People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 02, 2006
Reject This Unsolicited Advice
IT is, indeed, an ominous coincidence that a World Bank report castigating India’s multi-party democracy should be released on the 31st anniversary of the imposition of internal emergency in India.
The popular resistance to the abrogation of democracy in 1975 was both large and widespread in India. The triumphal return of democracy and the multi-party elections held in 1977 marks an important chapter that shaped the future political evolution of modern India. This resistance to emergency, the largest mass movement in independent India, showed that multi-party democracy was and is synonymous with India’s freedom and liberty. On every anniversary of the imposition of emergency, the Indian people rally together to remain vigilant and defend democracy as being the very core of free India’s republican character.
Multi-party democracy in a sense is the only political structure that reflects and maintains India’s vast diversity and plurality. There is no other country in the world with such a vast diversity of languages, religions, customs, traditions, cultures, etc. The only viable political structure that encapsulates this reality and guarantees the distinctiveness of each amongst such diversity is a multi-party parliamentary democracy.
Surely, this system needs urgent attention for further improvement. For instance, a system of proportional representation, which the CPI(M) has been suggesting for many decades, will improve the system and make it more representative and effective. Further, there are many areas which require corrections like the influence of muscle and money power. But to jettison the system because of such inadequacies would be like throwing the baby along with the bath water.
It is precisely this that the World Bank seeks to do in its report “Reforming public services in India --- drawing lessons from success.” The report bemoans the fact that a huge amount of money is spent by India in its elections. It is not strange for the World Bank to be concerned about India’s expenditures. The World Bank is used to dealing happily with dictators all around the world raising no questions about democracy or democratic rights of the people. After all, the World Bank’s agenda is to create a world where capital can continuously enlarge its profits. If this can be done affectively by abrogating democracy, then so be it.
Arguing for a two-party system in India like what the BJP had once suggested, the World Bank report says: “Multi-party systems are thus more likely to deliver club goods to their followers in the form of patronage involving jobs, contracts or schemes targeted at particular groups. Two-party systems, on the other hand, are more likely to focus on providing genuine public goods to a large cross-section of groups.”
Obviously, under the influence of the US system, the World Bank suggests its aping for India completely ignoring the vast differences that exist in the character and composition of both these countries. India’s social plurality needs necessarily to find its expression in political pluralism. This is the process of maturation of Indian democracy. This is not as the World Bank and reactionary forces at home describe as the fragmentation of Indian polity. The political plurality that threw up the era of coalition governments is an expression of India’s social plurality. Seeking to impose a two-party duality on this plurality will only have disastrous consequences for Indian democracy.
One can understand the World Bank’s concern at seeking to reduce India’s expenditures for elections and instead use these resources to generate newer avenues for profit making. What the World Bank doesn’t realise is that elections in India is the largest employment generation exercise. From the raddiwalah to the corporate CEOs, everyone is pre-occupied. Surely, we are not suggesting any justification for the excesses that occur during election. Effective laws need to be enforced to prevent this. The answer does not lie in jettisoning multi-party democracy.
Unlike the USA, which has deliberately chosen to obliterate all history of its lands prior to Columbus’ accidental discovery, India’s diversity and plurality trace its routes through millennia. India’s political system naturally will respond to its own realities.
As we celebrate India’s democracy and the triumph of the Indian people’s defeat of emergency, with equal vehemence, we should reject this piece of unsolicited advise by the World Bank.