The end of liberal democracy in post-global India?

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The post-globalisation era in the country has witnessed the collapse of liberal democracy and a good example is Karnataka which has been under the BJP  rule for more than two years.

An assertion to this effect was made in a paper presented at the 34th Indian Social Science Congress held at Guwahati in the last week of December 2010, by Prof K.S. Sharma, senior vice-president of the Indian academy of social science congress.

The theme of the  social science congress was  “India–Post 1991” and Prof Sharma presented a case study  of Karnataka to highlight  the adverse impact that the globalization has on the political system in the country.

All the three political parties in Karnataka—the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and JDS—have together contributed to the emerging scenario by their acts of sins of omission and commission, though the major share of the blame has to be shouldered by the BJP.

The role of the constitutional authority, the Governor, has also not been above reproach, says Dr Sharma.

Dr Sharma has catalogued a long list of the happenings in Karnataka to buttress his point. It includes:

# The open dissidence by a senior leader miffed over his non-inclusion in the cabinet; a farmer getting killed in police firing even as a self-professed pro-farmer government was assuming office, and the open rebellion by the Reddy brothers intended at jolting the government.

# Means more foul than fair used by the BJP  to gain a majority in the 224-member assembly and the phenomenon of the opposition legislators resigning from their seats, being rewarded with ministerial posts even before they could get themselves elected on the BJP ticket, which has now become a national phenomenon.

# Continued run-ins with the governor ever since he refused to address the joint session called by the new government unless the Chief Minister proved his majority, and after he openly expressed his dissatisfaction over the performanance of the government.

# A government cast in caste mould, contrary to what Lord Balfour had said of a bureaucracy having rigid neutrality and rigorous impartiality and notwithstanding what the late Ramakrishna Hegde had told his colleagues not to choose anyone based on caste to occupy positions of office under them.

# Governor’s  patently unconstitutional action of giving a direction to the Speaker on how to conduct the proceedings of the vote of confidence in the assembly, after a set of eleven BJP legislators gave a letter withdrawing their confidence in the leadership of B.S. Yediyurappa. This is despite the known and proved constitutional position of the speaker’s writ being supreme in the conduct of the proceedings of the house. And his recommendation for the imposition of the Presidents rule being turned down by the Central Government.

# Suicide by farmers; communal flare-ups; attacks on churches; moral poling by fundamental groups and related matters. And attempts to talibanise, by advising Hindus not to mix with Muslims and avoid pubbing, partying and dancing in the dark.

# Continued onslaughts on the statutory and constitutional institutions like the Lok Ayukta, state human rights commission, the backward classes commission, the child rights commission, the termination of the terms of the Somasekhar Commission on the disturbances in Mangalore, even as the latter was preparing to give a final report, with the interim report not going in favour of the government.

# The running battle with Lok Ayukta, starting with the government sitting on report on the illegal mining activities involving the Reddy brothers, the latest move being appointing a separate judicial commission, even as the Lok Ayukta had been asked to probe into charges of nepotism, favouritisim  and corruption.

# The opposition parties being more interested in unseating the government rather than playing the role of a constructive opposition.

Dr Sharma has noted in the final analysis that the globalization has led to more number of land scams, nepotism and favouritism in the allotment sites and corrupt practices, to the extent of Karnataka acquiring a dubious distraction of being the No. 1 corrupt state in the country.

But, the  paradox is that the reputation this government has acquired and accumulated has had no impact on the elections to the various bodies held during the period, to the assembly,  legislative council, parliament, the Bangalore city corporation, and the zilla  and taluk panchayats.

As a consequence, democracy has been equated with electoral politics and the liberal democracy has been a casualty, even as the State’s standing in the Human Development Index in the country puts it at 25th place. Fascism is raising its ugly head. And there is no real democracy in the State. “This model of democracy can be witnessed on a larger scale in the whole country.”

The question Dr Sharma raises is, what next?

The theory of the “end of history” as propounded by the capitalists and imperialists has come to an end. The socialist model appears to be the only model available. But it is imperative that the faults and blunders committed in Soviet Union, China and Latin American countries be remedied, before they are applied to Indian conditions.

India today, says Dr Sharma, needs a cultural revolution, without which a real socialistic secular democratic India cannot emerge. The legacy of feudal remnants, colonial past, and myth of liberal democracy needs to be eradicated before the new order could be ushered in.