Sunday, May 3, 2015

Why there is no place for voice of dissent in new age India?

And finally Yogendra Yadav, along with three other ‘rebel’ leaders of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has been expelled from AAP. This was expected because he had acted against the party guidelines. Yogendra Yadav, one of the founders of the party, has said that he felt like being thrown out of his home. This brings us to the larger and serious question- is there a place for dissent in our democracy?

In last two years we have seen rise of two major politicians in India- one was Chief Minister of a state, and the other was a social activist. They both came to power in less than a year’s time. They both are running government from Delhi. I am talking about Prime Minister Modi, and Delhi’s Chief Minister Kejriwal.

While Modi has been called a dictator for a long time, there are new voices coming from within the AAP family, making insinuations that Kejriwal is a dictator as well. If the leaders at the highest positions of our times are termed as dictators, then are we really living in a democratic set up, or is it just an illusion in our times?

Personality driven politics

For a long time Indian politics has been personality driven. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the face of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) in late 90s, the slogan that made him India’s Prime Minister was ‘Ab ki Baari, Atal Bihari’ (This time Atal Bihari). In 2014 BJP almost copied the slogan with ‘Ab ki Baar, Modi sarkaar’ (This time Modi’s government). At the same lines, Aam Aadmi Party ran the entire campaign with the slogan ‘Paanch Saal Kejriwaal’ (Kejriwal for five years). Not to forget, years back Indira Gandhi gave the slogan ‘Indira is India, India is Indira’. In 2014, Congress chose a rather inclusive slogan- ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikash, Chalo Chalein Congress ke Sath’ (For everybody’s development, let us choose Congress). But it failed miserably. In 2003 BJP chose a slogan around ‘India Shining’, and it failed as well. It is evident that we have a long history of personality driven politics rather than that driven by ideas.

Problem with creation of Personality in Indian politics

Ironically, we are not just voting for the person around whom the campaign is created. One may be a supporter of Modi, but he/she votes for a candidate in his/her constituency. It is due to such blind campaigns that the present Parliament has the highest number of parliamentarians with pending criminal cases, according to electoral and political reforms organisation Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). ADR has also been appealing for a long time that one should make an informed choice and not be influenced by big names in the election.

Dissent and Indian Politics

In a political realm that runs totally around personalities, it is difficult to go against that personality. No member of the Congress party can go against the Gandhi family, No one in BJP can go against Modi. And no one in AAP can question Kejriwal! Interestingly all these political fronts are essentially claiming to reform Indian democracy- even when inner party democracy is totally missing. The larger question remains unanswered- do we have a single party which can be termed ‘democratic’ in real sense?

Yogendra Yadav, along with Prashant Bhushan and Anand Kumar, has started another campaign called ‘Swaraj Abhiyaan’. Will he form another political party? Only time will tell. But how many more political parties do we need to get one final truly democratic institution- where there is a place for dissent and discussion as well?

Dissent is key to democracy. Voltaire said something very important years back. ‘I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it’. Seems our politicians have not read Voltaire.

We need Voltaire for our times. We need dissent and discussion for Indian democracy to survive.

This article was first published in LokMarg on April 23, 2015. 

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