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Sunday, July 19, 2009

#1280, 15 January 2004
The Price of Malgovernance Firdaus AhmedFreelancer
James Michael Lyndoh is not known to mince words. With a lifetime of association with politicians and keen insight obtained as CEC he pronounced that Indian democracy was in poor health. He was doubtless informed by the ‘sting operations’ conducted in Chhatisgarh. The democratic health of the fledgling state can be assessed from the fact that the first ‘sting’ operation was on a potential Chief Ministerial candidate while the second was sprung on the outgoing Chief Minister. Chhatisgarh, it may be recalled, was carved out of a larger state to acheive better governance. This object has not been achieved, not least because of the state of Indian democracy.
Three security related points arise. The first is the rather obvious one that with development on a backburner, the arc of unrest presently from running Maoist Nepal through ‘lawless’ Bihar to PWG dominated Telangana could well spread. As revealed by some surveys ‘development’, or the lack of it, was an issue that influenced voters. Political parties would be wise to heed this for not doing so would lead to democracy itself being questioned as the means to progress. Certain post-poll analyses have in fact, questioned conclusions that development was the major issue. These surveys see an undercurrent of ‘hindutva’ in the poll campaign as being the clinch issue. This only underscores the point that ‘development’ as a priority in governance is being neglected. Such an abuse of power can only extract a price in terms of security of the communities inhabiting these regions as also in bringing about a cleavage in the form of the aforesaid Red loop.
That brings to fore the second point, it being that democracy as a means of allocation and conflict resolution may itself lose credibility if it does not deliver on the more tangible common goods. With the nature of politics ranging from odious to indifferent in certain areas, the attractions of alternatives including Maoist philosophy could well increase. Since these are outside the pale of ‘normal’ politics, the state would likely respond with repression thus setting off a self-reinforcing cycle of violence. It is best therefore that the cause, namely ‘dirty politics’, be identified in order that political parties are held accountable. While elections are a means for holding them ‘accountable’, they cannot bring about a difference in the nature of politics, and thereby of the problem. The down stream effects in terms of deflecting development are self evident from the murder of Mr. Satyender Dubey in Bihar.
Last, there is also the issue of cleavage of India along North-South lines. India would thus be straddling two centuries. The globalised half of India may prove unwilling to bail out those willing to help themselves. The upshot of this would be a ‘law and order’ approach in the hope of containing the problem to areas affected while the rest marches towards the promised Indian century. Amongst the issues involved, ‘migration’ has already made its appearance. Out of region candidates for all India railway recruitment have been attacked in areas as far apart as Maharashtra and Assam. This is a scenario that is all too likely in the future for India and visualizing it is the first step in addressing it.
Federal India will have to take into account the differing development trajectories of its constituent states. The best manner of bringing about a measure of symmetry would be in developing the relatively backward areas. Since democracy is India’s chosen instrument, it is best that its good health is ensured by its politicians. Presently, the state of provincial politics does not lend any confidence in such a project. The manner a state addresses itself to the challenge of the new century is largely dependent on the personality of the incumbent Chief Minister. And even the most renowned of these, Mr. Naidu of Andhra Pradesh, has not demonstrated the necessary acumen. Additional onus, is thus, on national parties and leaders to ensure democracy is saved from itself.
The next national elections will usher in the first government of the new century. The nexus between democracy and development, and the implications of the two individually and in tandem for security require a fresh appreciation by political minders in both contending national parties. Such introspection can set a trend that will have an influence reaching far into the future, both in terms of preserving Indian democracy as also ensuring that it delivers.

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