democracy in India

Many days back, in a discussion on TV, Mani Shankar Ayar pronounced what he might have thought was a piece of profound wisdom : Every decision in a democracy is a political decision.

democracy in India

No, sir; with all the respect for your eminent erudition and extensive experience, I beg to disagree. Electing a government in a democracy is by all means a political decision. But once elected, a democratic government cannot take political decisions. The government may be elected by a simple majority, but the government is not simply of the majority; it is the government of and for the entire electorate, including those who have not voted for it and did not want it to be elected. So politics has to cease the day the elections are over. Or else it is not democracy; politics and democracy cannot co-habit. However unrealistic that may sound, it is sine qua non for a successful democracy.

Mr. Ayar might have used the word politics in a different sense; in the sense that every decision of the government has to take into account its political consequences in terms of whether it is likely to win or lose votes for the ruling party in the next elections. I know that is a very pragmatic approach. But, again, that is not how a democracy should function. Election of a government is definitely a political action; but the purpose of the government is not political.

The purpose of the government is social and economic – the welfare of the people. Therefore all the decisions of the government have to be judged on the social and economic criteria. Let us consider a simple decision about building a bridge. The question the government should ask is : Will this bridge increase the social and economic well being of the people ? Not the question : How much will this bridge increase the prospects of the ruling party in the next elections ?

This again may sound very unrealistic. I do not expect the persons in the government to make this correction. I appeal to the people to change their approach to choosing and managing the government. The political quid-pro-quo is what lies at the root of most of our problems.