Democ­racy?

Southasia - - The Last Stop - By Anees Jil­lani

One thing that Pak­ista­nis of­ten get tired of is In­di­ans tak­ing pride in their democ­racy and crit­i­ciz­ing Pak­istan for tol­er­at­ing mil­i­tary rule dur­ing most of its 65 year his­tory. In In­dia, re­cent elec­tions in Ut­tar Pradesh showed that the Bahu­jan Samaj Party, headed by a bil­lion­aire Mayawati who was a sim­ple school teacher a cou­ple of years ago, has been trounced by the Sa­ma­jwadi Party which is headed by a for­mer wrestler, Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav, who of course is also a bil­lion­aire now.

The Sa­ma­jwadi Party took 224 seats out of the 403 in the leg­isla­tive assem­bly, while the BSP, which was in power at the time of the elec­tions, was a dis­tant sec­ond with 80 seats. The Congress party, which is cur­rently head­ing the na­tional gov­ern­ment, suf­fered a ma­jor set­back in the elec­tions and could man­age to pocket only 28 seats. The con­so­la­tion for the Congress may be that BJP, which is the main op­po­si­tion party at the na­tional level, also fared poorly and could bag only 47 seats.

It is no doubt praise-wor­thy that peace­ful elec­tions re­sulted in a smooth tran­si­tion of power in a short time, which sel­dom hap­pens in the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Pak­istan. How­ever, what does one do when one cor­rupt politi­cian is re­placed by an equally cor­rupt one, as chief min­is­ter for a state?

Akhilesh Ya­dav, 39, is son of the head of SP, Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav, who him­self has been Chief Min­is­ter of UP thrice. He is ac­cused of amass­ing bil­lions and pro­mot­ing goonda raj. De­spite this, the 112 mil­lion vot­ers of UP, the largest and po­lit­i­cally most im­por­tant state of In­dia, voted over­whelm­ingly for the Ya­dav fam­ily. The Ya­dav com­mu­nity voted en­bloc for the SP as it was headed by some­one who hailed from their com­mu­nity. The Mus­lims, dis­grun­tled with BSP’S per­for­mance dur­ing the past five years and still hold­ing Congress and BJP re­spon­si­ble for the destruc­tion of the Ay­o­d­haya mosque in­ci­dent, made SP’S vic­tory pos­si­ble in many of the seats. This phe­nom­e­non of the com­mu­nity vot­ing for can­di­dates from its own com­mu­nity makes a mock­ery of the whole sys­tem.

Is this what democ­racy is all about? Re­plac­ing one cor­rupt leader by an­other cor­rupt leader, who was routed by the same vot­ers for this very rea­son in the last elec­tion? And to top it all, pol­i­tics in In­dia, just like in Pak­istan, ap­pears to run in the fam­i­lies. The Gandhi fam­ily con­tin­ues to be treated like a royalty and has vir­tu­ally been dom­i­nat­ing the In­dian po­lit­i­cal scene since the early last cen­tury; the tra­di­tion has now rubbed on the other po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies and the In­dian Lok Sabha and the state as­sem­blies are flooded with sons and daugh­ters of old politi­cians. The ap­point­ment of Akhilesh as the new UP chief min­is­ter is the lat­est chap­ter in this re­gard.

Pol­i­tics is thus no longer meant to serve the masses. It is a busi­ness ven­ture, meant to amass wealth that you can later use with­out any hes­i­ta­tion in the next elec­tion. One ex­am­ple is suf­fi­cient to prove the ef­fi­cacy of ex­or­bi­tant ex­penses in an elec­tion: in the Tamil Nadu elec­tions last year, the In­dian elec­tion com­mis­sioner did not per­mit the rul­ing DMK party to use gov­ern­ment re­sources and tried to con­trol the ex­pen­di­ture. As a re­sult, the rul­ing party lost.

How­ever, this may be re­garded as an ex­cep­tion rather than the rule as it is not fea­si­ble for a per­son with­out ad­e­quate means to con­test an elec­tion even in `demo­cratic’ In­dia; it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble in the `Is­lamic’ Repub­lic and of course un­think­able when it comes to Se­nate elec­tions where a seat may be sold for as much as ten crore ru­pees. Anees Jil­lani is an ad­vo­cate of the Supreme Court and a mem­ber of the Washington, DC Bar. He has been writ­ing for var­i­ous publi­ca­tions for more than 20 years and has au­thored sev­eral books.

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