needs much more to be called a democracy envisioned in its Constitution.

But, we cannot deny, that in spite of all its weak points and all its failures, it is still a functional democracy, even after 67 years of independence and is moving ahead with its democratic experiment.

We cannot deny that the movement of this democracy is positively oriented. Yes, voices are crushed and manipulated. But voices are also raised.

Look around for democracy in the global geopolitics. Look around for democracy in countries that have been ruled by foreign powers or have colonies of the western nations.

The slate is so badly crisscrossed that it becomes too hard to find even a single satisfying example. Yes, the subjective interpretations may come with some names but that would be akin to comparing the foreign rule in America with that in India.

India, one of the culturally most diversified countries, with many languages and dialects and with many religions, castes and sects is still a homogeneous democracy, even after 67 years of an independence that came with one of the worst religious riots the humankind has ever seen.

It is the positive orientation of the democracy only that a person from the weakest socioeconomic section of the society can uproot a political dynasty that has ruled the country for the most of its independent history with an overwhelming public support.

And we are from this functionally-moving-ahead democracy. We are from this independent country that has been able to this stage of its democratic experiment.

And following its Constitution, we are free to voice our opinions. We are free to choose what we should be. We are free to choose who we are going to follow.

Yes, circumstances do affect and force to make choices, but we also have the space to fight back. A Red Fort Independence Day Speech by Narendra Modi once again proves it.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TWO MONTHS OF MIXED DEVELOPMENTS, BUT THE SIGNALS SHOULD BE CLEAR

It’s been mixed two months. And May 26 to July 30 – cannot be the timeframe to judge a government’s acts.

Whatever have been there – the developments in these two months – cannot be the elements of writing the script for the coming five years.

But, then, in Indian politics, where morality has become an unknown entity, even one week is more than enough to give the opponents the arsenal to attack when the acts fall short of the promises made.

And it has been the case.

In the run-up of the General Elections 2014, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) had run an intensive campaign, and Narendra Modi had overwritten every established norm of election campaigning by his hardwork.

And central to his hardwork was his promise of delivering India from the bad governance of the United Progressive Alliance government. He pitched for making India Congress free. He gave the Indians the dream of good days.

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