Long gone those days of dialogue and rational discourse, it seems the new changes in Government has brought about a tectonic change in public opinion and discourse in the Indian Union. Now, before the reader gets presumptive, let me make it very clear, this is not an ode to the hallowed ethos of neutrality. The writer acknowledges that neutrality and all its sacred virtues are subjective and for the most part, best suited for televised debates between people with a loose grasp of the Indian psyche.
The tectonic shift that is taking place in this country is not one of uprising of the middle class and the end of monopolization of the public discourse by a chosen few, but the implementation of an alien model of politics, precisely the American model. Politics of perceptions, where facts and numbers matter far less than the amount of media space one can hold, both in the mainstream and the social platforms.
There are four pillars upon which our Democracy rest – Executive, Legislative, Judiciary and the Press. According to precedence these four pillars have not been at direct conflict with each , for the most part, in India. Indian institutions have been able to withstand the ever-changing and sometimes misdirected public opinion. This has changed since the incumbent government has taken office, although it can be argued that these divisions among institutions and people were there even before the incumbent government took office but the overt and blunt nature of it is unprecedented.
Judiciary have always held a position of respect from the masses, who generally viewed this institution to be above of political adventurism and as the defender of the constitution. This authority and legitimacy of the judiciary has been challenged several times in the last two to three years , with accusations of judicial over-reach and propagating an agenda. Now, whether these allegations can hold their own, that is not the issue here. The perception that Judiciary is not above the political spectrum and serves to political will has found a huge audience is what should concern us.
Similarly, if we take the Executive and its branches, a creeping module of centralization is taking place, where powers from Institutions which otherwise have been separated are being bestowed upon a single convergence point. This runs risk of hindering the executive’s ability to execute any undertaking efficiently and effectively. This can also escalate into direct conflict of interest between the government and its mechanisms on ground.
The legislative is barely surviving as the state legislatures are being selectively targeted in the name of creating unanimity and anyone who is not falling in line runs the risk of being harassed by the central authorities. The very nature of the Indian state seems to be altering as the centre is continuously infringing upon the states’ rights. Anyone not on board with the central government’s agenda is termed “anti-progress” and “anti-development” without any reasonable effort to mitigate or ever inquire about the concerns of the said state. We can witness this playing out throughout India, especially in East and south where the legislature have shown a spine and spoken up against this shameful attempt to hijack the democratic nature of the Indian state.
The press are stripped down to the role of mere cheerleader for one side or the another, one cannot watch any news channel and not understand the undertone of the news. Though, in this world of 24/7 news channels, news with substance are a rare oddity but the sheer lack of will to engage any story in analytical way, is telling of the current situation of media. Even the social media platforms have become mouthpieces of one side or the another. It is a ballet of the extremes. It’s all about flashy two minute bytes and commitment to speed at the expense of substance.
From all that is stated above, one can deduct with ease that there is an attempt to strip India of its democratic nature and more importantly, its democratic institutions. History teaches us, once the faith on these institutions are diminished there can never again be stability in any democracy. There is nothing but polarity that prevails in today’s India. We must reconsolidate and restore our institutions in order to safeguard democracy. It is imperative that we understand the only reason India with its diversity and problems, have been able to flourish is because its strong institutions and de-centralization of power. The more one will try to centralize the Indian sub-continent, the lesser democratic it will become.