Dictators’ democracy

By Jug Suraiya,April 15, 2015, in Times of India.

           (Dictatorship of the proletariat is the only thing that has not struck root in India. It is now reduced to God’s own land, Kerala, where it can’t find any more even foot soldiers, but only generals befriending generals in bourgeois parties for survival. JK)

Across the board, our political parties are feudal zamindaris

India’s democracy is unique. It is arguably the world’s only democracy that thrives on dictatorships. Indian democracy boasts more dictators per square inch than North Korea, Saudi Arabia and half-a-dozen South American banana republic all rolled into one. While we voters are free to cast our ballots however we like, almost all our political parties are run as dictatorships.

Ever since the so-called ‘Modi wave’ swept BJP to power, the saffron party has become a one-man show. The ‘old guard’ – as represented by L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi – seem to have been shown the door. NaMo is not just Number One in BJP, he’s also Number Two, Number Three, and so on down the numeric line.

Now the main opposition to BJP, Congress has long been not a one-man organisation but a one-Family outfit. And if a member of that Family decides to take a holiday to destination or destinations unknown, the party doesn’t seem to know whether it’s coming, going or already gone beyond the point of no return.

In UP there is an on-going contest to see who within their respective parties is the more dictatorial dictator of the two: Mulayam Singh Yadav of SP or Mayawati of BSP. Even while his son occupies the chief minister’s gaddi, the ex-wrestler head of SP maintains his stranglehold on both the party and the state.

Similarly, Mayawati reigns supreme in BSP, which could more aptly be called Behenji’s Samaj Party. Trinamool Congress and AIADMK are both personality cults centered around a single authoritarian figure. And the Mr Clean champion of the urban middle class, Arvind Kejriwal has turned AAP into his personal fiefdom.


So how democratic is our democracy, based as it is on political leaders who themselves don’t seem to give two hoots, or even one single hoot, for democratic norms and principles when it comes to the internal functioning – or non-functioning – of their parties? But perhaps that’s the real strength of our democracy. With so many dictators in the arena, each can act as a counterbalance to the other. In our dictatorial diversity lies our democratic unity.

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