Representation or vision?

Representation or vision?

India’s political landscape has long been dominated by coalition politics. This happened because of the rise of regional parties, particularly in the country’s south, and later by the increasing influence of politics based on caste. Now, scores of political parties are contesting the elections and neither of the two national parties — Congress and the BJP — is expected to get more than one-third of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha.

There are both pros and cons to this development. The emergence of numerous regional and caste parties has provided a voice to the people and ensured relative political stability. But there are growing concerns that the multiplication of parties is at the cost of a cogent national vision.

As India goes to the polls, what should voters prioritise? Diversity or unification? Broad representation or a national vision?


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58 Responses to “Representation or vision?”

  1. The problem with this country is BOTH the Democrats and Republicans. Anyone who seriously thinks that one side isn’t corrupt or slaves to Corporate America hasn’t done an adequate job of paying attention. To the Republicans: The GW administration will go down in History as one of the worst administrations. They eroded your constitutional rights, expanded the power of the wealthy elite, invaded countries under false pretenses, destroyed diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, and spent money like it was going out of style. To the Democrats: Obama is a failure. He promised much and has turned out to be another corporate lackey. He made deals with big pharmaceuticals to ensure you could not get your medication cheaper elsewhere, he flip flopped on military tribunals, he refuses to fix health care properly through nationalization or single payer, he populates his inner circle with more Wall Street insiders, he spends money on bailouts and useless stimulus packages.

  2. goodgenie4u says:

    Secular mindsets tend to be more pragmatic, even if you are illiterate. On the other hand if you have a Phd in Math or History, but your ego is centred on your religion or race, none of the literacy counts!. That theory explains why the English Muslim doctors decided to become suicide bombers and attack an airport terminal. This example is not meant to single out highly educated Muslims. Anyone obsessed with a superiority complex be it religion, caste, race or priviledge birth can be as dangerous if the obsession turns into proactive self righteous power plays.

    Within this context one sees India managing the extreme elements; not perfectly, but very well. India can act decisively in defeating elements that rip pieces from the nation. That’s because the people and the government have a shared working experience on how democracies solve people /community problems; imperfectly, but well intentioned peaceful processes that seem to take forever!

    Mr.Jinnah hoped for the same process to work in the development of Pakistan. That, never got off the ground.

    The elite Pakistanis that were supposed to make his vision a reality strayed from his vision. Partition eliminated competition from their Hindu counterparts! They devoted their time to get entrenched in wealth and power. The millions of illiterate were denied secular education. They were exploited by the Muslim theme. They left the young minds of a new country in the hands of functionally illiterate clerics, for their education. That gave rise to a pre-occupation with every thing Islamic; Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya etc. and nothing much else mattered, including their lives. Makes sense. It is a natural outcome. The Taliban are the extreme end, but are the creation of Pakistani government education policy. These policies continue at the moment you read this. Thousands of young minds cultivated in madressahs that yearn for religious/cultural norms of circa 800 AD. The good old days! It was a time when ordinary folks and specially women had no rights and there were no national boundries. Muslims were the world power. Religion, martydom and sectarianism based conflicts abounded.

    In todays world, diversity, through immigration of labour, is the only thing growing faster than anything else. Democracy is a tool to manage the peace and prosperity in such an environment. Religion can only be an individualy protected right in this diverse setting. Why is this not good enough for peoply of faith or no faith? What is the need to insist that your neighbours have the same religion as you? This is not natural; it is something inculcated.

    India’s development will be slow but steady and the entire world will learn that a nation state will become less and less important as people learn not to needlessly live in fear of people different from them, but to celebrate the difference and prosper from it.

  3. Ravi says:

    Focus on either representation or vision – it will matter least. When the time has come for an idea, good or bad, it will run its course. India seems to have latched on to a growth path and looks like this is the idea whose time has come.

    Unlike most nations, India’s unity is strengthened not despite the diversity but because of it! India’s vision is not based on one version of any vision, but multiple vantage points of what may be one vision.

    When there are a few forces reaching out for their share in a nation’s pie, there is a real chance of disintegration. But when there are too many forces – inter-religious, intra-religious, linguistic, skin color, facial features…you have a melting pot which does not allow any crab to crawl out the bucket to take charge. While this can make a lot of things suboptimal, it is also self regulating in a sense there is this continual shift in representation that is ever occurring.

    And given all this jostling, vision cannot be driven or usurped by one quarter or another for too long – if its time has come it will run its course.

    Shifting vision: Socialist leaning and central planning was the idea whose time had come at the time of independence ran its course for some 40 to 50 years. Now it is growth though private sector and regulatory reforms.

    At best a party or a coalition of parties may temporarily hasten this multi-decade process. At worst they may slow it down some. But given the size and inequity in the country the participation in this vision will be incremental and take time.

    Parties with national level ambition understand this by and large – weather their identify is tied to representation or vision in general.

  4. Shamoze Sarmastani says:

    I totally agree with Mr.HB Mallah.

    I myself am a Sarmastani. Though now Baloch people are accepting us as a low caste Baloch but I dont agree with them. Luri people are actually the inhabitants of Luristan(Iran) who migrated to Balochistan with Baloch tribes but they are not at all baloch. Here in Balochistan, politic is just a dirty game that rotates around the Sardars and strong personalities. Sarmatani can never think that these ruling personalities can give them a chance to get involed into politics unless our people do something themselves.

  5. R S JOHAR says:

    The strength of India’s democracy is the secularism. Hindus, muslims, sikhs and christians living under same umbrella and yet co-existing peacefully is the beacon which India projects to the entire world. The countries who are governed on the basis of religion alone and yet suffering needs to follow secular India.

  6. Sukhwinder says:

    To Udarsh:

    Gulzar is a Sikh name as well. There are lots of them in Punjab and abroad.

  7. sudhir says:

    I think Indian democracy is the perfect Democracy.The constitution of india cares each and every section of the society.If the political leaders of india follows the guidelines mentioned in the constitution then india will be the most successful democratic country in the world.Thanks to the visionary leader Dr.Ambedker.

  8. hn says:

    Constitution. Ambedkar and Jinnah took it from the British adapted it to India and Pakistan. Indian went ahead and built a nation with it. Pakistan is not sure what it is and how to use it. Infact, Ayub, Zia and Mush has completely mangled it and distorted it. Now there is nothing left. Taliban is the only one left in Pakistan with a vision and protocol for governance, albeit ugly.

  9. Ratan says:

    Yeah, I am not too keen on this “cogent national vision” thing either. Too much unity is a bad thing. Regional interests have to be represented and discussed. Compromise is the only way a government should be cobbled together. Good thing too. We must have disagreements and some discord. It also gives a lot of power to smaller states, e.g. Mizoram. Want my support? Well, here’s three things you have to do for Mizoram. Perfect. This is how it should be. It leaves crazy ideas like Hindi as the sole national language in the garbage bin of history where they belong. This would have been settled with a bloodbath in many other places. In India, it gets converted into electoral calculations. I would pick that any day. We need much more of that, not less. In retrospect, Ambedkar was a genius. Nehru always takes the credit, but Ambedkar put the machine together, didn’t he? Smart man. Find more like him.

  10. subro: Per the US constitution, even though the President is the Commander-in-Chief, s/he cannot declare war. That right lies with the Congress, and before the start of hostilities, the President approaches the Congress which holds a vote on the issue.

    In 1991, the Congress gave authority to Bush I to use any force necessary to eject Saddam out of Kuwait, hence the war was called off before the US troops had a chance to be in Baghdad. In 2001, the Congress gave a similar authority to Bush II to deal with Saddam.

  11. Joseph M T says:

    What I admire about India – my home land is it diversity and its ability to hold together despite all the complexities. Multiparty democracy demonstrates the spirit of India. The motivating factors for parties could be caste, language, regional pride, religion and so on. It provides colour and variety of India.

    One thing I still cannot comprehend about India is the way some leaders are able to motivate people to kill, maim and destroy in the name of religion and still can be counted as patriotic indians. It mystifies me…

    The strength of India is its democracy and it will see India through all its travails and problems. Long live India.

  12. Sanjay, Mumbai says:

    The latest political landscape depicts multiple political streams , each heading towards seat of power. Each of this stream is diverse — from left ( Communists) to extreme right ( BJP/ Shiv Sena, Muslim league)..with moderates in between like BSP, SP, NCP and the CONGRESS!! However as in marketing strategy , company cannot satisfy all the people with same product, there are local flavours , customised solutions offered by local political parties having agenda to meet aspirations of local constituency. This is part and parcel of evolution of Political scene in India. How ever a common thread runs through all these diverse group and which is.. respect for Indian constitution, strong belief in democratic process and using elections, parliament as the ONLY means for resolving differences. Indian democracy is UNIQUE in this diverse but still united..! such diversity may appear confusing for foreigners , who may consider this as negative for growth, retarding RAPID economic growth..this may be true..but there is no other path India can take..even at cost of speed!! Basic tenets of Indian democracy is beyond negotiations..economic development at the pace agreeable to all Indians, will decide India’s future, period!

  13. anil says:

    H…it’s working. And, so long as it works let the party continue

  14. Udarsh says:

    India has over 2 dozen diverse states, 24 official lamguages, over 800 subsidiary languages and dialects, at least 7 major religions, many variants of each major religion (Shias, Sunnis, Memons, Ahmedis etc etc among muslims for eg), at least 5 major ethinic groups (indo – aryan, dravidian, mongoloid, caucasian, african), many variants of each ethinic group….one can go on and on.

    And faultlines abound: caste is still ingrained in several North Indian states, Muslims and other minorities face discrimination on many issues, India is definitely not shining for the many of people who are sub middle class, corruuption is rampant, pockets of insurgency and discontent abound (Kashmir, the North East, marxist – terrorized districts), violence against minorities remains an recurrent issue…..again one can go on and on.

    The point is that the vehicle that acts as a safety release valve for India’s diversities and its faultlines is democracy, and the institutions that flow from it: a free press, an activist judiciary, a civil and open society et al.

    In the midst of all the cacophony it is easy to forget that the Indian state has dealt with greater faultlines and problems in the past. Think Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal under the Naxalites, the Gorkhaland agitation, the Nagaland agitation. Democracy exercised by India’s great mass of people yields a mean, a moving mean, an average which the great majority of people want. Given that faultlines are always the cause of a very small minority. they are the aberrations from the mean. As long as the mean is a popularly decided mean, the aberrations will always return to it through lack of popular support in the end.

    It is easy to forget just how far we have come in the last 50, 25 or even 10 years. Just sit back and think – for a great majority of people things are nowhere near ideal, but there is definitely a sense of movement and progress.

    As a noted columnist has recently pointed out, in no other country would India’s recent Oscar winning trio be feted universally throughout the country: a Hindu who converted to Islam (A R Rehman), a Muslim who has a Hindu sounding name (Resul Pookutty), and a Sikh who goes by a Muslim name and writes in Urdu and Persian(Gulzar)

    The miracle of India is perhaps the greatest democratic experiment in human history. Pray for us, that it succeeds.

  15. Rajesh says:

    Calling parties other than Congress and BJP as caste based parties is itself is casteist. Does it mean that these so called national parties are oblivion of caste?
    Elite media brand parties emphasizing social justice as caste based because they can’t stand to see the dilution of upper caste influence who dominate Congress and BJP. Fact is that emergence of lower caste dominated parties is the evidence of democratization of Indian politics.

    This is where Pakistani politics differ from Indian. In Pakistan politics is still dominated by feudal elites. The rise of Taliban is partly attributed to the social injustice.

  16. Avanti says:

    India’s transformation from a single party to a multi-party system is nothing but a positive development. Yes, it can be pain at times, but it speaks well of the country’s progress.

    There were national leaders who fought for independence. You had to be a “star” to do that. The impact of these leaders lasted for 25 – 30 years. In the mean time, the rest of the country found a voice. The focus shifted from Delhi and the Raj to the local level, and nurtured the local parties.

    So, in some sense, the whole country is participating in its affairs as opposed to a powerful group (of dictatorial level). Everyone has a voice that can be heard. Sure, too many voices could mean you can’t hear a thing properly sometimes, but what if you have only one voice and it is the wrong kind!

  17. Nasah says:

    In an awesome democracy like India — the more the merrier.

    Yet ideally in terms of political stability one would like if a democratic country finds two stable mainstream political parties that are secular and centrist along with their powerful right wing and left wing fringes.

    Under such a two party system the political and economic stability of a democratic country is well assured — as it is in US, England and in Europe.

    India has no such luxury. India has one national mainstream centrist party that the Congress may qualify for — the other, the BJP, though national, acts at time more like a religious right lunatic fringe party — whose sole existence and success is seemingly owed to its Muslim-baiting Hindu obscurantism.

    Under such a handicap the only salvation for the democracy and secularism in India — is to have more and more of the regional parties to dilute the majority power of the Hindutva religious right — or at least have a civilizing effect on its national performance away from its imitation of the Islamist extremism.

  18. Jodhbir says:

    We have seen in the last 10 years how coalition governments work. Though, there is diversity in the government but, if you see the politics of the regional parties, they are pathetic when it comes to foreign issues. They see foreign issues in terms of local politics and try to make votes out of that.

    If India has to be the third largest economy in the world by the mid of this century, as predicted by IMF, it must have a strong government. We saw what happened to the nuclear deal with US.

    Or one option could be the that there should be some minimum requirement of education up to Bachelors level. So, that MPs can think globally.

  19. Nikus says:

    Indian democracy is evolving…from Congress/Nehru/Indira centric to bipolar ( Cong and BJP)…now we need to get rid of caste based politics and musla appeasement…what is more encouraging is that, the state CMs are now bigger hero than PM or anybody else…Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, Sheila Dikshit, Naveen Pattnaik, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, SHivraj Chauhan….are bigger figure in their respective state than any central leader…..

  20. jsehgal says:

    ” … a cogent national vision …” Therein lies the danger. If there is only one, it implies central control and repression. Multiple competing visions give us the opportunity to examine a variety and choose good ones for the moment while reserving the right to modify and discard as our knowledge of their results accummulates. Having a variety promotes evolution of society and keeps excesses in check. Another danger in having just one vision is that you may have chosen badly and not woken up to its reality till it is too late. At time, not only it may have buried too deep into our psyche, it may have created a class of people who benefit from it; these two reasons will inhibit any desireable change in an easy or civilised manner.

  21. vishal mann says:

    Indian parliamentary democracy with regional parties should be celebrated. It makes India strong, diverse and prevents central govt. from micromanaging stuff. Having said that, we Indians should recognize the perils of electing corrupt people. I belong to the state of Haryana and the roads are in shambles ( unless you are from Chief Ministers distt) while the politicians build castles for themselves. Money and class disparity will haunt us Indians in future. I still dont understand the concept of candidates having crores of rupees and fleet of cars. They will only live for an average of 75-80yrs or less. Why this hoarding and corruption and game playing? What for?

  22. Anil says:

    Two cheers for Democracy. Parliament is a talker’s shop. So said EM Foster. Indians love politics, and you can see them in heated discussions everywhere. More parties are actually good for the social aspect of the country, though it may not be so for good governance. No third world country has stuck to democracy the way India has. See the transition of power in India, even first world countries have problems but never so in India.

  23. hitesh brahmbhatt says:

    I think the deprived classes along with regional identities that were suppressed in the fit of nationalism at the dawn of independence in south asia are now emerging to claim their rightful place in the polity of the continent.

    Pakistan had its Bangladesh; followed by Balochi discontent and even Talibans are in a way protest against the landed gentry (but i truly hope there is a better substitute like the lawyer’s movement that led to re-installment of SC Justice Chaudhari).

    India had its Khalistan, Troubles in North-east, of course Kashmir (which in particular is a self-inflicted wound) and very strong anti-north sentiment in south esp. Tamil country.

    Apart from the caste and communal divisions that are ever-present in the south asia are now finding its voice. I think if it doesn’t result in violence; it is a good thing. I do fear that BJP might do a irreparable damage to the country (like the Army did to Pakistan over many decades since the opportunist subversion of its constitution almost from the beginning) but I would still like to see BJP defeated at the polls than through any other means.

  24. subro says:

    Indians respect personality rather than cast, community, region, language etc. The result is a Muslim has become the President, a Sikh has become a Prime Minister and an Italian is leading a National Party. The benefit of coalition is that there will be many checks on government whie decisions are imposed on the nation. Unlike American President who could take a decision to launch a war on any country, India Prime Minister cannot do such things unless the cabinet and parliament approve it. A democracy is worthy of retaining though there may be small setbacks. Indians are addicted to democracy.

  25. Nandakishore Banerjee says:

    Without diversity, the state of corruption in India would have been even worse. The diversity ensures a more or less working system of checks and balances. on Facebook on Facebook