Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect 

In his interview with Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express in NDTV’s program “Walk the Talk”, Bal Thackeray, on his eightieth birthday espouses his familiar opinions on governance. He denounces Gandhi and his ideology, though he grudgingly accepts that the one piece of sane advice that Gandhi gave and which was never heeded was the Congress Party should be disbanded after the attainment of independence and that politicians should realign and form different political parties to attain their political ends.  Gandhi had felt that it was unfair that any one group of people should benefit from the collective goodwill that the Congress, a movement rather than a political party had managed to garner over decades. Of course, no one listened.

Thackeray also goes on to express his disdain for democracy and expounds that what India needs is not democracy but a benevolent form of dictatorship which he calls Shiv Shahi.  Now in the words that Balasaheb talks about dictatorship and given the image that his party, the Shiv Sena has, it is not unusual that such a concept only invites loathing. But this thinking that democracy is not for India, not even for Asia perhaps is not new. Ayub Khan talked about it in the Indian sub continent when he introduced the idea of “Basic Democracy” and then Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore and Mahatir Muhammad in Malaysia in different terminologies talked about “Guided Democracy”

How has democracy actually fared in India? undoubtedly better if our immediate neighbors are taken as the benchmark. But it is also true, that there was a time when the elements of insurgency were confined to pockets in the North East and a few pockets where Maoists held sway. This is no longer the case. as the quality of governance declines, the levels of insurgency and discontent keep rising and simply deploying more and more para military forces will never be the answer. times are such that even mainstream figures are beginning to say that they see some meaning and purpose in the cause that the Maoists are fighting for. Reacting to the policy of forcible or coercive acquisition of land for the SEZs , particularly the acquiring of fertile agricultural land , former Prime Minister , V.P.Singh says that if this is development , then he himself world like to become a Maoist. Similar views are echoed by Prakash Singh , a retired IPS officer , a former Director General of the Border Security Force has this to say about the quality of our democracy “They are far better than the criminals who have managed to infiltrate assemblies and Parliament and even become ministers”.

Is Bal Thackeray right? May be yes, may be not. Obviously all is not right with our democracy if large swathes of India are riddled with the bane of violence and if democracy in India has today become a largely middle class doctrine benefiting mostly them and those who are even richer. The daily news of the suicides of the hapless farmer caught in debt traps, food insecurity and policy indifference is a good sign of hoe democracy is or is not benefiting the poor irrespective of who is in power – be it the NDA or the UPA or even the Left Parties. Although the one man – one vote doctrine which we recognize to be democracy has given the right of suffrage to the common man, he has no say in the selection of candidates, no say in who become ministers and no right to recall, without which the right to adult suffrage looks some what hollow. We do not know what Shiv Shahi might look like and if the Shiv Sena cadres are its foot soldiers, then most of us would probably prefer our flawed democracy with all its warts and wrinkles. But even so, Bal Thackeray’s point has still to be taken – democracy without inclusive governance will make little difference to the station of the India nation, no matter how many Republic Days we celebrate and whatever be the scale of its pomp and outward grandeur.


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