Nation Current Affairs 28 Apr 2019 Marketing, money, mu ...

Marketing, money, muscle: the world’s most expensive democracy

Published Apr 28, 2019, 3:09 am IST
Updated Apr 28, 2019, 3:09 am IST
More than 1.3 billion Indians are represented by a mere 545 members of parliament.
Voters show their voter identity card as they stand in line to vote (Photo :AP)
 Voters show their voter identity card as they stand in line to vote (Photo :AP)

Can we have good Governance with Cash worthy polls and candidates of dynasty and with unique breed of legislators, largely unqualified to legislate?

India’s size
More than 1.3 billion Indians are represented by a mere 545 members of parliament. In contrast, the UK’s 66 million people are represented by 650 MPs. It is not humanly possible for any candidate to knock on doors and meet people in person to win a seat in India. Marketing is the name of the game and costs big money.  The current election is estimated to cost $7 billion. Crime pays. It provides muscle, money and even mass support. No party, not even Congress under Jawaharlal Nehru, has won 50% vote share in any national elections, beginning 1951. A vote share of just over 20% for a party can produce a PM.  Is it not a farce?


Government is behind every virtue in society, and every evil. It shapes a society's character. A good government allows individuals to become honest and virtuous; a bad one makes them wicked and corrupt. There’s a widespread conviction that rich people and corporations determine government actions, policies and programs. The problem in India is we have too many politicians, with no statesmen - Too many Trumps, Reagans and Indira Gandhi’s but no Mahathma Gandhis or Roosevelts.

Festival of Democracy!
1/10th of humanity gets ready to vote. It is an inspiration to the entire World. It is truly a great show on Earth, an ode to a diverse & democratic ethos, where 900 million plus of humanity vote to decide their future for the next five years. The democratic system of government has been often criticised for the tyranny of majority and also Minority appeasement.

Unity in diversity
India is where Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were born. It is the second largest Muslim nation on Earth. India- though 80% are Hindus, is where 3 Muslim Presidents have been elected- one of them a missile scientist and a darling of the nation, where a Sikh- an economist of repute was a Prime Minister & where the head of the major political party- congress was a Catholic Italian woman.

We are a nation bound not by race or religion, but by the shared values of freedom, liberty, and equality. Effective Government captures perceptions of the quality of public services, the quality of the civil services and the degree of its independence from political pressures.

We have a representative democracy in which representatives are elected to make policies and enforce laws while representing the citizens. An effective government invests in its people, advances opportunities for shared prosperity, and raises the revenues needed.

A good government is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality. Indian election has nothing to do with good governance today. Indian democracy is arguably the biggest loser of the recent drama-filled elections in Karnataka and elsewhere, which are likely to erode trust in the system and cause lasting damage to norms and institutions. In this election the democratic process appears to have failed us.

Democracy seems to be an ideal form of the government on paper. But corrupt politicians, corrupt voters and corrupt officers strike at the roots of a functional democracy. The system has also produced coalition governments - a government on crutches which have been obliged to focus more on politics than on policies or performance.

The government claimed- demonetisation as its biggest step to weed out corruption. It did create a perception that the rich were impacted the most. The poor endured it initially with a self-inflicted sense of taking revenge on the rich. It served the politicians’ purpose the best.

Corruption has come back into the spotlight in recent weeks. Recently, global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked India as Asia-Pacific’s most corrupt country.

Note-worthy polls or cash worthy polls
Despite note ban, cash is all over India’s elections –With elections just half way through the Election Commission has already seized cash worth over Rs 3,400 crores this year, tip of the iceberg- A case of Note-worthy polls or cash worthy polls! No one doubts that corruption and poverty are the bane of democracy in India. Corruption affects governance and the delivery of the dividends of democracy; it also affects the dispensation of justice and the sanctity of the electoral process.

Bad governments can last just as long as good ones. Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, Kim Sung, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin- All of these dictators remained in power for many years.

 It’s not necessarily true that democratic countries have better governments and governance. I don’t want to name India as an example. There are both successful dictatorships and unsuccessful democracies.

Dynasties Still Run the World. Power is inherited or congenital! The “son- rise” phenomenon has remained an abiding feature, with a majority of political parties. 12%, of all world leaders belong to political families.

The Congress has had 36 dynastic MPs elected to the Lok-Sabha, with the BJP not far behind with 31. Congress is entirely controlled by one family- Gandhi family and JD-S by Gowda family and so are many regional parties.

We beg for votes on issues of dynasty, caste and religion. Politics is a complicated business. In such a situation is voting an ethical obligation? NOTA - is a shining example.  A deeper worry is that even the will of a majority may have little or no influence on how the country is governed. NOTA - NOTA does not hold any electoral value i.e. even if the maximum votes are for NOTA, the candidate with maximum vote share will still be the winner- a farce again!

More than dynasty, Indian democracy’s greatest challenge is the entry of criminals into politics. Of India’s 541 current members of the lower house of parliament, 186 have criminal cases and 112 have serious criminal cases registered against them We think others are wrong and we are right in our beliefs and opinions. Elections exemplify these tendencies very well. Our parliamentary system is a perversity only the British could have devised: It has created a unique breed of legislators, largely unqualified to legislate, who has sought election only in order to wield executive power-.

For a nation to prosper, its political system must foster a national vision. A great people are languishing because of a poor choices made in their system of government.

Hence, an informed debate is necessary in this regard. Today, the country has more than 600 million young people under the age of 25. They want opportunity. They desire social mobility.

The writer is former Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University