Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Too much democracy in India?

Kalyan strongly believes that India has too much democracy. It is true that we have a multimodal distribution of interest groups and political parties who are all pursuing their own agenda. Can there be too much democracy? Suddenly I was not sure I understood the meaning of the word, so I scrambled up to Merriam webster for the meaning. Five are listed, the first one is : rule of the majority and the last is absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or previleges. We certainly do not have the latter in India. There are several arbitrary distinctions based on class and caste none of which have to do with an individual's merit or skills. Do we have the first, i.e, rule by the majority? There have been no clear majorities in the past decade or so in India. For several years it was the Nehru family at the helm, but since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, we have had no clear majorities in government. The BJP had and the Congress has coalition governments with multiple parties whose interests are in conflict several times. This time more so since the Left is part of the government and they are totally opposed to anything that even remotely resembles progress. They have even effectively persuaded two state governments to ban Coca-Cola and other soft drinks.

Does all of this mean we have too much democracy? I do not think so. There is certainly a very vibrant democracy, as we saw during the last elections when the BJP government was overthrown from the Centre and AIADMK from Tamil Nadu. I have lost count of the number of political parties we have. There are multiple interest groups with differing agenda. However, economic theory tells me that in a free market system the bad ideas will be weeded out and the good ones will remain (good and bad defined as what the market demands and not). But we do not have complete free markets in India, so the ones weeded out may or may not be bad and that is just chance and the level of power the interest group has on the government or any of the parties associated with the government. The current situation is that there are multiple groups and a relatively better informed public; however accountability is still lacking, so even if the majority were against a certain policy there is very little they can do to correct an unpleasant situation. It is obvious with the better informed public atleast that most of them are very active in their opinions about policies. A look at any discussion group online is enough proof, and there are equally vocal voices on either side of the debate. But then the government comes along and clamps down on using blogs to communicate because they feel terrorists use blogs to communicate and preach. If indeed the rule is of the majority then is this what bloggers desire? Can an individual sue the Government of India for curbing freedom of speech which is his constitutional right? How can I with any conscience say we have too much democracy?

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